Many birds have an amazing capacity to mimic the sounds that they hear around them – even the sounds of the human world. So if you think you hear a car alarm, a fire alarm, or the sound of an alarm clock coming from outside your home, birds might be the source of the cacophony.
Do Birds Imitate Car Alarms?
Amazingly, many birds can and do mimic human sounds, such as car alarms. And their powers of mimicry can make them very convincing. People often rush outside to deactivate an alarm, only to discover nothing is wrong. When this happens, a bird is often the source of the sound.
Parrots are, of course, well-known mimics. Many native species in the US and elsewhere have been known to mimic human noises, if not quite to the degree of parrots and other birds that can mimic human speech.
What Native Birds Sound Like a Car Alarm in the US?
If you hear a car alarm or other unnatural seeming sound in the US, and suspect that a bird might be the source of the sound, here are some birds that might be responsible:
These very common North American birds are very intelligent and are known to be amazing mimics. They have been known to imitate the sounds of sirens and alarms, police cars or ambulances, chainsaws, and other human-generated noises, as well as the sounds of owls and other birds. They often use this ability to scare off other species.
Another common bird in North America, the Blue jay, is another intelligent and vocal species. The Blue jay makes a wide range of different sounds as part of its usual repertoire, including caws, whistles, and clicking noises.
They also supplement their usual songs by mimicking other birds and animals and also mimic human sounds like alarms. They mimic loud human sounds to advertise their availability to a mate, to warn others away from their territory, or to keep predators away.
This songbird can be heard singing with a loud and ringing call during the breeding season in the Eastern United States. They have various songs, including whistles, buzzes, and trills that sound like alarms to a human ear.
The thrasher is another skilled mimic – accurately copying natural and human noises. It is another bird that can mimic an alarm and has also been known to mimic mechanical noises.
These loud and raucous birds have a large repertoire of vocalizations that allow them to communicate very effectively with one another and transmit important information – such as broadcasting information regarding dangers in the environment. These intelligent birds are also mimics and have been known to mimic a range of human noises and the songs and vocalizations of other birds.
Named for their distinctive cat-like call, these songbirds belong to the same family as the mockingbird and thrasher, also on this list. These astonishing birds are also amazing mimics. They can make sounds like car alarms and other alarms or sirens and have even been known to mimic human babies’ cries or laughter!
Northern cardinals make a range of sounds as part of their typical vocalizations and songs. They also mimic other animals and human noises. Frequently, people have been known to mistake the sound of a cardinal for things like beeping fire alarms, smoke alarms, and car alarms.
This native US bird species is perhaps one of the best-known bird mimics in North America. This species’s remarkable adaptation allows it to reproduce sounds at any pitch and duration. So it is especially capable of mimicking a huge range of anthropocentric sounds. These intelligent birds are incredibly skilled communicators.
Small sparrow-sized birds that are found in the southern United States, these marsh and wetland birds are also amazing mimics. They have been documented to mimic a huge range of natural sounds – from the calls of other birds and animals to rain, dripping water, and buzzing insects. So, no doubt they can mimic human noises as well.
Native to the Western United States and portions of Canada, this jay is another intelligent bird capable of amazing mimicry. In particular, these jays are known to mimic the sounds of loud alarms and, especially, ambulance sirens. They are sometimes referred to as ‘the noisy jay’ because they can make a variety of very loud noises.
Another common non-native species, the Eurasian starling, is also a well-known mimic present across much of the US. See more about this European bird species below.
What Bird Makes a Car Alarm Sound in the UK & Europe?
The species above are not typically present in the UK or elsewhere in Europe. But some mimics can make the sound of a car alarm here, too. For example, you might hear:
The European starling is a well-known mimic wherever it is found. These remarkable birds have enlarged voice boxes that enable them to create a wide range of different sounds. These birds are well known for mimicking other birds and many other sounds, like car alarms, fire alarms, telephones, ambulance sirens, and more…
The Eurasian jay, commonly known simply as the jay in the UK and Ireland, is another well-known mimic. Though not closely related to American jays, this Eurasian species is also known to mimic car alarms and other human sounds, as well as other natural calls.
A shy woodland species, they can be difficult to see. Since they are mimics, they can also be difficult to identify from their vocalizations. But you might see them seeking acorns from oak trees in the autumn.
Song thrushes are known for repetitive songs and phrases that can sound like alarms or other human-made sounds. These birds are also known to mimic the sounds of other birds around them, incorporating new things into their songs. Sometimes, they also mimic human noises.
People have been known to rush in from their gardens to answer the telephone when, in fact, it was not ringing at all because a song thrush was mimicking the ring.
Blackbirds show a capacity for mimicking not just other birds but even those sounds created by humans and our technology. While imitation of human sounds is rarer in blackbirds than in the species mentioned above, there are many documented cases of these birds sounding like alarms, ambulances, telephone rings, human whistling, and more.
So, as you can see, many different birds can sound like a car alarm. But, by learning more about natural mimics and birdsong in general, you can identify the species that are making the noise.