Bird’s ID – Northern Mockingbird

Northern Mockingbird


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. 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. 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. 

The northern mockingbird is a medium-sized mimid that has long legs and tail. Males and females look alike. Its upper parts are colored gray, while its underparts have a white or whitish-gray color. It has parallel wing bars on the half of the wings connected near the white patch giving it a distinctive appearance in flight. The black central rectrices and typical white lateral rectrices are also noticeable in flight. The iris is usually a light green-yellow or a yellow, but there have been instances of an orange color. The bill is black with a brownish black appearance at the base. The juvenile appearance is marked by its streaks on its back, distinguished spots and streaks on its chest, and a gray or grayish-green iris.

Northern mockingbirds measure from 20.5 to 28 cm (8.1 to 11.0 in) including a tail almost as long as its body. The wingspan can range from 31–38 cm (12–15 in) and body mass is from 40–58 g (1.4–2.0 oz). Males tend to be slightly larger than females. Among standard measurements, the wing chord is 10 to 12 cm (3.9 to 4.7 in), the tail is 10 to 13.4 cm (3.9 to 5.3 in), the culmen is 1.6 to 1.9 cm (0.63 to 0.75 in) and the tarsus is 2.9 to 3.4 cm (1.1 to 1.3 in).

The northern mockingbird’s lifespan is observed to be up to 8 years, but captive birds can live up to 20 years.

The northern mockingbird is an omnivore. The birds’ diet consists of arthropods, earthworms, berries, fruits, seeds, and seldom, lizards. Mockingbirds can drink from puddles, river and lake edges, or dew and rain droplets that amass onto plants. Adult mockingbirds also have been seen drinking sap from the cuts on recently pruned trees. Its diet heavily consists of animal prey during the breeding season, but takes a drastic shift to fruits during the fall and winter.  Mockingbirds also eat garden fruits such as tomatoes, apples, and berries.

These birds forage on the ground or in vegetation; they also fly down from a perch to capture food. While foraging, they frequently spread their wings in a peculiar two-step motion to display the white patches. There is disagreement among ornithologists over the purpose of this behavior, with hypotheses ranging from deceleration to intimidation of predators or prey.

Both the male and female of the species reach sexual maturity after one year of life. The breeding season occurs in the spring and early summer. The males arrive before the beginning of the season to establish their territories. The males use a series of courtship displays to attract the females to their sites. They run around the area either to showcase their territory to the females or to pursue the females. The males also engage in flight to showcase their wings. They sing and call as they perform all of these displays. The species can remain monogamous for many years, but incidents of polygyny and bigamy have been reported to occur during the bird’s lifetime.

Both the male and female are involved in the nest building. The male does most of the work, while the female perches on the shrub or tree where the nest is being built to watch for predators. The nest is built approximately three to ten feet above the ground. The outer part of the nest is composed of twigs, while the inner part is lined with grasses, dead leaves, moss, or artificial fibers. The eggs are a light blue or greenish color and speckled with dots. The female lays three to five eggs, and she incubates them for nearly two weeks. Once the eggs are hatched, both the male and female will feed the chicks.

The birds aggressively defend their nests and surrounding areas against other birds and animals. When a predator is persistent, mockingbirds from neighboring territories may be summoned by distinct calls to join the defense. Other birds may gather to watch as the mockingbirds harass the intruder. In addition to harassing domestic cats and dogs that they consider a threat, mockingbirds will at times target humans. The birds are unafraid and will attack much larger birds, even hawks.


Photo Gallery



© HJ Ruiz – Avian101

10 thoughts on “Bird’s ID – Northern Mockingbird

Leave a Reply

Please log in using one of these methods to post your comment:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

%d bloggers like this: