The Mockingbird’s scientific name means “many tongued” mimic. Like any great composer, the Mockingbird arranges his songs with balance, harmony, style and most of all repetition! It is the repetition of notes and songs repeated at least 3 or more times that drives us crazy in the middle of the night! Both sexes of these clever songsters sing and continue to add new songs to their repertoires during their lifetimes. Their songs are very long and inventive; each bird singing its own song and bits and pieces of other bird’s songs. They are also amazing imitators and reportedly can even imitate a dog barking or mechanical sounds. They use their songs to attract mates and to claim their territories.
The Northern Mockingbird is about 10″ long and is slender. It is gray above and white below. It has white patches on its wings and white feathers on the edges of its long black tail. It has yellow eyes, a black downward curving bill, and black feet and legs. Both sexes look alike. Young Mockingbirds have dark eyes and are lighter than the adults with spots on their under parts.
Range & Habitat
You can find the Northern Mockingbird mostly in the southern United States. However, it is starting to be found in New England and as far up as Canada. It has been found in most habitats, and has adapted well to rural and city life.
Besides its song, the Mockingbird has a loud scolding call. It feeds on all sorts of seeds, plus berries, fruit, insects, worms, and drinks nectar. In our backyard, a Mockingbird diligently defends our neighbors cherry tree! This is a common behavior in the winter when food is scarce. You might see a Mockingbird running on a lawn, lifting its wings above its body and flashing its white patches. This may be to either flush out prey or to distract predators, but it can’t be proven by scientists. The Mockingbird is also notorious for harassing cats and other predators. The bird that dive bombs when you are walking is probably the Mockingbird aggressively defending its nest and fledglings against all intruders, including you!
Breeding & Nesting
The males are mostly monogamous. They will usually stay with a single female the whole season. During breeding, the pair will face each other and perform a dance of steps. Their nest is made of twigs and plant material, and is built low in a shrub or tree. The female lays 4-5 eggs. She may lay and incubate 2-3 broods in a season. Both sexes feed the young. The chicks fledge in 10-12 days. The chicks cannot fly very well at this time, so the parents continue to feed them until they can.