With hundreds of songs in his repertoire and the stamina to sing for hours on end, the male Northern Mockingbird (Mimus polyglottos) specializes in vocal excess. A masterful mimic, he mixes a variety of songs borrowed from other species with his own material to defend his territory. His capacity to improvise is so extensive that he’ll sing many of his song types only once a season. The overall effect is that listeners never quite know what will come out of his beak next—and for female mockingbirds it’s variety that counts.

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