Living Bird Magazine
Northern MockingbirdMimus polyglottos
- ORDER: Passeriformes
- FAMILY: Mimidae
If you’ve been hearing an endless string of 10 or 15 different birds singing outside your house, you might have a Northern Mockingbird in your yard. These slender-bodied gray birds apparently pour all their color into their personalities. They sing almost endlessly, even sometimes at night, and they flagrantly harass birds that intrude on their territories, flying slowly around them or prancing toward them, legs extended, flaunting their bright white wing patches.More ID Info
Find This Bird
Look for Northern Mockingbirds sitting high on tall shrubs, poles, or utility lines. Around your yard, you can also look for them running or hopping along your mowed lawn. You may be able to first identify the presence of a Northern Mockingbird by listening for its song which usually mimics numerous other birds at once.
- Centzontle Norteño (Spanish)
- Moqueur polyglotte (French)
Northern Mockingbirds are common in backyards, but they don’t often visit feeders. You can encourage mockingbirds to visit your yard by keeping an open lawn but providing fruiting trees or bushes, including mulberries, hawthorns, and blackberry brambles. Find out more about what this bird likes to eat and what feeder is best by using the Project FeederWatch Common Feeder Birds bird list.
- Cool Facts
- 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.