Mockingbirds: Cool Facts

When new birders are learning the bird songs, Northern Mockingbirds can be very annoying!  Each bird will sing 10-15 different songs and both the female and the male sing.  These rather plain gray birds sing endlessly, even at night.  To add more confusion for new birders, Northern Mockingbirds continue to add sounds and songs to their repertory throughout their lives.  It has been estimated a male mockingbird may learn about 200 songs and sounds during its life.

Because of this musical talent, they were nearly extirpated from parts of the east coast in the early 1900s.  People took fledglings and  trapped the adults to sell in cities like New York, Philadelphia and St. Louis.  In 1928 these talented singers could bring as much as $50.00.

The Northern Mockingbird is found in shrubby areas with open grassy spots.  Shrubs that form thickets and produce berries are their favorites.  You can find Northern Mockingbirds in parkland, cultivated land, suburban areas and in second growth habitat at low elevations.

Northern Mockingbirds eat mainly insects in summer but switch to eating mostly fruit in fall and winter.  What this means for you is that you must create a backyard bird habitat to attract them to your yard.

Start by planting shrubs and hedges that produce fruit and will become quite thick.  Try to pick native plants, although mockingbirds will eat ornamental berries.  The mockingbirds that clean off the pyracantha berries from our thickets are already establishing territories although the berries are still green.

We use our recycled oriole feeder to feed raisins to the mockingbirds and birds have taken mealworms from other cups in our recycled oriole feeder.  It is always a thrill to see the flash of white in their wings as they approach the feeder.

We also have a four tiered bird pond that recycles water throughout the system.  This is a magnet for the Northern Mockingbird.  They seem to enjoy the splash from one tier to the next.  The less dominate mockingbirds take turns at the bird bath, pretending they can’t see each other.

 The Northern Mockingbird population has rebounded from their low counts in the nineteen hundreds, and even though the mockingbirds in our yard have waken me on more than one morning, I for one know that I am going to have a good day when I hear that song.

Comments

  1. i like wat u said about mocking birds

    • Thank you, Cortney. Mockingbirds are also one of my favorite birds. It is so fun to watch them come in for fruit from our recycled oriole feeder.

      The mockingbird’s song is so variable it is always amazes me, however when they are singing in the middle of the night I sometimes wish they had a volume control!

      Nancy

  2. I thought that this website was really cool!

  3. John mouton says:

    We have a mocking bird trying 3 or 4 times a day trying to get into our house thru our glass doors this goes on every day since October 2011 he does not hit the glass very hard?

    • I would bet that the Mockingbird is seeing his reflection in the glass and is trying to defend his territory. This behavior will be confirmed by your close observation. Does the bird lead with his feet when he flying to the window? Does this happen about the same time each day? If so go outside and see if you can see your reflection in the glass. Please let me know if this could be what is happening.

  4. John mouton says:

    Yes I can see the trees reflection on the windows. The bird does lead with its feet before hitting the windows. The bird comes 2 to 3 times a day every day. I put out some raisins for it but it does not touch them.

    • The bird trying to defend its territory. It thinks it is seeing another bird. It will probably not hurt itself. If it bothers you, try lining the window with paper for a short while. It will stop the reflection and stop the bird from fighting with itself. Hope this helps.

  5. In summer, they have a unique way of attracting and “spooking” prey by opening their wings to stir up insects. They have also been known to memorize sounds like car alarms, door bells and barking dogs. Cool bird huh?

  6. Do mockingbirds have different repertoires depending on which part of the country they live? I’m in Florida right now and have many mockingbirds here and also live in Massachusetts where we also have many.

    • Because of their capability to mimic many sounds, the Mockingbirds in various regions can have slightly different repertoires. It seems that invariably most mockingbirds do have a number of sounds that are typically Mockingbird and you can tell with these sounds added that a Mockingbird is singing regardless of where you are in their range.

      We have had Mockingbirds mimic Yellow-breasted Chats in South Dakota and here in Arizona. They can be a very frustrating bird when you are learning songs.

    • Yes, they certainly do. Not only do they have different repertoires, but the can learn to mock sounds on their territories, making every bird have an individual song.

