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Mockingbirds and Their Excellent Mimicry of Sounds

Updated on January 8, 2017
Peggy W profile image

I live in Houston, and I have worked as a nurse. My interests include traveling, reading, gardening, cooking, and our wonderful pets.

Northern mockingbird (Mimus polyglottos orpheus)

Northern mockingbird
Northern mockingbird | Source

Northern Mockingbird

Northern Mockingbird
Northern Mockingbird | Source

Listen to the Mockingbird


On the last couple of walks that my hubby and I have taken and also when working in our own yard and garden, I have been particularly noticing that the mockingbirds have been really active of late in mimicking other bird songs. It is fun to hear! They will repeat one sound anywhere from 2 to 8 times or so and then shift to another bird sound and do the same thing. Often within a minute or less they will have made the noise of 6 or 8 different birds! They also make other noises like mimicking squeaky gates or even sirens and alarms.

I well remember my Great Uncle Ed sitting in a lawn chair in McAllen, Texas relaxing, and he would purposely make whistling sounds which a mockingbird would repeat! I can still imagine seeing the twinkle in his eye as it amused him so much.

Northern Mockingbird rangemap

Approximate range/distribution map of the Northern Mockingbird (Mimus polyglottos). In keeping with WikiProject: Birds guidelines, yellow indicates the summer-only range, blue indicates the winter-only range, and green indicates the year-round range
Approximate range/distribution map of the Northern Mockingbird (Mimus polyglottos). In keeping with WikiProject: Birds guidelines, yellow indicates the summer-only range, blue indicates the winter-only range, and green indicates the year-round range | Source

Where the Northern Mockingbird Ranges

I do not remember hearing the mockingbird songs in central Wisconsin when we used to live there. The northern mockingbirds do live in our part of Texas year round and can be a delight for the senses.

Looking at the rangemap below, it is no wonder that I never got to hear them when we were living in Wisconsin. Only the very bottom tip of the state could possibly have had some of them visiting in the summer months. That being said...some written reports have mockingbirds visiting as far north as Canada in the summertime.

We lived further north in the state when I was a child living in Oconomowoc and going to school in the small town of Okauchee. When my husband and I lived in central Wisconsin for four years as adults, we lived even further north of that.

Northern Mockingbird

Northern Mockingbird in Loxahatchee Natinal Wildlife refuge, Florida.
Northern Mockingbird in Loxahatchee Natinal Wildlife refuge, Florida. | Source

Northern Mockingbird Singing

Northern Mockingbird eggs

Northern Mockingbird eggs
Northern Mockingbird eggs | Source

Northern Mockingbirds

Do you get to hear the Northern Mockingbirds singing and mimicking other sounds where you live?

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Facts regarding the Northern Mockingbird


  1. These are highly intelligent birds which can mimic many different sounds. While both birds (male and female) sing, it is the male of the species which does most of it whether during courtship or just for the plain joy of making songs which can last all day and into the night.
  2. As you can see from the photos, their color is mostly gray on top with a whitish underside. Their long black tail has white outer feathers and they also have white wing bars. If you look closely at their eyes you will notice that they are a yellowish orange color with a black band extending back from their black beak towards the eye.
  3. These birds are monogamous and mate for life which can be around 8 years in the wild. Some people have kept them as pets in which case their life can extend many more years...up to 20 or so.
  4. One famous person who had a pet mockingbird was past United States President Thomas Jefferson. The name he gave his bird was "Dick."
  5. A clutch of eggs ranges from 2 to 6 and the eggs as can be seen in this accompanying photo are greenish in color with splotches of a reddish tinged brown.
  6. Nesting sites are usually shrubs or trees but these mockingbirds will also lay eggs in other birds nests and let those birds feed their young. If the nests are their own, both parents take up the responsibility of feeding their young.
  7. Northern mockingbirds have a diet that is omnivorous. They dine on insects from butterflies to ants. etc., but also enjoy eating worms, fruits and berries.

Northern Mockingbird

Northern Mockingbird
Northern Mockingbird | Source

Northern Mockingbird

The Northern Mockingbird is the State Bird of which of these states?

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Northern Mockingbird

Northern Mockingbird
Northern Mockingbird | Source

Northern Mockingbird Night Light

Bird Night Light - Northern Mockingbird
Bird Night Light - Northern Mockingbird

This would be so pretty in a darkened room at night!

 

Mockingbird Song

Carly Simon and James Taylor performed the song Mockingbird in a concert in New York City in 1979.

