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Our Backyard Birds: The Northern Mockingbird

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A Northern Mockingbird (Mimus polyglottos) on a small twig
Northern Mockingbird

Our Backyard Birds:

The Northern Mockingbird

(Mimus polyglottos)

 

Food:

The Northern Mockingbird has a varied diet that includes both insects and fruits. It changes its food according to the seasons, just like other birds such as the American Robin and Eastern Bluebird. During spring and summer, it feeds on insects like beetles, grasshoppers, caterpillars, ants, and wasps. In the fall and winter, it switches to fruits and berries such as grapes, blueberries, strawberries, and several types of native wild berries. It is commonly seen at backyard bird feeders where it feeds on fruit, suet, and sometimes seed and mealworms.



Feeder:

I've found that mockingbirds tend to prefer open areas when it comes to feeding. To attract these fascinating birds, I've had luck placing mealworms, fruits, and raw unsalted peanuts in both hanging and ground platform feeders. Alternatively, a homemade suet made with mealworms can also work well.



Appearance:

The Northern mockingbird is a medium-sized bird with long legs and tail. Both males and females look identical. Its upper parts are gray, while its underparts are white or whitish-gray. It has parallel wing bars on half of the wings that connect near the white patch, giving it a unique appearance while flying. The iris is usually light green-yellow or yellow, but in some cases, it has been seen to be orange. The bill is black with a brownish-black appearance at the base. As a juvenile, it can be recognized by the streaks on its back, distinguished spots, and streaks on its chest, and a gray or grayish-green iris.



Information:

The Northern Mockingbird is widely known for its remarkable ability to mimic other birds, as well as various sounds such as musical instruments and car alarms. This species has been recorded learning hundreds of bird songs and calls, making it one of the most talented vocalists in the avian world. Its scientific name, "many-tongued mimic," perfectly describes its vocal abilities.


John James Audubon, a renowned ornithologist, praised the Northern Mockingbird, stating that there is no other bird that possesses all the musical qualifications of this "king of song," whose talent is a gift from nature itself.


A Northern Mockingbird (Mimus polyglottos) in winter
Winter Mockingbird

The Northern Mockingbird is a bird species that is recognized as the official state bird in five states, which include Arkansas, Florida, Mississippi, Tennessee, and Texas. This is due to its original habitat, which was mainly in the southeastern part of the United States, as well as its tendency to build nests in close proximity to human dwellings. In Native American culture, the mockingbird is often depicted as an intelligent teacher, diplomat, and peace-maker in various myths. Additionally, the mockingbird is a popular subject in music, featuring in songs ranging from traditional children's lullabies to a popular hit from the 1970s.


Mimicry is considered the highest form of flattery. The Northern Mockingbird stands out in this regard. When you are nearby and listen to it sing, you will be amazed at how it imitates the sounds of other birds such as kingfishers, flickers, wrens, cardinals, and many more. This trait makes male mockingbirds more attractive to prospective mates. According to a study in Texas, those with the largest repertoires had the most resource-rich territories.


Despite its obsession for mimicry, the Northern Mockingbird can be identified by its unique voice. It repeats each phrase of the complex song three to five times before moving on to the next. The complexity and variety of an individual bird's repertoire indicate its maturity and experience.


  The Northern Mockingbird has its own calls as well. These include warbles, buzzes, chirps, and a distinctive “chirp” note. These calls can be given alone or incorporated into its mimicked songs. Both male and female mockingbirds sing, but the male is more active and persistent. During the breeding season, male mockingbirds will often sing through the night, sometimes leaping into the air with exuberance. Unpaired males even sing 24 hours a day. 


A Northern Mockingbird (Mimus polyglottos) on a small limb
Texas Mockingbird

I hope you’ve enjoyed learning about the Northern Mockingbird and how you can attract them to your backyard. If this is your first time visiting my website or reading one of my blog posts, welcome, and thank you for joining us. Please subscribe here so you can receive updates on the next blog posts on Backyard Birding. You will also receive occasional discounts and newsletters. Remember to follow the Nature First and Leave No Trace principles and always strive to leave places better than you found them. Please share this blog post with your friends and family who have a love for birds, bird photography, or backyard birding.


David


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