The Northern Mockingbird is one of the most plentiful birds in North America.
These birds are incredible because they’ll continue to learn new sounds throughout their lives. For example, a male Northern Mockingbird may learn around 200 songs throughout its entire life.
You may be able to identify a Northern Mockingbird not by seeing them but by listening to its song, which usually mimics several other birds simultaneously.
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Northern Mockingbirds are medium-sized birds. They’re a little bit slimmer than a thrush and have longer tails. For reference, these birds are slightly bigger than a Gray Catbird.
Northern Mockingbirds have long legs, small heads, and long, thin bills. Their tails look so long when in flight because of the shape of their wings. Their wings are rounded, wide, and short.
The Northern Mockingbird is a grayish-brown color overall. The color gets paler on the belly and the breast.
Each of their wings has a white wing bar. A white patch can also be seen on the outer tail feathers and each wing. These white wing patches can easily be seen when Northern Mockingbirds are perched.
Northern Mockingbird Vocalization
Northern Mockingbirds are well-known for their vocal powers, namely mimicking. These birds can imitate animal sounds and even some human-specific notes.
Learn more: Do birds talk?
Nevertheless, a few Nothern Mockingbird calls are specific to only this species.
Northern Mockingbirds can make chew or hew sounds, when protecting their territory. Mates exchange a softer version of this call during incubation and nestling periods, or when the female leaves the nest while incubating.
Keep reading: Why do birds chirp at night?
They can also make 2-8 short chat calls to warn off intruders. Females usually make a single chat when disturbed.
Northern Mockingbirds’ diet is specific to the time of year. In the winter and fall, Northern Mockingbirds mainly consume fruit, and in the summer, they primarily eat insects.
Their animal prey consists of earthworms, beetles, moths, ants, butterflies, bees, grasshoppers, sometimes small lizards, and wasps.
In addition, they’ll eat various berries like multiflora rose fruits and ornamental bushes. They’ve even been seen drinking sap from recently pruned trees with cuts.
Nesting and Eggs
Northern Mockingbirds prefer to nest in trees and shrubs. Nests are usually 3 to 10 feet off the ground, but there have been reports of nests being as high as 60 feet.
The male Northern Mockingbird most likely chooses the nesting site and will build several a number of nests before the female chooses one to complete and lay eggs in. Female Northern Mockingbirds may start laying eggs in a second nest while the male continues to care for fledglings from the first nest. These birds rarely reuse their nests.
Mockingbird nests are commonly made from dead twigs that are shaped into an open cup and are lined with rootlets, grasses, trash, leaves, shredded cigarette filters, and aluminum foil.
The male bird builds the foundation for the nest out of twigs, while the female builds most of the nest lining.
The size of their clutch usually ranges from 2 to 6 eggs, and they have 2-3 broods during breeding season. Northern Mockingbirds incubate their eggs for about 13 days.
Northern Mockingbirds can be found year-round in places that have shrubby vegetation like fruiting bushes, thickets, and hedges, as well as open ground.
Northern Mockingbirds prefer to forage on the ground, so they like grassy areas instead of bare spots. Common places Northern Mockingbirds can be seen are cultivated land, suburban areas, in second-growth habitats at low elevations, and parkland.
As of now, Northern Mockingbirds are a species of low concern.
- Mockingbirds almost vanished completely from the east coast of the United States. This is because, in the 19th century, many people would keep mockingbirds in cages. People would trap adult Northern Mockingbirds and take nestlings out of nests. They would then sell the nestlings in major cities. Some of those cities include St. Louis, New York, and Philadelphia. In 1828, people could get as much as $50 per bird. For reference, that’s the equivalent of $1454.89 today.
- Northern Mockingbirds are excellent at mimicking and singing. These birds will continue accumulating new sounds and add them to their collection throughout their lives. For example, a male may learn around 200 songs throughout his entire life. They even use their vocal powers at night!
- Northern Mockingbirds usually sing from February to August. They’ll stop singing until September rolls around and sing again in early November. It’s been noted that male Northern Mockingbirds have a song for spring and another song for fall.
- Female Northern Mockingbirds sing too! It’s common for people to think that it’s just the males. However, the females are usually much quieter. Female Northern Mockingbirds almost never sing in the summer. They’ll sing more in the fall; it’s theorized that this establishes a winter territory.
- The Northern Mockingbird is the state bird of five states: Arkansas, Florida, Mississippi, Tennessee, and Texas.
The Northern Mockingbird has features that are similar to other bird species. Here are some similar species:
Although Northern Shrikes and Northern Mockingbirds are similar in size, there are a few key differences.
Northern Shrikes are much darker in color. They have darker wings and tails, plus they have black lines on their faces, giving them a ninja look. That being said, their underbellies are pure white in color.
Another thing to note is that Northern Shrikes also have stronger, more curved bills.
Compared to Northern Mockingbirds, Gray Catbirds have gray plumage on most of their plumage, with a small darker patch on the top of their heads. They have some rusty red spots under their tails.
The two birds have different ranges too. Northern Mockingbirds are resident across the United States, but Gray Catbirds tend to stay near the northern parts of North America. Gray Catbirds can be mainly spotted in the U.S. during winter.
Frequently Asked Questions
Are Northern Mockingbirds rare?
No, Northern Mockingbirds are not rare. Their estimated breeding population is 43 million, making them a common and widespread bird.
What is special about Northern Mockingbird?
Northern mockingbirds are known by many for their incredible ability to mimic. They’ve been known to mimic other bird species, crickets, and even sirens! These birds also belt out songs that are unique only to their species!
How do you identify a Northern Mockingbird?
The Northern Mockingbird is a grayish-brown color overall. The color gets paler on the belly and the breast. Each of their wings has a white wing bar. A white patch can also be seen on the outer tail feathers and each wing. You may be able to first identify a Northern Mockingbird not by seeing them but by listening to its song.
Where do Northern Mockingbirds live?
Northern Mockingbirds can be found year-round in places with shrubby vegetation like fruiting bushes, thickets, hedges, and open ground. They can be found in every state in the United States and parts of Mexico, Canada, and the Caribbean.
Do Mockingbirds remember humans?
Yes, Northern Mockingbirds are known to remember humans. Especially those that enter their territory and get too close to their nests. They’ll attack to scare the person away and will dive-bomb them if they see them again.