  7. You are very welcome. I hope you received a good grade!

  8. My husband is convinced that he has taught our Florida mocking birds to “wolf whistle”is that possible??

    • Val,

      Yes, I think your husband has taught your Mockingbird to wolf whistle. We had one in our yard here in Arizona that learned how to sound like a squeaky screen door we had. Even after we had the door fixed, the bird liked to mimic that VERY Annoying sound. The door only squeaked for a week, the bird for the rest of the summer.

      Nancy

  9. wes the christian's best friend says:

    Mockingbirds are really cool, and I’m doing a research paper in my english class an this website was a big help. I really hope I get a good grade on my paper, and this website is my #1 source. THANKYOU!

    P.S. I love you guys! :)

  10. I always liked mockingbirds and found them fascinating… until one kept us (and likely the whole neighborhood) up all night. I hope it was a “one night only” show. Mostly, I am worried of its safety. I hope no one does harm to quiet it!

    • At night, they are hard to find. I tried to find one to see if shining a flashlight in him would make him move to another tree. I failed. Luckily, he found a girlfriend and settled down after a few days.

  11. I’ve had a mockingbird singing (mocking) in my backyard almost every night since the middle of February. He will make one noise about five times, than another, and another, and another and so on, very loudly what seems like all night long. At first, it was novel, now it’s disturbing my sleep a lot. He sounds like he’s right outside my bedroom window. I was hoping to get a look at this bird.

    The other night I noticed he wasn’t mocking. The next morning I went out to look at my garden and, lo and behold, this bird began singing. I looked for him and he was on top of the telephone pole in my backyard. It was Mr. Mockingbird and he gave me quite a performance! Some of his sounds caused him to fly in a circle and set back down on the pole. After he thought he had entertained me enough, he flew down to the next telephone pole and repeated his performance. He’s quite a character.

    • I have to agree that Mockingbirds at night can be quite annoying and one in a friend’s yard picked up a squeak from a windmill. It was cute at first, but not after a few weeks. If you listen carefully, you will find many “non bird” sounds in their repertoire.

      It sounds like you may have little Mockingbirds in the area shortly. What you are describing may be part of the courting ritual!

      Please keep me posted!

  12. I am curious. Do the mockingbirds sing to ward off invaders of other species in their territory? The whimsical side of me wants to believe they do it to wake up the other species of birds in the morning.

    • Hi,

      I wanted to do some research before I answered this question, so I had to wait for an answer from Dr. Whitney before I answered this question.

      First, Mockingbirds do sing to establish a territory and to attract a mate. I also know that most birds that establish territories can recognize his neighbor’s song and tell the neighbor’s song from an intruder’s song. There are subtle differences within every bird species song. We usually do not hear the difference, therefore we can identify species by their song. When recorded, a sonograph will show the differences.

      Now comes the part that made me contact my friend. I asked why Mockingbirds mock such strange sounds. It seems that they really do not know why they have such a vast songs or why the sing at night.

      So, I think they make the mocking sounds to entertain us, you to wake up the other birds. I like our fun sides!!

      Nancy

  13. Tricia says:

    Thanks for your information. We sit on our swing every day enjoying their songs, but hadn’t thought to look them up on my iPad. Obviously, we did, and now, thanks to you, we find them more compelling yet. With them, the humming birds, and quail, well, we’re happy folks.

  14. jharper says:

    I really appreciate that you did that research. I understand their singing to attract a mate and to ward off intruders and mark territory. But I am super delighted that they maybe the other birds wake up calls as well as our own “alarm clocks”. Beats the heck out of “BEEP BEEP BEEP!” Maybe they are chanting GET UP, BE FRUITFUL AND MULTIPLY, for birds and for us it’s”You owe, you owe, so off to work you go”! What a wonderful and whimsical thought that I will carry with me from here on out! There are so many horrible things in the world with the way we treat each other.

  15. jharper says:

    I submitted that last comment without finishing it. Anyway, there are so many horrible things in the world with the way we treat each other, that it’s interesting how wonderful the Mocking Birds find the world and still have time on their hand to entertain us.

  16. kaytallison78 says:

    thank you sooooo much without these facts on mocking brids i would never had be able to finish my social studies project on them. but with your facts i got an A all because of you! :-)

  17. I had a mocking bird visit every year from mid March through the summer. I lived in Boulder City NV and for 8 years he would come and nest in my backyard, what a joy. The 9th year he never showed up, I awaited his arrival to sing in the spring but he never came back. I know live in Washoe Valley NV and this weekend I was camping and was glad to hear the sounds of a mocking bird bright and early in the morning. So many birds here he really had so much to say, included car alarm cricket and frogs. Wow love this bird.

    • Lori,

      I understand your love for this talented bird. We have just planted 2 more berry bushes in our yard with the Mockingbirds in mind. They come into our recycled oriole feeder in the winter because we put raisins in one of the bowls. The flash of white in the wings always brings a smile.

      Nancy

  18. how long after birth does it take for a mockingbird to fly?

  19. Hi Nancy,

    After the eggs are laid they will be incubated for 12-13 days. After they hatch they remain in the nest for another 12-13 days. They then will leave the nest and be called fledglings. They will not have all of their feathers and will only be able to make short flights. The parents will still be caring for the babies at this time.

    Hope this helps!

    Nancy

  20. Susie Topping says:

    Hi – if you hand feed them for a couple of weeks and then release them when they are old enough to fly,to they instictely know how to take care of themselves and to instinctively be afraid of natural predators such as cats?

  21. margejames says:

    Found an orphan mockingbird in March and raised him on worms for 2 months then released him. He came back everyday with other ones attacking him constantly. Finally on June 9th he left the patio and sat on the door where instantly he got nailed and flew into the drainspout and flew away with the predator behind him. He has not been back since and we are heartbroken he died. Wish the future for Peanut had been more promising.

    • I know how you feel. We had a lizard lay eggs in our flower garden under a rock. We stopped weeding in that area and fenced the area off so that we didn’t accidentally move or step in the rock. We were thrilled when we started noticing hatchling lizards on our steps and walls. We had a Roadrunner find the lizards and made our yard his daily diner. There was no way to keep him away though we tried. The Roadrunner was not my favorite bird and thought about cheering for the coyote!

  22. We have birds in our tree that mimics the ringtones on our cell phones. Often while standing outside we will hear the cell phone ring and check our phones. No calls. Took us a while to figure out it was the birds. I am guessing they are mocking birds.

    • Jody,

      Yes, it sounds like a Mockingbird. The can learn the strangest sounds. We had a report of one that learned to make the sound of heavy machinery backing up. It had the flag person on site confused for a while. They also had to keep in mind that it may not be the bird and not let their guard down. It may truly be machinery backing up.

      Thanks for the story. I love hearing about these birds.

      Nancy

  23. We just moved in the country and are loving all the birds. I was walking by our driveway and heard a kitten meewing in the woods. As I stared to check it out….a bird broke out in the most beautiful song, stoping here and there making a kitten sound! How amazing! I love this bird! Now every time I walk by the area I chant a call my mother use to make when I was a child to get us to come home. I hope to hear her call back.

  24. I so love my mockingbirds. Where do I start… I do not have hedges or any trees except my pecan, and it blooms late so I didn’t have mockingbirds. I found some dried mealworms at the local home improvement store and gave it a shot. I sprinkled some on the ground and 2 years later I am thrilled to say that I have had the same 1 or 2 come back for several meals a day! As I type this, the couple has 2 little fledglings that flit around a bit with mom and dad feeding them the mealworms. But they are very careful to keep them safe. They are so funny to watch…lowering their selves to the ground..”puffing” up and protecting their territory! If I am late with their food then they sit on the porch railing and “squawk” (for lack of a better word)until I come out. They fly to the tree and sit and watch me..turning their heads as I talk to them. After studying a bit I have learned that they probably recognize me. They bring such joy to my life…

  25. I am being attacked when I go to get my mail. These birds have a nest in the vines around my mailbox. At first I didn’t know what was going on and then I saw the three baby birds. How long before the babies leave the nest? What should I do after the babies leave the nest? What can I do in the meantime? I started being attacked last Friday and it is now June 29, 2012.

    • Without knowing what type of bird it is, it’s hard to answer you question. If I might make a suggestion, try taking an umbrella with you to the mailbox. You may not have to open it. Often bird will attack the highest spot and if the umbrella is held above your head the should attack it.

