Mockingbirds have landed in South Florida for the summer, and our state bird is looking for love — at the top of his lungs.
Kristine Collins and her children — Griffin,15; Carolyn, 12; and Hannah, 10 — spent a couple of sleepless nights last week when a randy mockingbird picked a tree outside their bedroom windows as the perfect perch for attracting a mate.
"It was incredibly loud and a really cheerful little tune, but it went on all night long," said Collins, who lives in the Baybury neighborhood west of Boca Raton. "I don't know how that little bird had enough energy to do it for two straight nights.
The mockingbird, which the family calls Tweetie, sang incessantly for two nights, undeterred by the family's efforts to quiet him, she said.
"My daughter was banging on her window and the bird just would not stop," she said. "I told the kids to sleep on the other side of the house, but we turned on fans to drown out the noise."
Suzy Meyer first noticed the bawdy bird on a late-night walk with her dog in her Weston neighborhood.
"I never really noticed birds singing at night, but for the past few weeks, I've heard them really loudly," she said. "I expect it during the day, but it's weird to hear them so late."
Mockingbirds are a territorial and vocal species, and they're especially tenacious when it comes to mating, said Rick Newman, a conservation biologist at Gumbo Limbo Nature Center in Boca Raton.
"When people ask me how to make a mockingbird stop singing, I tell them to find him a girlfriend," he said. "The males protect their territory and keep on singing until they find a mate."
Mockingbirds mate from February through August, but most breeding in Florida occurs in April and May, according to information from the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission.
They're fierce defenders of their nests, and they mimic sounds in their environment to attract mates — bird songs, cellphone ringtones, machinery, even car alarms, Newman said.
Annoyed residents have few options to drive away mockingbirds who have chosen a nest site, because the birds and their nests are protected under the Migratory Bird Treaty Act, he said.
"Plastic owls, hawks or snakes might scare them off," Newman said. "Some people hang wind chimes in the trees, too, but it's really hard to get rid of them once they have a territory."
But after they mate, the loud lotharios tend to settle down and spend more time building nests, he said.
Tweetie and his new paramour were perched in the Collins' tree on Friday, and the constant serenade had dwindled to an occasional melody, Collins said.
"I have no idea where the nest is, but if they're having baby birds, I'm not sure I want more of them," she said. "But I am so happy Tweetie found a girlfriend and stopped chirping all night."