Birdhouses 101 - Northern Mockingbird

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Northern Mockingbird

About The Northern Mockingbird

Northern MockingbirdThe Northern Mockingbird is known for its unique ability of imitating many different bird songs, able to mimic over thirty different avian calls in a sequence. This large variety measures at 9 to 11 inches in length. It has light colored eyes, gray overall cover, long black tails, and long legs, with beige to white undersides. Outer tail feathers are white, while the wings are primarily black with thick white stripes and patches. Also nicknamed the American Nightingale, the Northern Mockingbird species continues to proliferate northward. It defends not only its breeding territory, like most birds, but also its feeding territory, which it frequents in the fall and winter seasons.

The Northern Mockingbird Nesting Preferences

Low trees and thick shrubs serve as nesting locations for the Northern Mockingbird. The male gathers and puts twigs together to build a sturdy base for the nest. The female then weaves an open cup made of weeds, leaves, and grass, padded with thin roots, feathers, moss, and fine hairy substances from plants. She then lays about 3 to 4 eggs, incubates them for 12 to 13 days. After hatching, both parents put in efforts in feeding the young birds for 6 days. Another 6 days and the young ones may be expected to leave the nest, although they have yet to fly expertly. For up to 21 days after they leave the nest, the parents will continue to feed them. As Northern Mockingbirds have been known to raise about four broods within a breeding season, the male will already start building the nest for the next brood as soon as the last brood hatches, while the female attends to them. After building the nest base, the two will switch, so that the female can finish building the new nest.

Building a Birdhouse For The Northern Mockingbird

Northern Mockingbirds are known to build intricate nests on low foliage, thus it may be unlikely that this breed will be attracted to nest on a birdhouse. Birdwatchers may try to lure them with low trees and shrubs, as well as a supply of their choice food.

The Northern Mockingbird Mating Habits

Northern MockingbirdThough monogamy is the norm for the Northern Mockingbird, polygamy in this species has been observed as well, with some mated birds usually staying together for just one breeding period. Early in the year, the males already claim the nesting territory. The female linger in the winter-feeding territory until it is time to choose her mate or come together with her partner from the last breeding season. When the female enters the nesting territory, the male will issue a challenge, as he chases the female. If she goes away, he could attempt to lure her again by spreading his wings and calling gently.

The Northern Mockingbird Feeding Preferences

Northern Mockingbirds forage from the ground, and eat differently during breeding season and winter. Small invertebrates, such as snails, spiders, beetles, grasshoppers, and worms, are a major part of their breeding-season diet, while the winter diet is primarily made up of fruits, like berries.

Interesting Northern Mockingbird Facts

Northern MockingbirdEither gender of Northern Mockingbirds can sing intricate and varying songs, with every particular phrase repeating several times. Their songs are littered with fragments of different birdsí songs, being the skilled impressionists of the bird kind. The scientific name of the Northern Mockingbird is Mimus polyglottos. It is classified as order Passeriformes, family Mimidae.

Readers Comments

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Carol Matthews  3/16/2008)
A Northern Mockingbird has visited our feeding station every day from January until the present (March 2008). He prefers the grape jelly which we put out for the Baltimore Oriole (unusual in our area - Truro, Nova Scotia) We find the Mockingbird most cheery to have around, although we havent heard him sing (at least while weve seen him) and are looking forward to that. Also hoping he will next here although he may move elsewhere for that.

audrey valente  4/8/2008)
We have a mockingbird(s) that has taiken up residence on or near our 2nd story bedroom window. It sings all night sometimes starting at 11:30 p.m and off and on until 6:00 a.m. It has a remarkable repertoire that sounds like it is inside our bedroom. On detective work, we have found it sits on top of our fireplace (above our bedroom window), and sings his heart out. This is the first time we have had this up close view and sounds of the mockingbird. I love the music, but have to admit would prefer it in the daytime. We have streetlights so maybe that is why he is in such good voice at these ridiculous hours...... We live in Central California.

Colleen Farrell  4/11/2008)
A one-legged Northern Mockingbird has lived in our yard for at least a year. Right now hes building a nest in our honeysuckle arbor. He defends his territory vigorously, especially when crows come to the yard. He has never swooped down at me, even when I am very close to his nest. (I read that the males do the majority of nest-building work, so Im assuming this one is a male.) Recently, a 2nd and 3rd Northern Mockingbird have appeared. Im guessing one or both of them are females.

Paul Laws  4/27/2008)
We too have a mockingbird that chirps all night. Boy he goes to town LOUDLY right outside our bedroom window which is adjacent to a large oak tree. Sweet songs ALL NIGHT LONG!!

phyllis franke  5/5/2008)
how can you tell between sexes, also what do they eat besides insects

Karen  McCormack  5/23/2008)
We had 3 baby bird in a shrub in front of my house and totally lost the ability to go on my front lawn. Every time we went outside mom or dad would swoop down and give us a warning! We didnt mind, but sadly a cat got into the nest and we found the babies mutilated one morning. Will they use the same nest again?

Glinda  Watts  7/13/2008)
we have a family of Mockingbirds that nested in our front shrub- the surviving young one has grown and is now able to fly and it follows its parents (probably Mom) from one end of the yard to another, rooftop to rooftop, peeping its little cry for food. The poor mother never gets a moments rest, and is constantly feeding the youngster, which is all fluffed out and looking pretty mature. Interestingly, our 28 year old son has moved back in with us, and I cant help but think that this is a sign of some kind that we need to kick him out!

James Wagner  7/16/2008)
I have watched a pair build their nest outside my kitchen window. Three eggs have hatched today. I am interested to watch over the next week.

Megan Mac  5/25/2016)
We have two that werent a problem at first, but now they swoop down and mess with the cat. The cat doesnt do anything about it. The birds have so close to my family that we could probly hit one out of the air. Do they usually do this??

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