The Northern Mockingbird What they Eat and Nest Habits

In spring, the Northern Mockingbird may sing all night long. This bird will often fool even a well-seasoned birdwatcher.

Singing the songs of other bird species, the bird watcher has to listen closely to distinguish who is doing the singing.

One unique habit of these birds is defending of two separate territories. One is the breeding territory, which is typical for most birds.

The other is their fall and winter feeding territory. Both are about 1 to 2 acres in size, although the feeding territory is generally smaller.

northern mockingbird

Northern Mockingbird

Related to the catbird and thrasher, the name means "mimic of many tongues".

This bird is able to imitate more than 30 bird songs in succession.

Other sounds such as squeaky hinges, barking dogs, and chirping crickets are also imitated.

Northern Mockingbird Call

Description What Do Mockingbirds Look Like

Mockingbirds measure about 9 to 11 inches in length. Slender with a long tail. Gray above and whitish below. Males and females look alike but sometimes males will be larger.

A slender bird with a longer bill that is slightly curved.

The outer feathers of the tail are white. Two wing bars on top of each wing and a large white patch under each wing are visible in flight.

Mating, Courtship Habits

Males generally establish a nesting territory as early as February onward.

Unmated females remain longer on their wintering territory, while some pairs may stay together during winter, sharing territory.

The primary breeding season is between April and July, although it can extend a month on either side.

As soon as a female enters an unmated male's territory, the male challenges her with harsh "chacks".

The two birds square off and watch each other. The male pursues the female, and if she leaves, he may try to entice her back with spread wings and soft calls.

The female will eventually select a mate or reunite with a male from the previous season.

Once a pair bond is established, the songs are shortened and more subdued.

Sitting together quietly, both mockingbirds make a "hew-hew" call to keep in contact.

These birds are strongly monogamous. If a male fails to find a mate, he will sing loudly until late in the season. If no mate is found, he will abandon his territory.

Nesting Habits

Mockingbird Singing Multiple Calls

The nest construction of the Northern Mockingbird is done by both the male and female. Although the male does most of the work, which is less common in other birds.

The nest is built within 2 or 3 days. Five or six nests may be built during the annual breeding period. Most will not have eggs.

The nest is a bulky structure of twigs upon which a compact mass of leaves, grasses, moss, hair, or artificial fibers is placed.

adult mockingbird with young in nest

Nestling Mockingbirds

The interior cup is lined with fine, soft rootlets, wool, or bits of string. Located about 3 to 10 feet above the ground.

The female lays 3 to 5 pale blue or green eggs that are blotched with a russet or cinnamon color.

She will begin constant incubation when the second to last egg is laid. Incubation (gestation period is not the term for birds) will last about 11 to 13 days.

Both parents provide food to the hatchlings for about 12 days. The entire procedure of incubation and fledging approximates 23 to 25 days.

Nests are rarely reused. New nests are sometimes built on an old nest. The second nest is begun shortly after the first brood fledges.

Mockingbirds will abandon eggs during incubation if the nest is disturbed, but rarely will they abandon their young.

Mockingbirds aggressively defend the nest site against any predator including cats, dogs, and humans.

Not uncommon to nest multiple times during the season. Typically, the season for nesting ends in August

mockingbird range map

Range Map

Feeding Habits - What They Eat

Mockingbirds feed on fruits and berries of holly, smilax, woodbine, sumac, and other plants.

Some garden and horticultural crops, such as grapes, blackberries, and figs, are also favorites of this bird.

In addition to fruits, this bird also eats harmful weevils, cucumber beetles, chinch bugs, and grasshoppers.

So while many think this bird is detrimental to fruit crops, the truth is, it is an important bird in an agricultural sense.

Northern Mockingbirds will defend their feeding-winter territories against other birds such as Robins, Starlings, and woodpeckers, who also compete for fruits.

See Also: Birds Singing At Night


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