by Bill Thompson, III

Q: How long does a bird live?

A: In very general terms, the larger a bird is, the longer its life expectancy. For small birds, such as migratory songbirds (warblers, vireos, etc.) the average life expectancy may be as little as two years. This short life expectancy is due to the many hazards birds face from birth: predators, disease, accidents, migration, starvation, habitat loss, and hunting, among others. Some individual birds have survived a surprisingly long time, including a cardinal (13.5 years), a black-capped chickadee (10 years), and an American goldfinch (7 years). One red-bellied woodpecker survived in the wild for 20.5 years! Captive birds, protected from the hazards of nature, have much longer life spans. Many waterfowl have survived in the wild for as long as 30 years, and seabirds, such as gulls and albatrosses, have longevity records that cover 30 to 40 years.

Q: What spring bird persistently sings, day and night?

A: Your bird is most likely to be a northern mockingbird. Don’t worry, male mockingbirds only perform this nocturnal singing in the spring and summer during the time of the full moon. Try running an electric fan (to create a buffer of sound) and using your earplugs on those nights when the male mockingbird is singing. Having a mocker around is a good thing-you might even consider yourself lucky!

Q: Do all birds mate for life?

A: No. Some species have unusually strong pair bonds between mated birds. These species include some eagles, cranes, swans, geese, and ravens. Being mated “for life” means, really, for as long as both birds are alive. When one of the pair dies, the other will take a new mate. Most North American bird species pair up primarily to reproduce, and go their separate ways soon after they have nested.

More questions and answers at Brid Watcher’s