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I have been reading the Hunger Games and have seen the movies. First, let me please ask to please please don't give me any horrendous spoilers for the next 2 books (I haven't started reading them yet), but one thing has been annoying me a bit is the "mockingjays".

They say that when they were first unleashed by the Capital, they were used to "listen" to people speaking and then go back to the capital and divulge what they have heard. The book describes it as if it took a while before the Districts realized this was happening.

But if they suddenly repeat exactly what they hear (like they do in the woods) wouldn't people catch on immediately? I mean they would hear their conversation repeated right away.

  • I haven't seen the movie, read the books, or read the body of the question, but... is the title a spoiler? If so, please make it less spoiler-ish (without reducing its google-ability, if possible) – BlueRaja - Danny Pflughoeft May 11 '12 at 4:02
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    @BlueRaja-DannyPflughoeft I wouldn't call the title a spoiler. What is mentioned is not at all central to the plot, and is not a "surprise" even as a tangential topic. – Beofett May 11 '12 at 17:31
  • @BlueRaja-DannyPflughoeft Good point, I could see why you would think that, but it doesn't really spoil anything. +1 For Beofett's comment – SSH This May 16 '12 at 0:10
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The mockingjays repeated back whatever they heard, but they were not the birds created by the Capital.

The Jabberjays are the birds created by the Capital as spies. All Jabberjays were male, and were trained/bred to only repeat what they heard to their keepers back at the Capital.

However, the rebels still did manage to discover that the Jabberjays were being used to spy on them, and they started feeding them false information as counter-espionage. It was this counter-espionage campaign that prompted the Capital to stop the Jabberjay project, and leave all existing Jabberjays to die.

Before they died, many of them mated with female mockingbirds, resulting in the cross-bred mockingjays present in the books and movie that you are referring to.

From Chapter 3 of "The Hunger Games":

One {{mutt}} was a special bird called a jabberjay that had the ability to memorize and repeat whole human conversations. They were homing birds, exclusively male, that were released into regions where the Capitol’s enemies were known to be hiding. After the birds gathered words, they’d fly back to centers to be recorded. It took people awhile to realize what was going on in the districts, how private conversations were being transmitted. Then, of course, the rebels fed the Capitol endless lies, and the joke was on it. So the centers were shut down and the birds were abandoned to die off in the wild.

Only they didn’t die off. Instead, the jabberjays mated with female mockingbirds creating a whole new species that could replicate both bird whistles and human melodies. They had lost the ability to enunciate words but could still mimic a range of human vocal sounds, from a child’s high-pitched warble to a man’s deep tones. And they could re-create songs. Not just a few notes, but whole songs with multiple verses, if you had the patience to sing them and if they liked your voice.

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    Well that makes lots of sense! Finally, I can continue the books without this lingering in the back of my mind :) – SSH This May 10 '12 at 20:52
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    The mockingjays don't repeat back whatever they hear. They can sing back melodies but the Jabberjays are the only birds (known) that can repeat words and/or conversations. – Dason Jan 19 '13 at 17:43
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The jabberjays were created in labs by the Capitol in order to be spies. It is quite likely that they were able to train them to not talk unless given some form of command. This is backed up in the second book by the fact that

in the arena for the 75th hunger games, the jabberjays only made calls during the time that their wedge of the clock was active.

The mockingjays were not purposely created by the Capitol, they were made when the jabberjays mated with mocking birds. This either repressed the genes that kept them quiet until ready to repeat information, or since they were wild, they lacked the training of the jabberjays to stay silent.

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