  26. I found their reproduction cycle most interesting. They reproduce as follows:

    “Northern Mockingbird uses several nests during the breeding season, laying 2 or 3 eggs in each nest. Each pair produces 2 or 3 broods per season, and the male cares for the fledglings while female incubates next clutch.
    Nest is built low to the ground, in shrubs and trees, between 1 and 3 meters high, mostly by the male. It uses dead twigs and the interior is lined with grasses, dead leaves and paper, foil, plastics and even shredded cigarettes filters. Nest is an open cup.
    Female lays 2 to 3 smooth eggs. They are greenish-blue heavily marked with brown spots. Incubation lasts 12 to 13 days by female, while male forages for food and defends the territory. Both parents feed the chicks. When they are 12 days old, young venture from the nest, and hop around on the ground or in low shrubs. They are fed by parents up to five times per hour. Parents will continue to care them for several days until they learn to forage for themselves.”

  27. Squirrel Kid says:

    I liked the part when you talked about the mockingbirds…

  28. I REALLY LIKE YOUR WEBSITE,AND IT IS COOL!!!!!!!!!

  29. I have had a mockingbird friend since last January.. he/she will come with I ring a ‘triangle’(chuck wagon) bell and will eat raisins from my hand – just beautiful with the golden eye! He/she had a family nearby this summer because I could put out 2-3 dozen raisin halves and a pile of dried meal worms and the pair would carry every bit of it away in about 15 minutes.

    • Mockingbirds are one of the most social birds when interacting with humans. They are easy to train to come to food as you have found. It is fun and a great way to enjoy these birds.

  30. Three months ago my very good friend, Pat died at home, I was the one to find her in her bed that horrible morning. I often sit on the front porch and noticed that within a couple days after her death, the same Mockingbird would fly to the railing of the porch and perch and watch me. She makes me feel as though Pat is here letting me know things will be ok and she is flying high. She is only a few feet from me on the railing. She doesn’t sing often but, she will sit and let me talk to her. She comes several times a day and will sing upon her arrival to let me know she’s there. She brightens my days!

  31. Everyone seems to love Mocking birds, however, I feel they are quite testy and nasty. My husband and I have set up a Blue Bird house, Finch, Cardinals, etc. This one mocking bird runs off all other birds. She/He flies from one tree to the other, chasing off any bird that comes around. Why are they so mean and can I do anything to stop some of this behavior. I love the other birds and want to continue to feed them and have them around. Thanks Dean

    • Male Mockingbirds are generally very territorial during the breeding season, but, less so during the fall and winter. They usually defend their nesting area with its affiliated food and water sources from other species which share these food and water sources. It appears that you have an unusual case.

      After talking to other ornithologists it seems that this bird may still be defending its food source. This has been noted in berry feeding birds in particular. Could you move your bird feeders away from any berry bushes? Sometimes even though finches are not known as berry eaters if they are using the berry bushes for perching before flying into your feeder they may be seen as competition for the food. It may be necessary for you to move you feeders out of site of the berry bushes for a short while.

  32. Thank you:)

  33. AMockingbird has made a nest in one of my tomatoe plants and laid 4 eggs. We will be closing the Community Garden soon and want to know how long before the eggs will hatch and the little birds will be able to fly away. I want to try to talk them into delaying the closing of the garden, but need to know how long it will take. The eggs were layed on 03/17, 03/18,03/19/2013,

  34. I luv 1D & JB says:

    Did you know that a male mockingbird can memorize up to 200 songs?

    • I did not know how many they could learn. Thanks for the information. I wonder how the scientists ever figured that out? My daughter had a ringtone on her phone that a Mockingbird learned to mimic. That drove her crazy for awhile. The bird would sing the tone when she was out in the yard. She just about changed phone plans because of all the dropped calls.

      Thanks,
      Nancy

  35. Kim Romine says:

    PLEASE HELP!!! I am a bird lover. I love the song of the Mockingbird but one has apparently made a nest in the Red-Top Bush outside our bedroom window. The darn thing sings his huge repertoire relentlessly all night, every night!!!! What can I do? This only started a week or two ago, how long will it last??

