Blackbird singing in the dead of night Take these broken wings and learn to fly All your life You were only waiting for this moment to arise. ~ The Beatles
Sometimes I can see more clearly when I walk at night, figuratively speaking. I can hear better too. As I walked one night recently, I kept hearing the words “in the dead of night” in my mind and then I started to hum the tune It took me a while to come up with what it was in the dead of night. By the time I made my neighborhood jaunt twice around, I realized–“blackbird singing.” Of course! Blackbird singing in the dead of night. As I pondered the notion of a bird singing at night, I noticed a waxing moon rising over the rooftops juxtaposing the street lamp, looking like the very opposite of what they actually are in terms of size. I didn’t know what, if anything, the blackbird had to do with the moon/lamp photo, I just knew I needed to snap the scene.
My brother and I used to listen to bird sounds in the early summer evenings. We would try to imitate them. One of our favorites was the Northern Bob White. It’s a type of quail and despite its name it’s very prevalent in the southeastern United States. The Bob White’s call sounds like its name so J and I would whistle and wait expectantly for the bird to answer. That would mean that our calls were fairly authentic, or so we thought. Both of us were pretty good whistlers but in the world of whistlers my brother was one of the best I’ve ever heard. He always told me that he got more responses and I agreed because he was my older brother and I adored him. Another favorite was the Eastern Whip-poor-will onomatopoeically-named for its call. Again, J and I mastered the call and whip-poor-wiiiiled until the bird stopped responding or Momma called us in. We often heard a variety of owls. Sometimes the hoo-hoo of a Barred Owl which is the sound most people think of when they think of owls. Occasionally we heard the eerie sound of a Screech Owl. My brother, being the bigger wuss, was sure something was coming to get us and headed for home. I still laugh when I think about it.
So…do blackbirds sing in the dead of night? Indeed they do. The male sings to claim his territory, to attract a female, or sometimes a young bird will sing just for practice. Typically, dawn is birdsong time, but it seems that in urban areas the street lights create a false dawn and the cacophony starts early–in the dead of night.
An interesting aside about this Beatles song: Paul McCartney said the blackbird is a symbol for the black man in the Civil Rights Era in America. He said, “We were totally involved in the whole saga which was unfolding. So I got the idea of using a blackbird for a black man.” If you would like to hear the Beatles singing this song, click the link above. Sarah Mclachlan does a beautiful version, too. Click here if you want to hear her. I prefer Sarah’s version.