Top 10 Interesting Facts About The Northern Mockingbird


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Mockingbirds are known for their beautiful, varied, and mocking sounds and songs. The northern mockingbird is the only one of its species native to the United States. 

They are popular amongst birders, even if their singing keeps them up at night. Their sounds will vary depending on gender and the season.

Mockingbirds are also aggressive over their nests and territories and will harass other birds, pets, and even people. They flaunt their bright white feathers sending the signal that they are the boss of the ground and sky.

Continue reading to learn more phenomenal facts about the northern mockingbird.

1. The Northern Mockingbird Mocks Other Birds & More

The mockingbird gets its name from its ability to mimic, or imitate, the sounds of other birds, creatures, and even objects. Its scientific name is Mimus polyglottos, which means “many-tongued mimic”.

Mockingbirds choose to mimic sounds that are similar to their native voice in pitch and rhythm. They often repeat phrases in sets of 3 or more.

They are capable of learning over 200 different songs and sounds in their lifetime. 

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This includes sounds such as sirens, car alarms, squeaky gates, machinery, frogs, toads, and crickets. They can chirp like dozens of other birds. This includes the tufted titmouse, Carolina wren, blue jay, eastern bluebird, and northern cardinal. 

The northern mockingbird also makes its own song. 

Check out this video to hear a large variety of sounds produced by this bird:


2. They Sing During The Day & Night

Northern mockingbirds are diurnally active. However, they are known to be particularly musical during nesting season, at night, and when there is a full moon. 

Males without mates in particular sing much more frequently at night. Older birds that have lost a mate will also sing at night. 

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3. Their Singing Varies By Gender & Season

Interestingly, northern mockingbirds tend to sing more from February through August (breeding season). 

Then they sing again from September to November, during the typical bird migration season.  However, mockingbirds tend to be residential or partial migrators. 

Many species of migratory birds do not sing in the fall, but it is thought that northern mockingbirds do it to retain their mate. Mockingbirds tend to pair for life.

Male mockingbirds have separate song repertoires for the spring and fall seasons. 

Females sing more quietly than males, rarely producing songs in the summer. She may sing if the male has left the territory. Her sounds increase in frequency during the fall to establish her winter territory.

During the winter season, males and females are generally quiet.


4. The Northern Mockingbird Is Aggressive

Northern mockingbirds defend their nests and fight over territory. Females tend to fight females and males fight males. 

Male mockingbirds will land on boundaries and fly towards each other, facing off, silently hopping from side to side. One bird may retreat with the other chasing after it a short distance.

If neither bird backs down, they will attack each other, grappling with claws and pecking.

Mockingbirds will also exhibit territorial behavior towards other birds, people, dogs, and cats. 

Nests are only 3 to 10 feet from the ground, making defense a necessity against other ground-dwelling creatures as well. 

Both genders will fight other species over food, especially fruit trees in the winter.


5. Northern Mockingbirds Chase Off Birds From Bird Feeders

Northern mockingbirds do not eat seeds. They consume insects in the spring and summer and fruits in the fall and winter.

However, if a feeder contains mealworms, raisins, or other dried fruits, they may eat from it. If a feeder has an ant infestation, mockingbirds will feast on those instead of seeds. 

Often, mockingbirds chase other birds away from feeders because the feeder is too close to their territory, a fruit tree or bush, or a nesting site.

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6. They Build 5 Or More Nests Each Year

Mockingbirds are prolific nest builders, building up to 7 of them during a single breeding season. While they do not use all of them, they raise 2 or more broods and lay 2 to 6 eggs each time. 

Females will lay the next set of eggs while males care for the previous brood. Mockingbirds typically do not reuse nests each year.

Nests are cup-shaped made of dead twigs and lined with soft grasses, rootlets, leaves, and human trash. 

Eggs are pale blue or greenish-white with splotches of brown or red more heavily concentrated on one end.


7. Northern Mockingbirds Flash Their White Feathers

They have a gray-brown coloration, with 2 white wing bars. The outer tail feathers are white and flashy in flight. This white coloring is easily seen when they fly overhead or maneuver to grab hanging fruit.

These white “spots” are used to display status for courtship and against predators such as hawks or snakes. When hopping along the ground, they flash the white in their wings every few feet.

Northern mockingbirds are often alone or in pairs, and are easy to locate. They sit on top of shrubs, utility lines, trees, fences, and poles.

They run, walk, and hop on the ground with an upward-facing tail to catch ground insects.


8. They Drop Quickly From Perches

The flight of the mockingbird is showy. This is to display their feathers. Their flight typically is a variable and leisurely or parachuting style of flight. 

However, they also will suddenly drop from perches with their wings folded. Gravity pulls them quickly toward prey or threats.


9. It’s The Only One Of The Species Native to The United States

There are 16 species of mockingbirds around the world, but the Northern mockingbird is the only one native to the United States. The mockingbird is the symbolic state bird for Arkansas, Texas, Mississippi, Tennessee, and Florida.

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Northern mockingbirds can also be found in areas of Canada and Mexico. They frequently visit tall shrubs, thickets, utility lines, and tree branches. They are active along the edges of forests and roadsides and in backyards and parks.

They are expanding their territory in the U.S. to areas that are ample with rambler roses as well. This is a berry plant with a thick tangle of branches ideal for nesting and feeding.


10. Northern Mockingbirds Can Live A Long Time

Birds of prey, snakes, scrub jays, and raccoons are some of the predators of the northern mockingbird. Even then, this feisty bird lives about 8 years in the wild.

In the early 1900s, mockingbirds were kept as pets, and in captivity lived up to 20 years old. Northern mockingbirds are no longer permitted to be caught, traded, sold, or used domestically.


Conclusion 

Northern mockingbirds are interesting birds with some unique characteristics. 

They can produce over 200 songs and sounds in their lifetime, mimicking machinery, squeaky gates, crickets, and other birds. 

They display flashy white feathers and aggressively defend their nests and territory. And, they do so against much larger threats such as dogs and people. 

These facts and more make the northern mockingbird a popular bird that many people enjoy seeing and hearing.

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James Goodman

James is a native Texan with a love for birding and outdoor adventures. When he's not birdwatching, you can find him hiking, camping or playing the piano.

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