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Northern Mockingbird

Identification and Picture

Northern Mockingbird

(Mimus Polyglottos)
 photo by Hagerty, Ryan U.S. Fish and Wildlife 
Mockingbirds are 9 to 11 inches about, the same size as a robin, but a bit slimmer.  The birds are grayish above with a slight buff color on the under parts.  There are white patches on dark wings, and tail.  The wing patterns are conspicuous in flight, and wing displays.  Younger birds will be brown with spotted breasts.

Several states claim this as their state bird:
Arkansas, Florida, Mississippi, Tennessee, and Texas.

Song and Call – The Mimic

Northern Mocking birds got their name because of their well-deserved reputation for imitating the songs, and sounds of other birds.  Mocking birds sing almost perfect imitations of many other birds.  Close to a third of its singing will be imitations, which can include other sounds such as machinery, sirens, frogs, other animals, or a human whistling.

They sing a long succession of notes, and phrases, which will be repeated several times, and then changed.  The call phrases can be imitations of songs of other birds.  Other sounds are a raspy chijjjand a harsh chewk.  The male sings in the spring, and both birds will sing in the fall.  They will often sing long into the night.

Sound 1   Sound 2

Range and Habitat

Mockingbirds can be found throughout most U.S. all year. They like open land, forests, woodland edges, roadsides, thickets, farms, and towns.  Thick shrubbery in your back yard will attract them. The birds establish two types of territories.  Individual male and female birds will have separate feeding territories, which they will defend.  During breeding, and nesting a pair will claim a territory.

Breeding and Nesting

Breeding season is February to April depending on the area.
They breed in open woodland, and country with scattered trees, and shrubs.

In the spring the Mocking bird will clam its territory, and defend it very aggressively.  He does a type of aggressive dance wagging his tail with raising, and lowering of wings. If his wing display doesn’t work he will chase intruders.  He will also chase females until he chooses his mate.

He does a looping flight to, and from a chosen perch, and sings to attract the female.  Once they build the nest they will aggressively defend it, dive-bombing any creature that dares to come to close.  This includes humans, dogs, cats, and other wild animals.

The female picks the nesting site.  The male will then start by putting nesting material in her chosen location, and then both birds will build the nest.  The nest can be in a tree, shrub or thicket.  They build a bulky nest made of twigs, weeds, leaves, string, rags, and other materials. The inside is lined with fine grasses, plant down, moss, and hair.

The female alone will incubate 3 to 5 smooth glossy eggs. Eggs can be pale blue, greenish blue, or pinkish blue, spotted with reddish brown, or purple blotches.  The markings will usually be more intense near the large end.  The young will be tended by both adult birds, and can leave the nest within 2 weeks.

Food - Feeding and Water

Natural foods are all types of insects, fruits, and berries. They forage on the ground, and will watch from a perch, and fly down to grab an insect.

The best way to attract mockingbirds to your backyard is to plant trees, and shrubs they might nest in, those with fruits, and berries are best.  Suggested plants are hackberry, dogwood, mulberries, cherry, crab apples, and others.

They will visit suet, and other feeders with fruit, raisins, breads, and even seeds such as sunflower. Just like all songbirds, water for drinking, and bathing will attract them, especially if you have running or dripping water.

For more on food and feeding click here.
For more on feeders click here.
To learn about other favorite birds click here.

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