One of the nice things about living on such a beautiful, woodsy campus is the abundance of wildlife. Of course, this means that you occasionally get woken up at the crack of dawn by noisy birds. Wouldn’t it be nice to know which bird was the culprit? You can’t just blame the sparrows! There are many species of bird native to the Mount Holyoke area:
1. Mourning Dove
This medium-sized, gray-brown bird is very common in Massachusetts. Related to the pigeon, it can appear clumsy when walking on the ground. However, once it takes flight, it’s pretty agile. It needs to be in order to avoid the hawks and falcons that enjoy a dove snack! You’ll know this bird is the one to interrupt your sleep if you hear a long, drawn out coo that kind of sounds like a sad owl. Mourning doves don’t usually migrate from Massachusetts, so this bird may wake you up all year long.
2. American Robin
A dark brown bird with a bright red front, the American robin is also very common and easy to spot. It spends a lot of time hopping around on the ground in search of tasty insects. It usually moves in small groups and stretches up tall often to look for danger. Robins are pretty loud and make several different calls, so you can be roused from your sweet dreams by a variety of interesting sounds. They make a repetitive squeaky-chirping noise year round. They also call in a chattering song during spring and summer.
3. Common Grackle
The common grackle is a noisy blackbird that moves in large flocks. It has iridescent black feathers that shimmer in shades of green, blue, and purple when the sunlight hits them. It generally prefers suburban settings, but is quite adaptable and can live in many different kinds of habitats. Like the robin, the grackle likes to hop around on the ground, and the two species can often be seen hanging out together. The grackle makes a variety of percussive squawks and shrieks, as well as a creaky whistling noise. It’s positively charming at 6:30 am.
4. Blue Jay
This medium-sized blue, black, and white bird with a small crest on its head is one of the noisiest around. It is intelligent and territorial, often chasing much larger animals (including dogs and cats) away from nesting areas during breeding season. Their most recognizable noise is a loud, shrieking call that sounds kind of like “Jay! Jay! Jay!” Hence the name. Very creative.
Our beautiful campus is teeming with life, a lot of which is very noisy! Knowing who’s responsible for the noise isn’t going to stop it, but at least you now can say, “I was woken up by a common grackle,” instead of, “I was woken up by a bird.” Makes you sound pretty sophisticated, doesn’t it?