  36. Susan Craik says:

    I too am fascinated by Mocking Birds…years ago as I traveled around on business I would spy different ones in different places that I would visit and take time to observe how developed their mimickry was. In my sisters neighborhood in Thousand Oaks, California there was one in particular who had a huge repretoire of calls very precise,frog sounds,cats, lawn mowers and car alarms. After several years of looking forward to hearing it’s long and complex calls I notices one day upon arriving that I could hear it but could not see it in the usual tree above their house…kept hearing it …but no bird in sight…finally realized it’s song was coming from over the wall in the back yard…got out a ladder, crawled up to look over and investigate further ….it’s repretoire was being memicked by an African Grey Parrot who was in a cage on the nieghbors back porch. Pitch perfect he was and apparently had been listening as I had all those years….think perhaps that the original Mocking Bird had passed away….but his song had remained.

    • Susan,

      I have to tell you a story about my daughter. She would place her cell phone on the picnic table when she was working in the yard. A Mockingbird started mimicking the ring on her phone. She just about changed cell phone plans because she thought so many phone calls were being dropped. She also has an African Grey Parrot named George. George was raised by Sena’s Aunt Donna from the time he hatched from an egg. This parrot has a huge vocabulary. He even helps with the children by asking “Is that where your coat belongs?” when they come home from school. During the summer when the Mockingbird was in the area it quickly becomes a game to see who was mocking who. George and the Mockingbird would talk to each other through the screened window. When a new sound came into the repertoire the bird that didn’t know the sound would be quite until the sound was learned. It also becomes very noisy when both birds are showing off!

      Thanks for sharing your story. When I am talking about birds, I am a happy person.

  37. Miguel Lopez says:

    Hi, like your website, I love all birds but am a big fan of mockingbirds, it’s my favorite, since I was a child and my father took me to the countryside on vacation and tought me about mockinbirds. Now I live in suburban house in Cape Coral, Fl, for several years a couple of mockingbirds have been trying to nest in small bushes in front of my house, something is coming at night, destroying the nest and eats the eggs, weeks ago the first nest was destroyed, now the birds build another one in a bush closer, at the side of the garage door, they don’t give up, I want them to succeed this time and help them, what can I do to protect the nest? I was thinking on putting a fence around the bush but don’t know if that will scare them and abandon their nest. Thank you for any advice and help you can give me.

    • Hi Miguel,

      How high is the nest off the ground? Do you know what is raiding the nest? If you decide to fence make sure that the fence cannot be used as a ladder by the predator. Parent birds have a very strong sense of parenthood. They will not abandon nests easily. If you do fence be sure the baby birds can fledge safely. Learn about fledgling birds with this article. I’m sorry I can’t be more help, but I need more information.

      The good news is that Mockingbirds will nest several times each year and although losing a nest in your yard is upsetting Mother Nature will teach birds to choose better nesting spots and give them another chance to raise young.

      Nancy

      • Miguel Lopez says:

        Thank you, Nancy, the nest is just a couple of feet off the ground, they built the first destroyed nests in a bush close to the corner of the house that is a little dark, I have cameras outside, even though I can see in the video recording the exact moment this was happening because mokingbirds were flying back and forth alarmed, in distress, I can’t see what was atacking the nest. Now they built a nest in a bush close to the garage door, this has lasted longer, I guess the predator whatever it is, is afraid to come closer to a door that is frecuently open, and there is a lamp at the other side of the door, so there is more light. I hope this time they can make it, looking forward to see the baby birds and see them grow. I put some snake repelent around the bush in case it’s a snake, but I’ve heard these repelents are not highly effective. I will read now what you have about fledgling birds.Thank you.

        • Keep me posted!

        • How is your nest doing?

          Nancy

          • Miguel Lopez says:

            Hi, Nancy, the nest is doing great, three beautiful baby birds, but right now I am worried because there is a stormy weather around here, lots of rain, some serious wind, lightning, I know birds can handle that but I am not sure if baby birds can survive this kind of weather, or if the mother will stay in the nest protecting them. What do you think about this?

          • Miguel Lopez says:

            Hi, Nancy, it’s me again, sadly, I went outside to check this morning, the nest was empty, I looked all over the place in case they fell from the nest but didn’t find not even one, maybe the storm or the predator atacked again, but I lost hope of watching birds growing up around my house. I hope the mockingbirds can find a better place where to build a nest the next time.

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