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The Northern Mockingbird Will Make You Think You're Crazy

Updated on November 7, 2012
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The Jig Is Up

See this bird? Keep it in your mind visually, as it is known as an imposter, the Great Impersonator, Many Tongued, mocker, and a host of other names that mean virtually the same thing. Welcome to the world of the Northern Mockingbird. I will only discuss this bird today, for there are many other imitators, but not quite to the same degree that this one is. This bird is very unique.

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Mating Behavior

This little guy was doing aerial displays for a potential mate. As I recall, he was in the same area for about a week trying to attract a mate with his vocal repertoire and somersaults. Northern Mockingbirds have been known to so skillfully imitate sounds such as sirens, ringing telephones, barking dogs, and gate hinges that acoustical analyses could not differentiate between the original sound and the bird. Pretty impressive, yes? It gets better. These birds have been known to do long nocturnal serenades and can sing 1,000 songs per hour. The second photo in this section shows the mockingbird doing another type of display by opening and closing his wings as he walks forward. I have seen some of these birds do this displaying for days, as well as the aerial dance.

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Mockingbirds will aggressively defend their nests and are known to attack and mob potential predators and people who happen to get too close. I was told by a neighbor that a pair used to nest in a bush that she had on the edge of her property. Her next door neighbor always used to walk by there, and during nesting season, the female would always come after her and chase her home. By the same token, if a new person walks by, they will ignore that individual.


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Brooding and Food

Mockingbirds will have two or three broods a year, and the broods will overlap with the female incubating the eggs while the male feeds the young from the previous brood. Their diet consists equally of fruit, spiders and insects. Their favorite fruits are rose hips, grapes, elderberries, apples, and hawthorns. They favor ants, bees, grasshoppers, beetles, and wasps for insects. They often visit feeding stations, especially in the winter, when they will enjoy fruit, suet, mealworms, and a few seeds. They also will tend to bully other birds away from the area, even if the feeding station contains foods that they don't particularly like.

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A Young Bird Doesn't Look Much Different

This is a young mockingbird. Notice the nearly non-existent tail? That is a dead giveaway for a youthful bird for this particular species. I have another young bird near where I live, and he generally greets me a couple of times a day when I take my greyhound out. He stands on the Dish Network satellite and gives me several bold "chek" calls. Every time I try to grab the camera after the dog's outing, he has usually disappeared.

Additional Tidbits

These birds have adapted very well to the disturbed habitats created by humanity. They thrive in villages, towns, suburbia, and farmlands. They additionally form long term pair bonds. Males will perform a display where they face each other and hop sideways, trying to keep other birds out of the territory.

When nesting, the nest is usually on the fork of a tree or shrub 3-10 feet above ground, built by both sexes. The nest is comprised of fabric, stems, grasses, sticks, and string, lined with finer material and constructed in the shape of a cup. Between two and six eggs will be laid.

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Latest Story In!

I was informed by a Stillwater, OK resident that on Sunday, June 24, she witnessed a Northern Mockingbird diving after a cat trying to eat its food. The happened twice, no less. Later on that day, the bird chased another cat and its kitten that have been hunting birds. Now, tell me that bird doesn't pay attention?

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    • aviannovice profile image
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      Deb Hirt 4 years ago from Stillwater, OK

      Hello, The Examiner! Yes, you are right! Only another mocker can put up with a mocker. They are something else. I have seen them do a lot of strange things, but I love mine to pieces.

    • The Examiner-1 profile image

      The Examiner-1 4 years ago

      Do you want crazy? I love the mockingbird. I have one that lives in a bush year in and year out in my front yard. One year I could not figure out what bird was hanging around with it that was white. Until I had watched them for a while and seen that the new bird was acting the same and doing practically everything the same, it must be another mockingbird with leucism!

    • aviannovice profile image
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      Deb Hirt 4 years ago from Stillwater, OK

      I laughed when you called them "damned" doves. Mockers are pretty wacky birds. They will chase people around, too. I had one by the house over the summer that would visit constantly.

    • Perry the Cat profile image

      Perry the Cat 4 years ago from Mouskin, Texas

      The southern mockingbird with make you think you're crazy too. I've heard them bark like dogs, make ring tones, even sound like a slamming car door. My father taught one to whistle the first part of Dixie. And that's not just whistlin' Dixie!

      Unfortunately we also found a dead mockingbird along the road the other day. Sad as we haven't been seeing them around the house. Mostly grackles, sparrows and those damned doves.

    • aviannovice profile image
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      Deb Hirt 4 years ago from Stillwater, OK

      Any time, Jackie! That's what I'm here for, to help with birds in any way that I can!

    • Jackie Lynnley profile image

      Jackie Lynnley 4 years ago from The Beautiful South

      I am just starting to recognize mockingbirds, you are having a great influence on me! I have far to go photographing them but I am developing an eye and gaining trust. So good having you here, great hubs. Thanks!

    • aviannovice profile image
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      Deb Hirt 5 years ago from Stillwater, OK

      Perry, here's something for you. Take a look at Fumandgebra.com This is about a Spanish cat and his best buddy, a Barn owl!

