Northern Mockingbird

Published on February 16, 2013 by Amy

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Northern Mockingbird
Northern Mockingbird

Of all North American birds, the Mockingbird is by far, the most famed for its vocal imitations. The Northern Mockingbird is the most widely-known songbird in America. It is best known for its singing abilities. Not only can it perform 39 species’ songs and 50 call notes, but it also can mimic sounds such as that of a barking dog, squeaky hinges, notes from a piano and even a cackling hen, so expertly that even an electronic analysis could not tell the difference between the mockingbird and the original.

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Mockingbird nests can be found one to 50 feet above the ground in the fork of a tree or on the branch of a bush. The bulky cup is built by both sexes with items such as twigs, dry leaves, stems, cotton, paper, grass and other handy materials. Like many other songbirds, mockingbirds feed on fruits and insects.

Though territorial all year around, during the nesting season which falls between March and August, mockingbirds are especially aggressive. They regularly may attack starlings and grackles and even cats if they feel threatened. The female is the sole incubator of the three to six blue or green eggs that are blotched with brown. They hatch after an incubation period of 11 to 14 days and are then tended by both parents, although they are brooded only by the female. Thereafter, the young will leave the nest once they are 10 to 12 days old.

Habitat and Distribution

The Northern Mockingbird is distributed widely and it has extended its range much farther north in recent years. They range throughout North America from southern Canada south to Mexico. They even have been introduced and established in Hawaii. Mockingbirds live year-around across Texas where they frequent lawns and gardens in urban and rural environments, edges of open woods, farmland, streamside thickets and brushy deserts.

Identification

Mockingbirds are long streamlined gray birds reaching up to 9 inches in length, with white undersides and flashy white wing patches and outer tail feathers. The male and females look alike.

Voice

The song is a mixture of original and imitative phrases, each repeated several times. It will imitate other species’ songs and calls, squeaky gates, pianos, sirens, barking dogs, etc.

During the mating season the male will mark his territory with song. You will see them singing incessantly, both night and day, hopping from one song post to another. If you see him jumping up and down in the air, he’s catching a few insects! In the Fall, both the male and female will mark their territory to protect Fall and Winter food sources.

Did You Know?

  • Only unmated males sing at night.
  • Mockingbirds often form long-term pair bonds.
  • Mockingbirds vigorously defend their territory against many other species including dogs, cats and man!
  • Female mockingbirds often build a new nest while the males finish feeding older fledglings and teaching them to fly.
  • Scientists have found that female mockingbirds are attracted to males that can make the most different sounds.
  • Mockingbirds are the State Bird of Arkansas, Florida, Mississippi, Tennessee and Texas.
  • Mockingbirds are thought to raise and lower their wings in order to scare up a meal of insects, frighten snakes and impress their mates.
  • Source: turtletrack

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