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Description of the Northern Mockingbird

BREEDING MALE

The Northern Mockingbird is a conspicuous, slender bird with gray upperparts, white underparts, a long tail, two white wing bars, and a dark line in front of the eye. In flight, white outer tail edgings and conspicuous white wing patches are visible.  Length: 10 in.  Wingspan: 14 in.

Northern Mockingbird

 

Note the white wing window.

Northern Mockingbird

 

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Photograph © Alan Wilson.

Female

Sexes similar.

Seasonal change in appearance

None.

Juvenile

Similar to adults, though with faint spots on the breast.

 

Northern Mockingbird

Habitat

Mockingbirds are found in yards and parks, roadsides, and brushy areas.

Diet

Mockingbirds eat both insects and berries.

Behavior

Mockingbirds both walk and run on the ground to seek and capture insects, sometimes scanning for prey from a perch.  They also forage for berries in trees or bushes.  They frequently flash their white wing patches as a display or to frighten insects into revealing their location.

Range

Mockingbirds breed throughout most of the U.S. from the upper Midwest south through Mexico. Their range has expanded northward in recent decades, though their population has declined somewhat in the south.

More information:

Bent Life History

Visit the Bent Life History for extensive additional information on the Northern Mockingbird.

Wing Shape

The shape of a bird's wing is often an indication of its habits and behavior. Fast flying birds have long, pointed wings. Soaring birds have long, broad wings. Different songbirds will have a slightly different wing shape. Some species look so much alike (Empidonax flycatchers) that scientists sometimes use the length of specific feathers to confirm a species' identification.

Wing images from the University of Puget Sound, Slater Museum of Natural History

Fun Facts

The Northern Mockingbird is a talented vocal mimic, and can imitate the sounds of many other birds as well as manmade noises such as car alarms or squeaky pumps.

Mockingbirds are very aggressive when it comes to defending their territories and nests, even attacking cats or humans who venture too close.

Prior to federal laws being passed protecting native birds, so many mockingbirds were captured for the pet trade that they became very scarce across much of their range.

Vocalizations

A series of varied phrases, typically repeated several times.  Many phrases may be imitations of other bird songs.

Nesting

A mockingbird nest is a bulky cup of twigs and stems lined with leaves, bark, grasses, and sometimes trash, usually placed 3-10 feet high in a tree, bush, or thicket.

Number: Usually lay 3-5 eggs.
Color: Bluish or greenish with makings of brown or reddish.

Incubation and fledging:
The young hatch at about 13 days and leave the nest in 12 days, but continue to associate with the adults for some time.