Canku Ota Logo

Canku Ota

Canku Ota Logo

(Many Paths)

An Online Newsletter Celebrating Native America


January 24, 2004 - Issue 105


pictograph divider


How the Mockingbird Became the Best Singer


Mayan Legend


Bird WhistlingWhen X-CHOL-COL-CHEK, the mockingbird, was young, her family was very poor, and she could only dress in dingy feathers. Since she was hatched, however, X-col had displayed a magnificent voice. She wanted to take singing lessons but could not afford them.

The mockingbird was fortunate to obtain work with a rich and noble family of cardinals. That winter, a famous singing professor, Dr. Xcau, the melodious blackbird, came to Maya Land. The father cardinal immediately imagined that his daughter, Col-pol-che, could become a fine singer. She was lazy vain and hated to study. But by promising her many fine gifts, the father convinced her to try singing lessons.

Green RoosterWhen Col-pol-che went with Dr. Xcau to a quiet part of the woods to begin her music course, X-col followed and hid in the bushes to listen and learn. Then she raced back to finish her chores. For weeks, the professor tried to make the girl cardinal sing sweetly, but without success. He soon realized she had neither the voice nor the ambition. He was afraid to tell her wealthy father after such a long time, having accepted a lot of money. So, he finally flew far away an forgot the whole affair.

Meanwhile, X-col had been practicing. One morning, Col-pol-che happened to hear her and was very surprised at her little maid's ability. That same day, the father cardinal decided his daughter should give a concert for their friends. The indolent girl was terrified, yet she dared not tell her parents that she couldn't sing. She thought of the mockingbird's lovely voice and decided to ask her for help.

WoodpeckerThe two birds asked Colote, the woodpecker, to bore a hole into the tree trunk where Col-pol-che would perch. Then the mockingbird would hide inside. While Col-pol-che pretended to be singing, the real voice would come from X-col within.

On the da of the concert, all the nobles, singers, artists and musicians among the birds came. Col-pol-che hopped out on a limb of the purple-flowering tree chosen by her father, bowed to the audience and opened her bill. The most exquisite voice ever heard in the Maya World came pouring out and echoed through the woods. The birds in the audience flapped their wings and cried for curtain call after curtain call.

The father, however, was not applauding. He had discovered the truth just before the concert began when he saw X-col crawl into the little hole. When the applause ended and the cardinal finished many bows, her father flew up beside her and asked for silence. He hopped over to the hole and called the mockingbird to come out.

The small, colorless bird was trembling with fright, but Col-pol-che's father gently led her to a perch in front of the entire audience. Then he explained that his daughter had tricked everyone, including him.

"It was really this shy little 'nightingale' who sang the whole time,"he announced.

Bird WhistlingThe crowd went wild and demanded that X-col sing again. This time, outside and free of her fright, the mockingbird sang as never before and won every bird's heart. From that time on, all her descendants inherited her lovely voice, but the cardinals have never learned how to sing.

"The moral of this legend is about ability, identity and the pursuit of dreams."

Print and Color Your Own Mockingbird

pictograph divider

Northern Mockingbird (Mimus polyglottos)

Mockingbird in snowOf all North American birds, the Mockingbird is by far, the most famed for its vocal imitations. The Northern Mockingbird is the most widely-known songbird in America. It is best known for its singing abilities. Not only can it perform 39 species' songs and 50 call notes, but it also can mimic sounds such as that of a barking dog, squeaky hinges, notes from a piano and even a cackling hen, so expertly that even an electronic analysis could not tell the difference between the mockingbird and the original.

Mockingbird nests can be found one to 50 feet above the ground in the fork of a tree or on the branch of a bush. The bulky cup is built by both sexes with items such as twigs, dry leaves, stems, cotton, paper, grass and other handy materials. Like many other songbirds, mockingbirds feed on fruits and insects.

Though territorial all year around, during the nesting season which falls between March and August, mockingbirds are especially aggressive. They regularly may attack starlings and grackles and even cats if they feel threatened. The female is the sole incubator of the three to six blue or green eggs that are blotched with brown. They hatch after an incubation period of 11 to 14 days and are then tended by both parents, although they are brooded only by the female. Thereafter, the young will leave the nest once they are 10 to 12 days old.

Habitat and Distribution
Mockingbird HeadThe Northern Mockingbird is distributed widely and it has extended its range much farther north in recent years. They range throughout North America from southern Canada south to Mexico. They even have been introduced and established in Hawaii. Mockingbirds live year-around across Texas where they frequent lawns and gardens in urban and rural environments, edges of open woods, farmland, streamside thickets and brushy deserts.

Mockingbirds are long streamlined gray birds reaching up to 9 inches in length, with white undersides and flashy white wing patches and outer tail feathers. The male and females look alike.

The song is a mixture of original and imitative phrases, each repeated several times. It will imitate other species' songs and calls, squeaky gates, pianos, sirens, barking dogs, etc.

During the mating season the male will mark his territory with song. You will see them singing incessantly, both night and day, hopping from one song post to another. If you see him jumping up and down in the air, he's catching a few insects! In the Fall, both the male and female will mark their territory to protect Fall and Winter food sources.

Did You Know?Mockingbird

  • Only unmated males sing at night.
  • Mockingbirds often form long-term pair bonds.
  • Mockingbirds vigorously defend their territory against many other species including dogs, cats and man!
  • Female mockingbirds often build a new nest while the males finish feeding older fledglings and teaching them to fly.
  • Scientists have found that female mockingbirds are attracted to males that can make the most different sounds.
  • Mockingbirds are the State Bird of Arkansas, Florida, Mississippi, Tennessee and Texas.
  • Mockingbirds are thought to raise and lower their wings in order to scare up a meal of insects, frighten snakes and impress their mates.

pictograph divider

Home PageFront PageArchivesOur AwardsAbout Us

Kid's PageColoring BookCool LinksGuest BookEmail Us


pictograph divider

  Canku Ota is a free Newsletter celebrating Native America, its traditions and accomplishments . We do not provide subscriber or visitor names to anyone. Some articles presented in Canku Ota may contain copyright material. We have received appropriate permissions for republishing any articles. Material appearing here is distributed without profit or monetary gain to those who have expressed an interest. This is in accordance with Title 17 U.S.C. Section 107.  

Canku Ota is a copyright © 2000, 2001, 2002, 2003, 2004 of Vicki Lockard and Paul Barry.

Canku Ota Logo   Canku Ota Logo

The "Canku Ota - A Newsletter Celebrating Native America" web site and its design is the

Copyright © 1999, 2000, 2001, 2002, 2003, 2004 of Paul C. Barry.

All Rights Reserved.

Site Meter
Thank You

Valid HTML 4.01!