The Northern Mockingbird (Mimus polyglottos) is the only mockingbird commonly found in North America. This bird is mainly a permanent resident, but northern birds may move south during harsh weather. This species has rarely been observed in Europe. This species was first described by Linnaeus in his Systema Naturæ in 1758 as Turdus polyglottos. The Northern Mockingbird is known for its mimicking ability, as reflected by the meaning of its scientific name, ‘many-tongued mimic.’ The Northern Mockingbird has gray to brown upper feathers and a paler belly. Its tail and wings have white patches which are visible in flight.
The Northern Mockingbird is an omnivore. It eats both insects and fruits. It is often found in open areas and forest edges but forages in grassy land. The Northern Mockingbird breeds in southeastern Canada, the United States, northern Mexico, the Bahamas, the Cayman Islands and the Greater Antilles. It is replaced further south by its closest living relative, the Tropical Mockingbird. The Socorro Mockingbird, an endangered species, is also closely related, contrary to previous opinion. The Northern Mockingbird is listed as of Least Concern according to the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN).
The Northern Mockingbird is known for its intelligence and has also been noted in North American culture. A 2009 study showed that the bird was able to recognize individual humans, particularly noting those who had previously been intruders or threats. Also, birds recognize their breeding spots and return to areas in which they had greatest success in previous years. Urban birds are more likely to demonstrate this behavior. Finally, the mockingbird has influenced United States culture in multiple ways. The bird is a state bird of five different states, has been used in book titles, and has also been used in popular songs and lullabies among other appearances in U.S. culture. [Wikipedia]
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. [All About Birds]
Northern Mockingbird Facts [All About Birds]
- 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.
- 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.
- The oldest Northern Mockingbird on record was at least 14 years, 10 months old when it was found in Texas.