Common Name: Northern Mockingbird
(Information for this species page was gathered in part by Ms. Christine Patroski for Biology 220W at Penn State New Kensington during Spring Semester 2013)
The northern mockingbird (Mimus polyglottos) is a “robin sized” song bird that is nine to ten inches long with a thirteen to fifteen inch wingspan. It has a gray body that is lighter on its chest and belly with white patches on its wings, a long, thin bill that is slightly downwardly curved, and long legs.
Image credit: Ryan Hagerty, US Fish and Wildlife Service Digital Library.
It is found throughout the United States, Mexico and Central America except for the northern-most far West and northern-most Midwest states. Summer breeding ranges extend a bit further into these northern regions. Birds that breed in the north tend to migrate south for winter, while those that breed in the south tend to stay in place for the winter.
In 2010 while we were hiking the Baker Trail we came across a male, northern mockingbird high up in the bare branches of an old ash tree near an old house in Redbank Township. He was somewhere in the middle of his mid-morning concert program and was singing his heart out to the surrounding woods. I listened to him for more than fifteen minutes and never heard him repeat or even overly dwell on any single musical phrase. As we walked on along our trail I heard his song continue for several more minutes. Song diversity and volume are very important mate selection characteristics for female northern mockingbirds. I have no doubt that this individual was vigorously passing along his genes!
Habitat and Diet
Mating and Reproduction
Nests are built usually high in trees (ten to sixty feet off of the ground). Males build numerous starting nest foundations of twigs within their territories and the female chooses one on which to build the finished nest. The inner lining of the nest is soft and dominated by mosses and leaves (and also often a great variety of other materials like foil, plastic, and even cigarette filters). Active nests are observed in Western Pennsylvania from early March to early August. Two and sometimes even three clutches may be attempted in a given breeding season.
Females lay between two and four eggs per clutch and incubate each batch of eggs for twelve to thirteen days. Both the male and the female feed the nestlings for another twelve to thirteen days until the nestlings fledge. If, however, the female is to lay a subsequent clutch, she does so right at the hatching of the first set of eggs, and the male assumes full responsibility for the feeding and care of nestlings and young fledglings.
Northern mockingbird eggs and nestlings are preyed upon by the wide range of nest predators (including raccoons, snakes, squirrels, blue jays, crows, and more). Hawks are common predators of fledgling and adult northern mocking birds. Brown-headed cow birds readily parasitize northern mockingbird nests with their eggs and large, aggressive hatchlings.
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This page was last updated on
July 20, 2014