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Northern Mockingbird

Northern Mockingbird
Northern Mockingbird
Photo by: 
Kim Hawkins

This songster is a year-round resident and a common and conspicuous sighting on many outings. Known for its frequent and varied vocalizations and active defense of nests and territory, the Northern mockingbird is a true entertainer found in towns, farms, roadsides, parks and thickets.

While many species of birds do imitations, the Northern Mockingbird ( Mimus polyglottos ) is probably the champion. It mimics not only songs of other birds but also animals and mechanical sounds such as alarm clocks or car horns. Individual males have repertoires of 50 to 200 songs, continually adding songs throughout its life. Unmated males even sing at night.

At 9 to11 inches, the Northern Mockingbird is usually easy to identify with its long slender tail and mostly gray body with prominent, flashy white wing patches.

Mockingbirds forage on the ground or in vegetation, eating insects, berries and seeds. The nest, often begun by the male and finished by the female, is usually made of twigs in a dense shrub or tree which it vigorously defends.

Mockingbirds are found in suburban and urban areas alike and often nest near homes or businesses. They are gregarious and often interact with people. One of my favorite encounters was with a mocker that regularly sat just inches above a busy front entrance to my workplace, watching people come and go.

The Northern Mockingbird is a member of the Mimidae family and is related to the Gray Catbird and all thrashers. This popular songster is the state bird of Florida, Texas, Arkansas, Mississippi and Tennessee.

Like so many southern species, mockingbirds numbers have increased greatly in our area in recent years. Unfrozen water in winter is often the key to their survival. so heated birdbaths are like magnets for them.. Landscaping with berry producing trees and shrubs is best but a mixture of peanut butter, cornmeal and raisins will often capture their attention at your feeder station.

By Rick Jordah

FALL 2008l