You can see images and hear it in the video below.

Are any of you old enough to remember this song or these singers and performers?

Song called Mockingbird

State Bird

Did you guess correctly which state or states is the State Bird designation for the northern mockingbird?

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State Bird

For those of you who did some guessing on the poll above as to the Northern Mockingbird being the State Bird of which state...here is the answer.

It is the State Bird of every state mentioned above! Obviously whoever the people are who choose such designations...they all became enamored with this bird who so eloquently and very convincingly mimics countless other sounds. The older a bird gets, the more songs are added to its repertoire. The mockingbird obviously has a great memory and likes to show off!

Fascinating look at a pair of mockingbirds incubating their eggs and raising their young to fledgling stage captured on film.

© 2016 Peggy Woods

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    • Peggy W profile image
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      Peggy Woods 3 weeks ago from Houston, Texas

      Hi Dolores,

      It is quite amazing the sounds that can be replicated by mocking birds. I'm not surprised that a cell phone could be mimicked by one.

    • Dolores Monet profile image

      Dolores Monet 3 weeks ago from East Coast, United States

      I love mocking birds and how their song is so complicated. Years ago when cell phones were sort of new, I used to walk around an area of my neighborhood and noticed how every time I was there, I'd hear a cell phone. That was when they all pretty much sounded the same. It took quite a while before I realized that the sound was not a phone but a mockingbird!

    • Peggy W profile image
      Author

      Peggy Woods 17 months ago from Houston, Texas

      Hi Ann,

      I'll bet that guy with a chough or chuff on his shoulder walking about in town certainly got some looks. Would have been fun to see! Thanks for explaining that the bird is related to the crow.

    • Peggy W profile image
      Author

      Peggy Woods 17 months ago from Houston, Texas

      Hello chef-de-jour,

      I do think that mockingbirds must be intelligent to pick up all those different sounds, remember them and then reproduce them at will. Sounds like you have some fun listening to the birds where you live. My hubby and I visited a nature preserve in our area today and heard lots of birds. We spotted cardinals, doves and the other ones we saw I am not sure what they were. We heard lots of bird calls and songs however! Thanks for the share.

    • annart profile image

      Ann Carr 17 months ago from SW England

      The chough (chuff) is related to the crow. I knew a lad who had one as a pet back in the late 50s; it perched on his shoulder as he walked around the village!

    • chef-de-jour profile image

      Andrew Spacey 17 months ago from Near Huddersfield, West Yorkshire,UK

      Thank you for this insightful hub, enjoyed it. Such a bright eyed bird is the mockingbird. I can see from the photos that this avian has a specialist role - to listen and absorb the songs and sounds of its immediate environment. What a gift! It must have a complex brain to assimilate so many different sounds and express them in its own unique way. Fascinating. Here in the UK we have starlings and they're capable of a limited mimicry - pipes and whistles and flutey sounds they pick up from the blackbird and thrushes and other songbirds. Occasionally I hear a local blackbird song that is what you might call normal - a la Beatles song about the same bird - beautiful flowing relaxed melodic - but then I'll hear a mobile phone tone or electronic alarm type sound the bird has somehow picked up! Comical, musical.

      Sharing this bird!

    • Peggy W profile image
      Author

      Peggy Woods 17 months ago from Houston, Texas

      Hello Jodah,

      You certainly have your share of noisemakers by way of interesting birds in Australia. I am going to look up that lyrebird right now. I had previously looked up the kookaburra and listened to its laughing-like sound. Glad you liked this hub about northern mockingbirds.

    • Peggy W profile image
      Author

      Peggy Woods 17 months ago from Houston, Texas

      Hi Ann,

      So glad you liked this. I am familiar with starlings but never heard of a Chough bird. Will have to look that one up. Thanks for the share.

    • Peggy W profile image
      Author

      Peggy Woods 17 months ago from Houston, Texas

      Hello aviannovice,

      You certainly know your birds! I will have to look up the bird you mentioned in response to peachpurple. It must really make a racket when it sings! :)

    • annart profile image

      Ann Carr 17 months ago from SW England

      What a wonderful bird. Of course, I knew of its existence but never knew it had such a wide repertoire. They are so entertaining.

      The birds which mimic the most in Britain are the Starling (widespread) and the Chough (in the crow family but not nearly so common). Starlings mimic phones, cars and just about any sounds around them. They are amusing to hear and to watch.

      I'm a keen bird-watcher and I love this hub. Sharing.

