Top Photo: Northern mockingbird surveys its domain atop small tree in Butterfly House Garden.
The common name northern mockingbird comes from the fact these birds are the northernmost occurring species of mockingbird. Other mockingbird species are resident from Central to South America.
The genus name Mimus means mimic. The specific Latin name, polyglottos, means “many-tongued or languaged.” Mimus polyglottos, this bird’s Latin name, means “many tongued mimic.”
Mockingbirds prefer open areas with shrubs, hedges and small fruiting trees and shrubs. They’re territorial and won’t hesitate to chase off intruders. This is especially evident in winter when they protect a staked-out winter food supply like fruit laden-shrubs and trees. In summer, they may eat many more insects and other invertebrates than fruit.
Northern mockingbirds are the third most popular state bird. Northern Cardinal represents 7 states, western meadowlark 6, and northern mockingbird is claimed by 5 states, Arkansas, Florida, Mississippi, Tennessee, and Texas.
At one time, this melodious songster was threatened by it’s own ability to sing. They were once captured as cage birds during the 1800s, though they don’t do well as captives. I assume they were captured to be put into outdoor cages. They’re very loud singers and often sing well into the night. That is, of course, if their confinement doesn’t take the song out of them.
“Mama’s gonna buy you a mockingbird
And if that mockingbird don’t sing…”
Knowing these birds’ habits, even aviary kept mockingbirds are difficult to imagine.
Northern mockingbirds are nearly all gray and black with a flash of white on the wing in flight. In the wild, they make up for their apparent plainness with song, to the delight of most, and dismay of others. As mentioned above, they tend to go on for hours and in certain seasons may sing most of the night.
If you listen carefully to their song you may be able to pick out other birds’ songs or calls in the mocker’s repertoire, along with some unnatural sounds too, like bells, whistles, and horns, among others.