Mocking Bird of the Family Mimidae

Mrs Osgood Wright

This photograph was taken by her husband
This photograph was taken by her husband | Source

Introduction

This is another article in the series looking at North American birds. Here I review the lifestyle and breeding of the northern Mocking bird. There are also historical accounts and perceptions of the species. Mrs Mabel Osgood Wright coveys to us in her notes facts about the bird during the 1800,s with an accompanying black and white illustration of the bird by Louis Agassiz Fuertes.

Mrs wright became the President of the Audubon Society of the State of Connecticut in 1889.

Mocking birds belong to the Order of birds known as the Passeriformes and placed in the Family Mimidae. The northern Mocking bird is the only Mocking bird commonly found in North America, where it is in the main a permanent resident, although in severe winters they may migrate to a more southerly aspect. They are of least concern as far as conservation issues are concerned.

The Northern Mocking bird Mimus polyglottis is a long tailed thrush which spends much of its time on the ground of open habitats, including {becoming more frequently} suburban areas which have sufficient scrub or other dense cover. They are very distinctive, one of the characters being they run upon the ground with their tails raised. They prefer to run rather than fly to allude danger, when this is at all possible.

Their strong bills are employed to toss aside sticks and leaves on the ground as they search diligently for their prey. They consume a wide range of insects, particularly beetles, ants, wasps,and grasshoppers, but also spiders, earthworms and snails are taken. During the autumn and winter months they feed on berries of both wild and cultivated species.

Netje Blanchen in the book 'Birds That Every Child Should Know {1907} states "What child is there who does not know the Mocking bird caged or free ? In the north you very rarely see him now behind prison bars, for happily several enlightened States have made laws to punish people who keep our wild birds in cages, or offer them for sale dead, or alive. When all States make and enforce similar laws, there will be an end to the barbaric slaughter of many birds for no more worthy end than the trimming of hats for thoughtless girls and women.

Birds of a bright plumage have suffered most, of course, but the Mocking birds nests have been robbed for so many generations to furnish caged fledglings for both American and European dealers, that shotguns could have done the work more deadly"

Northern Mockingbird

Public Domain
Public Domain | Source

Mrs Wrights description and accompanying notes

Mrs Wright {pictured above}, describes the Mocking bird as being about ten inches long. Both the male and female being of similar plumage this being gray above, wings brown gray, white spot on the outer edges. The tail is brownish gray.

Mrs Wright continues--" The Mocking Bird, commonly known in this part of the country as a cage pet only, does not properly belong among the birds of the Middle or eastern States, but as there are many records of its nesting in these latitudes, and as it is a conspicuous bird, it is safe to include it.

Escaped individuals are often seen in our city parks, one having lived in Central Park, New York, late into the winter of 1892-93, a season which is remembered as being very cold and stormy. venturous pairs of Mockers have reared their young as far north as Artington near Boston, and are noted as ' rare summer visitants, occasionally breeding, particularly in the Connecticut Valley' by Dr.J.A.Allen,Stratford, Conn, also has one breeding record of long standing.

As a cage bird it retains its nocturnal habits, often singing, and fluttering in the middle of the night; it also shows many intelligent traits and marked preference for certain individuals. The power of the song varies greatly, some become vocal jugglers, and others retain many of their wild notes, which are to be much preferred.

" But soft! sink low;

Soft ! let me murmur,

And do you wait a moment, you husky-noised sea;

For somewhere, I believe, I heard my mate respond to me,

So faint-I must be still, be still to listen;

But not altogether still, for then she might not come immediately to me"

Walt Whitman poem of a Mocking bird searching for his lost mate.

Mocking bird

By Louis Agassiz Fuertes
By Louis Agassiz Fuertes

Nest and Eggs of the Mocking bird

The nest is usually placed in a bush or a tree between three and ten feet from the ground. The base as a general rule is a rudely constructed platform of coarse twigs. The external construction of the nest proper often contains formidable thorns which surround the nest like a barricade, along with twigs, weed stalks, leaves, grasses and pieces of cotton or wool roughly put together, and the inside maybe lined with fibrous roots. In suburban areas artificial materials such as string or rags may be utilised to complete the bulky structure.

Both birds take part in the construction of the nest which when completed is five inches deep with a diameter of around eight inches. The cavity in which the eggs are deposited is around three inches deep. Four to six eggs complete the set and vary both in size and in their colouring. The ground colour is usually light greenish blue, varying in depth of its shade, from a very light tint to a distinct blue, with a slight greenish tinge. The markings consists of chocolate brown or dark brown blotches.

They are incubated for 11-14 days by the female while her mate procures and provides the food for her. On hatching the young are naked bar a sparse pale grey down. They remain in the nest for a further 10-15 days. The nest is defended aggressively by the parents against other birds and animals. This courageous action will be taken against much larger birds such as hawks and crows. The nest of the Mocking Bird is often sought out by Catbirds in which they will deposit their own eggs in the hope of it being fostered by the Mocking birds.

Mocking bird eggs

Note the wool that lines the nest
Note the wool that lines the nest | Source

John James Audubon

John James Audubon was the first { as far as it is known } to carry out American bird bindings { now known as ringing} by tying threads to the legs of Phoebes, and confirming their return each year to the same nest sites.
John James Audubon was the first { as far as it is known } to carry out American bird bindings { now known as ringing} by tying threads to the legs of Phoebes, and confirming their return each year to the same nest sites.