      Ann

    • aviannovice profile image

      Deb Hirt 17 months ago from Stillwater, OK

      Glad to see that you are writing about some of your local birds. The mocker is a fascinating character, as well as a bit of a troublemaker at times. Brown Thrasher also does the same thing, and they bear watching, too. Tell peach purple that the Superb Lyrebird is the king of sounds, even more so than the Kookaburra.

    • Peggy W profile image
      Author

      Peggy Woods 17 months ago from Houston, Texas

      Hi peachpurple,

      I am not sure mockingbirds live where kookaburra birds do but I am sure they would try to replicate that laughing sound if they did live near one another. They are great mimics.

    • Peggy W profile image
      Author

      Peggy Woods 17 months ago from Houston, Texas

      Hi Randy,

      They must nest around our home or our neighbor's yards also because we always have them performing their songs on a frequent basis. They can get to be a bit vociferous!

    • Peggy W profile image
      Author

      Peggy Woods 17 months ago from Houston, Texas

      Hi Alicia,

      We never saw mockingbirds when we lived in Wisconsin either but surely do enjoy them now. So glad to hear that you enjoyed this and are sharing it with others.

    • peachpurple profile image

      peachy 17 months ago from Home Sweet Home

      mocking birds are very cute, do they mock like a kukubarra ?

    • Randy Godwin profile image

      Randy Godwin 17 months ago from Southern Georgia

      Our mockingbirds--we always have a pair nesting in our backyard--also have been rather vociferous lately. Enjoyed the hub and they are rather special birds. :)

    • AliciaC profile image

      Linda Crampton 17 months ago from British Columbia, Canada

      I love reading nature hubs like this. The mockingbird is a bird that I would very much like to see in real life. Thanks for sharing the photos, videos and information, Peggy. I'll share this interesting article.

    • Peggy W profile image
      Author

      Peggy Woods 17 months ago from Houston, Texas

      Hi Shyron,

      What thrilled your husband is what kept my Uncle Ed so gratified as well. He had so much fun with the mockingbirds replicating his whistling sounds. :)

    • Peggy W profile image
      Author

      Peggy Woods 17 months ago from Houston, Texas

      Hi Blonde Logic,

      Nice that you have other types of mockingbirds living where you do. It is amazing the sounds that mockingbirds can replicate.

    • Peggy W profile image
      Author

      Peggy Woods 17 months ago from Houston, Texas

      Greetings B. Leekley,

      Catbirds are probably fun to watch and listen to their bird sounds. The mockingbirds surely are fun and we have many of them where we now live.

    • Shyron E Shenko profile image

      Shyron E Shenko 17 months ago from Texas

      Peggy, this is one of my favorite and is my hubby's very favorite birds. when we first moved to Texas one would sit on the roof and mimic my hubby's whistling, which was thrilling.

      This is a beautiful hub.

      Blessings my friend.

    • Blond Logic profile image

      Mary Wickison 17 months ago from Brazil

      Interesting hub.

      We don't get the northern mockingbird where I live but we have a family of tropical mocking birds which always seem to be hanging around our place. They do have a variety of sounds. I once thought it was the monkeys outside and when I went out to see them, it was just the mockingbirds. They also make some hissing sounds as well .

    • Peggy W profile image
      Author

      Peggy Woods 17 months ago from Houston, Texas

      Hi Frank,

      So glad you liked this hub. We surely do enjoy our mockingbirds! :)

    • B. Leekley profile image

      Brian Leekley 17 months ago from Kalamazoo, Michigan, USA

      Growing up in northeast Illinois, we didn't have mockingbirds but did have catbirds (Dumetella carolinensis), which are also in the mimidae bird family. I have admired mockingbird songs on my travels.

    • Frank Atanacio profile image

      Frank Atanacio 17 months ago from Shelton

      again Peggy W you hit the bird lover in me right in the gut.. I love the photos.. and the hub.. awesome

    • Peggy W profile image
      Author

      Peggy Woods 17 months ago from Houston, Texas

      Hi Jackie,

      Like you I have never thought to capture them on my digital camera. I simply enjoy their antics and songs (noises) they sing and replicate.

    • Jackie Lynnley profile image

      Jackie Lynnley 17 months ago from The Beautiful South

      Very interesting! I love these little bird too and I see them flashing around everywhere. I saw a pair mating I guess it was last spring and they did the wildest and flashiest dance. (Unless it was two makes.) Too bad I didn't get to capture that!