Photo: Jim Wedge/Vireo

Northern Mockingbird

Mimus polyglottos

This bird's famous song, with its varied repetitions and artful imitations, is heard all day during nesting season (and often all night as well). Very common in towns and cities, especially in southern areas, the Mockingbird often seeks insects on open lawns. When running in the open it may stop every few feet and partly spread its wings, flashing the white wing patches. Mockingbirds are bold in defense of their nests, attacking cats and even humans that venture too close.
Conservation status This species was often captured for sale as a pet from the late 1700s to the early 1900s, and probably as a result it became scarce along much of the northern edge of its range. After the cagebird trade was stopped, the Mockingbird again became common in many areas. During recent decades it has expanded its range north, especially in the northeast; its success there may have been partly owing to widespread planting of multiflora rose, a source of favorite berries and good nest sites.
Family Mockingbirds and Thrashers
Habitat Towns, farms, roadsides, thickets, brushy areas. Favors areas with dense low shrubs and open ground, either short grass or open soil, thus often common around suburban hedges and lawns. Also in many kinds of second growth, woodland edges, farmland. In west, often very numerous in desert thickets or streamsides in canyons.
This bird's famous song, with its varied repetitions and artful imitations, is heard all day during nesting season (and often all night as well). Very common in towns and cities, especially in southern areas, the Mockingbird often seeks insects on open lawns. When running in the open it may stop every few feet and partly spread its wings, flashing the white wing patches. Mockingbirds are bold in defense of their nests, attacking cats and even humans that venture too close.
Photo Gallery
  • adult
  • juvenile
  • adult
  • adult
Feeding Behavior

Captures insects mostly while walking and running on ground. Also watches from low perch and flies down to capture items on ground below. Perches in shrubs and trees to eat berries.


Eggs

3-4, sometimes 2-6. Variably greenish to bluish gray, with blotches of brown usually concentrated at larger end. Incubation is by female, 12-13 days. Young: Both parents feed the nestlings. Young leave the nest about 12 days after hatching, not able to fly well for about another week. 2-3 broods per year.


Young

Both parents feed the nestlings. Young leave the nest about 12 days after hatching, not able to fly well for about another week. 2-3 broods per year.

Diet

Mostly insects and berries. Annual diet is about half insects and other arthropods, half berries and fruits. Feeds heavily on insects in late spring and summer, especially beetles, grasshoppers, caterpillars, ants, wasps, also many others. Also eats spiders, snails, sowbugs, earthworms, and rarely crayfish and small lizards. Fall and winter diet leans heavily to berries and wild fruits, sometimes a few cultivated fruits.


Nesting

Nesting begins early, by late winter in southern areas. Male sings to defend territory and attract a mate, often leaping a few feet in the air and flapping his wings while singing. Early stage of courtship involves male and female chasing each other rapidly around territory. Nest: Placed in a dense shrub or tree, usually 3-10' above the ground, sometimes lower or higher (rarely up to 60'). Nest has bulky foundation of twigs supporting open cup of weeds, grass, leaves, lined with fine material such as rootlets, moss, animal hair, plant down. Male builds most of foundation, female adds most of lining.

Illustration © David Allen Sibley.
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Text © Kenn Kaufman, adapted from
Lives of North American Birds

Migration

Migration poorly understood; some move southward in fall, at least short distances, but some remain through winter at northern limits of range.

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Migration

Migration poorly understood; some move southward in fall, at least short distances, but some remain through winter at northern limits of range.

  • All Seasons - Common
  • All Seasons - Uncommon
  • Breeding - Common
  • Breeding - Uncommon
  • Winter - Common
  • Winter - Uncommon
  • Migration - Common
  • Migration - Uncommon
Songs and Calls
A long series of musical and grating phrases, each repeated 3 or more times; often imitates other birds and regularly sings at night. Call a harsh chack.
Audio © Lang Elliott, Bob McGuire, Kevin Colver, Martyn Stewart and others.
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