In this episode of BirdNoir, the Private Eye gets a call from his friend Frank, his eyes and ears in the neighborhood. He’s hearing a Red-shouldered Hawk call, but there’s no hawk in sight. Going through the lineup of usual suspects found in backyards, they examine the surprising talent for mimicry found among common birds and finally put the finger on the trickster.
BirdNoir - That Raptor’s an Impostor!
Written by Ariana Remmel
This is BirdNoir. I’m Michael Stein, Private Eye.
My buddy Frank’s my eyes and ears in the neighborhood. He knows everyone and their business. He called me the other day to report some suspicious behavior.
Frank: [on the phone] Michael, some bird is trying to pull the wool over my eyes! I keep hearing a Red-shouldered Hawk in the shrubs outside my window. But there ain’t no hawk in sight!
[Blue Jay hawk mimic call, ML 227078211, 0:03-0:06]
Frank: You hear that? Who does this raptor imposter think he is?
Frankie, you know them hawks are usually perched up high or soaring around looking for prey. So I’ll bet my bottom dollar that you’re dealing with a mimic! Can you see any signs of a Northern Mockingbird? Gray body with striking black and white marks on its wings and tail?
[Northern Mockingbird, ML 50223, 0:05-0:07]
Frank: [like he’s looking for the bird] Ehhh… no dice.
Maybe a Brown Thrasher, a robin-sized bird with brown streaks on its breast and a long bill?
[Brown Thrasher, ML 94280, 0:28-0:30]
Frank: That’s another swing and a miss!
Well Frankie, what birds do you see?
Frank: [on the phone] Just the usuals. Some robins, a couple of sparrows. One of those chatty Blue Jays—
[Cutting Frank off] That’s our culprit, Frankie! Though they don’t have the same reputation for mimicry as mockingbirds and thrashers, Blue Jays have an unnerving habit of impersonating raptors, especially Red-shouldered Hawks.
[Blue Jay hawk mimic call, ML 227078211, 0:15-0:18]
Frank: Wow! Who’d a thunk?!
Learn how to solve your own bird mysteries at our website, BirdNote dot Org. I’m Private Eye, Michael Stein.
Senior Producer: John Kessler
Content Director: Allison Wilson
Producer: Mark Bramhill
Managing Producer: Conor Gearin
Bird sounds provided by The Macaulay Library of Natural Sounds at the Cornell Lab of Ornithology, Ithaca, New York. Blue Jay ML 227078211 recorded by W. Hershberger, Northern Mockingbird ML 50223 recorded by G. Keller, and Brown Thrasher ML 50223 recorded by W. Hershberger.
BirdNote’s theme was composed and played by Nancy Rumbel and John Kessler.
© 2022 BirdNote May 2022 Narrators: Michael Stein/John Kessler
ID# noir-05-2022-05–09 noir-05