    • Perry the Cat profile image

      Perry the Cat 5 years ago from Mouskin, Texas

      This just goes to show that birds are sneaky.

    • aviannovice profile image
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      Deb Hirt 5 years ago from Stillwater, OK

      Thanks, suelynn. Keep an eye on those birds, as they will do something that you won't expect. They can also get very friendly with you, if you provide food and water, maybe even nest nearby.

    • Suelynn profile image

      Suelynn 5 years ago from Manitoba, Canada

      Hi Deb, lovely information here and super video. Your photos are great to look at. You've expanded my knowledge and I thank you. We have mockers here too and they are always interesting to watch. Voted up and interesting. :)

    • aviannovice profile image
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      Deb Hirt 5 years ago from Stillwater, OK

      Glad you're enjoying the material, TheKatsMeow. You'll be seeing a lot more of this bird info.

    • aviannovice profile image
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      Deb Hirt 5 years ago from Stillwater, OK

      Thanks for the vote of confidence, Ruby. I have so much fun with the birds. I'm out with them every day.

    • TheKatsMeow profile image

      TheKatsMeow 5 years ago from Canada

      I loved this Hub! I really enjoy reading about birds so I am now following you! You have great hubs! thanks for sharing :)

    • Ruby H Rose profile image

      Maree Michael Martin 5 years ago from Northwest Washington on an Island

      Oh, I so love your bird information! The stories are great, and I learn something new every time. Wonderful hub. You are my new bird book destination! Sweet!

    • aviannovice profile image
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      Deb Hirt 5 years ago from Stillwater, OK

      Thanks, Ghost!!

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      Ghost32 5 years ago

      We definitely have northern mockingbirds here (southeastern Arizona)...but not much in the way of song. So far, just one individual bird "sort of" dive bombed in my general direction. That happened when I was out ringing doorbells, helping gather nominating petition signatures for a political candidate.

      When I complimented it on doing its job so well, though, it kind of slacked off. Guess it hadn't seen that particular response before. :)

      Voted Up and Away!

    • aviannovice profile image
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      Deb Hirt 5 years ago from Stillwater, OK

      I have heard that gray jays are pretty good mockers themselves. I can understand the confusion.

    • Kaili Bisson profile image

      Kaili Bisson 5 years ago from Canada

      aviannovice this is great. I was just looking in my book for birds east of the Rockies, and it looks like their territory extends into Canada. I will have to pay more attention the next time I see a bird I think is a Gray Jay.

    • aviannovice profile image
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      Deb Hirt 5 years ago from Stillwater, OK

      Mhatter99, do tell about your yard...

    • Mhatter99 profile image

      Martin Kloess 5 years ago from San Francisco

      you would have loved my yard

    • aviannovice profile image
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      Deb Hirt 5 years ago from Stillwater, OK

      xstatic, I am pleased to see that they hold fond memories for you. They are in their own category, that's for certain.

    • xstatic profile image

      Jim Higgins 5 years ago from Eugene, Oregon

      What a great surprise for me this morning to find this.

      I grew up in Texas and lived in southern Calif for many years, so always heard Mockingbirds. There was one who sang all night (literally) outside my window in CA. I walked to work sometimes in Orange county and would pass through at least three or four Mockingbird territories, all of them full of song. There are none in Oregon, and that is about the only thing I miss.

    • aviannovice profile image
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      Deb Hirt 5 years ago from Stillwater, OK

      Katharine, they should be in your area. They will mock your local birds, so if you don't see the bird that you recognize, it could well be a mocker. You might even hear them overnight.

    • Sparrowlet profile image

      Katharine L Sparrow 5 years ago from Massachusetts, USA

      Hmm, I don't think we have mockingbirds on Cape Cod, but I will check my bird book for them. If we do, I don't see them at my feeder. Very informative and fascinating hub!

    • aviannovice profile image
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      Deb Hirt 5 years ago from Stillwater, OK

      Indeed it does, Letitia, plus a little personality to boot.

    • LetitiaFT profile image

      LetitiaFT 5 years ago from Paris via California

      It looks as if the mockingbird warrants its name!

    • aviannovice profile image
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      Deb Hirt 5 years ago from Stillwater, OK

      Thanks, Klara. It is not unusual for mockers to do things like that. He most likely just wanted you up, because he was, too.

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      klarawieck 5 years ago

      Deb, we have tons of mockingbirds here in South Florida. About eight years ago, back when I lived in a house with a backyard, I had a nocturnal visitor. He'd come and knock on my bedroom window at 4 am every night. I guess he was curious about his reflection on the glass, but seriously... at 4AM???!!! LOL

      Beautiful and informative as always!

    • aviannovice profile image
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      Deb Hirt 5 years ago from Stillwater, OK

      I found out after the fact that I didn't have to work, so I thought that I would do something that I have been keeping on the back burner, Joyce. Glad that you liked it.

    • writer20 profile image

      Joyce Haragsim 5 years ago from Southern Nevada

      Another good read, as I didn't expect anything else from you today. I loved the video of the chripping bird.

      Voted up and very interesting, Joyce.