An account by John James Audubon

It is where the great Magnolia shoots up its majestic trunk, crowned with evergreen leaves and decorated with a thousand beautiful flowers, that perfume the air; where the forests and fields are adorned with blossoms of every hue; where the golden orange ornaments the gardens and groves; where bigonias interlace their climbing stems around the white flowered Stuartia, and mounting still higher the summits of the lofty ; where a general warmth seldom forsakes the atmosphere; where berries and fruits of all descriptions are met at every step.

In a word, where nature seems to have strewed with un-sparing hand all the beautiful and splendid forms which I have in vain attempted to describe, that the Mocking bird should have fixed his abode, there only that its wondrous song should be heard. he continues to say--The Mocking bird remains in Louisiana the whole year. I have observed with astonishment, that towards the end of October, when those that had gone to the Eastern States have returned, they are instantly known by the birds that have stayed in the south, who attack them on all occasions. I have witnessed this by observing the greater shyness exhibited by the strangers for weeks after their arrival. This shyness, however, is shortly over, as well as the animosity displayed by the resident birds, and during the winter their exists a great appearance of sociability among the untied tribes

Audubon's own drawing of the Mocking birds

Audubon, in his time, was one of the most famous wildlife artists.
Audubon, in his time, was one of the most famous wildlife artists.

Mocking bird -a beautiful poem by Frank L Stanton

" He didn't know much music

When first he came along;

And all the birds went wonderin'

why he didn't sing a song.

They primped their feathers in the sun,

An' sung their sweetest notes;

An' music jest come on the run

From all their pretty throats!


But still that bird was silent

In summer time an' fall;

He just set still an' listened

An' he wouldn't sing at all!


But one night when them songsters

Was tired out an' still

An' the wind sighed down the valley

An' went creepin' up the hill.

When the stars were all a tremble

In the dreaming fields o' blue

An, the daisy in the darkness

Felt the fallin' o'the dew-

There come a sound o' melody

No mortal ever heard

An' all the birds seemed singin'

from the throat o' one sweet bird!

Then the other birds went playin'

In a land to far to call;

For there warn't no use stayin'

When one bird could sing for all!"


Associated hubs in this series

The names of some other articles in this series are as follows---

Meadow Lark of America.

Gold finch of America.

Chickadee a cheery bird.

The indigo bird an intelligent bunting

John James Audubon and early American icon

The hermit thrush, the dainty golden crowned kinglet and the bobolink

The catbird.

More by this Author


Comments 10 comments

D.A.L. profile image

D.A.L. 3 years ago from Lancashire north west England Author

Hi VirginiaLynne

Nice to meet you. Mocking truly are fascinating birds and their ability to reproduce sound is amazing. European starlings also have this capability and have fooled me on many occasions. Thank you so much for your visit and for taking the time to leave your welcomed comments. Best wishes to you.


VirginiaLynne profile image

VirginiaLynne 3 years ago from United States

We have many mockingbirds around our TX home. Twice this week I was thinking I was hunting for a view of a migrating warbler only to find out it was a mockingbird! They imitate such a diverse variety of calls. We have street construction going on here and they are making sounds which are clacking like the machines too.


D.A.L. profile image

D.A.L. 3 years ago from Lancashire north west England Author

Eiddwen, Thank you for visiting and for leaving your appreciated comments. Best wishes yo you.


Eiddwen profile image

Eiddwen 3 years ago from Wales

Interesting and wonderfully presented. Voted up and enjoyed.

Eddy.


D.A.L. profile image

D.A.L. 3 years ago from Lancashire north west England Author

Aviannovoice,

Hi Deb, I hope your boy returns to entertain you next winter. Thank you for your visit . I enjoyed your hub about the Oriole very much and left a comment , but something must have gone wrong I will have to revisit. Best wishes to you.


aviannovice profile image

aviannovice 3 years ago from Stillwater, OK

Ah, the wonderful mocker kept me going to the lake in the chill of winter. My boy was silent during this time, and still insisted that he photo be taken daily, or he would follow me until I did so. He is now temporarily away with his mate raising young, but he'll return soon enough.


D.A.L. profile image

D.A.L. 3 years ago from Lancashire north west England Author

Hi, PegCole 17, nice to meet you,

It must have been a a beautiful feeling to have the song of the mocking bird echoing around your home. Thank you for visiting and for leaving your kind comments. Best wishes to you.


PegCole17 profile image

PegCole17 3 years ago from Dallas, Texas

What an interesting and informative article, so rich with detail and history. That picture of Mrs. Osgood Wright is stunning and I love seeing her faithful dog at her feet.

I enjoy our local mockingbirds who actually answer when I make a bird call in return to theirs. We had one for years who would perch upon our chimney and use the acoustics of the metal pipe to amplify his singing. In the spring, his song echoed throughout the house.


D.A.L. profile image

D.A.L. 3 years ago from Lancashire north west England Author

DDE

Hi I am glad to have been able to introduce you to the mocking bird. thank you for visiting and for taking the time to comment. Best wishes to you.


DDE profile image

DDE 3 years ago from Dubrovnik, Croatia

I have been curious about these birds and now I have learned so much more about MOCKING BIRD OF THE FAMILY MIMIDAE, I often hear and see birds around our porch but this kind of bird is not found in CROATIA

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