- 8.3–10.2 in
- 12.2–13.8 in
- 1.6–2 oz
- Slightly larger than a Gray Catbird
- Moqueur polyglotte (French)
- centzontle, jilguero, ruiseñor (Spanish)
- It’s not just other mockingbirds that appreciate a good song. In the nineteenth century, people kept so many mockingbirds as cage birds that the birds nearly vanished from parts of the East Coast. People took nestlings out of nests or trapped adults and sold them in cities such as Philadelphia, St. Louis, and New York, where, in 1828, extraordinary singers could fetch as much as $50.
- Northern Mockingbirds continue to add new sounds to their repertoires throughout their lives. A male may learn around 200 songs throughout its life.
- The Northern Mockingbird frequently gives a "wing flash" display, where it half or fully opens its wings in jerky intermediate steps, showing off the big white patches. No one knows why it does this, but it may startle insects, making them easier to catch. On the other hand, it doesn’t often seem to be successful, and different mockingbird species do this same display even though they don’t have white wing patches.
- Northern Mockingbirds sing all through the day, and often into the night. Most nocturnal singers are unmated males, which sing more than mated males during the day, too. Nighttime singing is more common during the full moon.
- Northern Mockingbirds typically sing from February through August, and again from September to early November. A male may have two distinct repertoires of songs: one for spring and another for fall.
- The female Northern Mockingbird sings too, although usually more quietly than the male does. She rarely sings in the summer, and usually only when the male is away from the territory. She sings more in the fall, perhaps to establish a winter territory.
- The oldest Northern Mockingbird on record was at least 14 years, 10 months old when it was found in Texas.
Year-round the Northern Mockingbird is found in areas with open ground and with shrubby vegetation like hedges, fruiting bushes, and thickets. When foraging on the ground, it prefers grassy areas, rather than bare spots. Common places to find Northern Mockingbirds include parkland, cultivated land, suburban areas and in second growth habitat at low elevations.
Northern Mockingbirds eat mainly insects in summer but switch to eating mostly fruit in fall and winter. Among their animal prey are beetles, earthworms, moths, butterflies, ants, bees, wasps, grasshoppers, and sometimes small lizards. They eat a wide variety of berries, including from ornamental bushes, as well as fruits from multiflora rose. They’ve been seen drinking sap from the cuts on recently pruned trees.
- Clutch Size
- 2–6 eggs
- Number of Broods
- 2-3 broods
- Egg Length
- 0.8–1.1 in
- Egg Width
- 0.6–0.8 in
- Incubation Period
- 12–13 days
- Nestling Period
- 12–13 days
- Egg Description
- Pale blue or greenish white splotched with red or brown.
- Condition at Hatching
- Naked, blind, helpless with light gray down.
Mockingbird nests consist of dead twigs shaped into an open cup, lined with grasses, rootlets, leaves, and trash, sometimes including bits of plastic, aluminum foil, and shredded cigarette filters. The male constructs the twig foundation while the female makes most of the lining.
Northern Mockingbirds nest in shrubs and trees, typically 3-10 feet off the ground but sometimes as high as 60 feet. The male probably chooses the nest site and begins building several nests before the female chooses one to finish and lay eggs in. Females may start laying in a second nest while the male is still caring for fledglings from the previous one. Northern Mockingbirds rarely ever reuse their nests.
© René Corado / WFVZ
© René Corado / WFVZ
Northern Mockingbirds are found alone or in pairs throughout the year. They make themselves easily visible, sitting and singing atop shrubs, trees, utility lines, fences, and poles. On the ground they walk, run, and hop along the ground, tail cocked upwards, grabbing at prey on the ground or snatching insects just over the grass. Mockingbirds sometimes fly up and hover to grab at hanging fruit. The Northern Mockingbird is aggressive throughout the year. Females typically fend off other female mockingbirds, while males confront male intruders. Males disputing territory boundaries fly toward each other, land near the boundary, and face off, silently hopping from one side to another. Eventually, one bird retreats and the other chases it a short ways. If neither bird retreats, they may fly at each other, grappling with wings and claws and pecking at each other. Mockingbirds are also territorial around other bird species as well as dogs and cats. The flight style of mockingbirds is variable but typically leisurely, with showy wingbeats. Sometimes Northern Mockingbirds simply drop quickly from a perch with their wings folded.
Northern Mockingbird populations declined by about 33% percent from 1966 to 2014, according to the North American Breeding Bird Survey. Partners in Flight estimates a global breeding population of 32 million with 83% in the U.S., 16% in Mexico, and 6% in Canada. They rate an 8 out of 20 on the Continental Concern Score and are not on the 2014 State of the Birds Report. Despite losses, Northern Mockingbirds are common and widespread and have rebounded from lows in the nineteenth century, when many were trapped or taken from nests and sold as cage birds.
- Derrickson, K. C. and R. Breitwisch. 1992. Northern Mockingbird (Mimus polyglottos). In The Birds of North America, No. 7 (A. Poole, Ed.). IThe Birds of North America Online, Ithaca, New York.
- Dunne, P. 2006. Pete Dunne’s essential field guide companion. Houghton Mifflin, Boston.
- North American Bird Conservation Initiative, U.S. Committee. 2014. State of the Birds 2014 Report. U.S. Department of Interior, Washington, DC.
- Partners in Flight. 2012. Species assessment database.
- Sibley, D.A. 2000. The Sibley guide to birds. Alfred A Knopf, New York.
- USGS Patuxent Wildlife Research Center. 2015. Longevity Records of North American Birds.
- USGS Patuxent Wildlife Research Center. 2014. North American Breeding Bird Survey 1966–2014 Analysis.