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Northern Mockingbird: Field Guide, Pictures, Habitat & Info

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northern mockingbird perching

The Northern mockingbird might be the most intriguing of its kind in the Northern hemisphere, and it’s a fascinating species to study. This comprehensive guide will lay out all of the info you need to identify this species in addition to their lifestyle and habits. We’ve also put together a handful of images to give you a proper visual of the mockingbird, so you can easily identify it.

Quick Facts about Northern Mockingbirds

Habitat Suburbia
Diet Omnivorous
Behavior Foraging on the ground
Nesting Bushes and shrubs
Conservation Low-risk
Scientific name Mimus polyglottos
Lifespan: Around 8 years

Northern Mockingbird General Description

The standout feature of the Northern mockingbird is its innate ability to copy or “mock” the calls of individual birds. For example, the black-capped chickadee is famous for its “chickadee-dee-dee” song, and its call can be mimicked accurately by a mockingbird. The bird has grey, brown, and white plumage across its body, with bright-yellow eyes and a slightly curved bill. They also have a long “tail” of feathers in the rear, giving them a slim look.

northern mockingbird

Image Credit: Steve Byland, Shutterstock

Northern Mockingbird Range, Habitat, Behavior, Diet & Nestin

Range

Throughout North America, the mockingbird can be found across all 48 contiguous United States, most of Mexico, and the southern regions of Canada that border the states. They often stay in the same area all year, with only some mockingbirds that fly down south into  Mexico, but they do not breed there.

Habitat

The mockingbird lives in towns, suburbs, and parks, and they are not afraid of living near humans. However, they can live in rural areas as well.

Behavior

Mockingbirds are ground foragers, and they keep low and search for bugs such as caterpillars and fish scraps for their carnivorous meals. Otherwise, they search berry bushes, fruit-bearing trees, and seed-bearing plants to gather food.

northern mockingbird up close

Image Credit: Hippo_Lytos, Pixabay

Diet

The diet of a Northern mockingbird varies since they are omnivorous. As we mentioned, the birds are fond of insects but also eat fish or anything they need to stay alive. However, they like eating mulberries, blackberries, and other fruity vegetation.

Nesting

Mockingbirds live in various habitats but mostly congregate in urban areas. While living close to towns and households, the birds may nest on telephone poles, hedges, garden bushes, and wooden fixtures. 

How to Find Northern Mockingbirds: Birdwatching Tips

What to Listen For

The mockingbird can learn up to 200 unique songs from other birds. This makes it tricky to identify them, but if you hear a lot of intermingled calls from a single area, that could indicate that there is one nearby.

What to Look For

When searching for a Northern mockingbird, you’ll want to look around bushes or ground-level vegetation they may be feeding on. Keep an eye out for their yellow eyes and greyish coat.

northern mockingbird

Image Credit: MOHANN, Pixabay

When to Look

Mockingbirds are mostly sighted during most daylight hours, but it’s advised that you check during dusk and dawn as well.

Attracting Northern Mockingbirds to Your Backyard: Tips & Tricks

Most Northern mockingbirds aren’t keen on feeders, but here are a few backyard tips:

  • Grow bushes or shrubs in your yard
  • Offer berries such as hawthorns, mulberries, and blackberries
  • Keep your backyard relatively open and free from obstructions
northern mockingbird

Image Credit: Bishnu Sarangi, Pixabay

Northern Mockingbird Conservation: Is this Bird Threatened?

There was a time when mockingbirds were highly sought after and were caged—wiping out much of the eastern population. Due to their prevalence in American suburbia today, the Northern mockingbird is not on the close watch list for endangered animals. However, environmental changes could cause them to travel farther north if temperatures rise.

Conclusion

Northern mockingbirds are extraordinarily talented at copying the calls of neighboring species, and they were once a prized possession by collectors. Today, birdwatchers can witness them from afar and attempt to identify them through their unique songs. This field guide should bring you closer to them so you can tell whether you’ve got a real blue jay or an imposter!


Featured Image Credit: Stubblefield Photography, Shutterstock

About the Author Robert Sparks

Robert’s obsession with all things optical started early in life, when his optician father would bring home prototypes for Robert to play with. Nowadays, Robert is dedicated to helping others find the right optics for their needs. His hobbies include astronomy, astrophysics, and model building. Originally from Newark, NJ, he resides in Santa Fe, New Mexico, where the nighttime skies are filled with glittering stars.

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