Northern Mockingbird Mimus polyglottos

North American most accomplished mimic, the Northern Mockingbird is a great imitator of sounds. A talented vocalist, he sings from dawn to dusk, and even at night, for which it has been called American mightingale. While the male is the primary singer, the female also sings, especially in the fall. Male Northern Mockingbirds have repertoires that can exceed 150 songs, which both change from year to year and increase in number with age. One male bird can imitate dozens of different species, broadcasting in sequence the songs of the American Robin, Blue Jay, Northern Cardinal, and a variety of other species. If you whistle and there is a mockingbird nearby, you might get mocked. Not only will the bird repeat your tune, he might improve it. Usually an individual repeats one song three to six or more times, then switches to another song, and so on. Brown thrashers usually repeat each song once, and catbirds do not repeat.

Northern Mockingbird (Mimus polyglottos)

Northern Mockingbird (Mimus polyglottos)
Photography by Laura Johnston

The Northern Mockingbird is longer and slender than a robin, with a long tail that he may flick from side to side. He has short, broad wings with two white wing bars. A large white wing patch is visible on mockingbirds in flight. Females are similar in appearance. In the spring and summer mockingbird tend to feed on insects. They run along, stop, and "wing-flash" to startle insects up from the ground. They eat beetles, ants, bees, wasps, grasshoppers, spiders, earthworms, snails, and sowbugs. In the fall and winter they eat mainly fruits, especially those of fig, crabapple, hawthorn, barberries, multiflora rose hips, and grapes. Mockingbirds lay four to six eggs and may rear successive broods, using more than one nest. These birds are highly territorial, especially during breeding season, and will dive-bomb anything that comes close to their nest: pets, humans, and other birds.

  • Length: 10-11 inches
  • Habitat: Breeds near people in urban and rural settings; tends to avoid interior forests and is often found in forest edges.
  • Range: The entire continental United States, southern Canada and most Mexico
  • Conservation Status Widespread

References

  1. Kate Rowinski. The Joy of Birding: A Beginner's Guide
  2. Frank B. Gill. Ornithology
  3. Julie Feinstein. Field Guide to Urban Wildlife
  4. Sheila N. Kee. Backyard Birds of the Inland Empire
  5. Charles Fergus. Wildlife of Pennsylvania and the Northeast