AppearanceThe Northern Mockingbird is a medium-sized mimid that has long legs and tail. Male and female look alike. Its upper parts are colored gray, while its underparts have a white or whitish-gray color.
It has parallel wing bars on the half of the wings connected near the white patch giving it a distinctive appearance in flight. The black central rectrices and typical white lateral rectrices are also noticeable in flight. The iris is usually a light green-yellow or a yellow, but there have been instances of an orange color. The bill is black with a brownish black appearance at the base. The juvenile appearance is marked by its streaks on its back, distinguished spots and streaks on its chest, and a gray or grayish-green iris.
Northern Mockingbirds measure from 20.5 to 28 cm including a tail almost as long as its body. The wingspan can range from 31–38 cm and body mass is from 40–58 g . Males tend to be slightly larger than females. Among standard measurements, the wing chord is 10 to 12 cm , the tail is 10 to 13.4 cm , the culmen is 1.6 to 1.9 cm and the tarsus is 2.9 to 3.4 cm .
The Northern Mockingbird's lifespan is observed to be up to 8 years, but captive birds can live up to 20 years.
NamingThere are three recognized subspecies for the Northern Mockingbird. There has been proposed races from the Bahamas and Haiti placed under the ''orpheus'' section.
⤷ ''M. p. polyglottos'' : generally found in the eastern portion of North America ranging from Nova Scotia to Nebraska, to far south as Texas and Florida.
⤷ ''M. p. leucopterus'' 'Western Mockingbird' : generally found in the western portion of North America ranging from NW Nebraska and Western Texas to the Pacific Coast, and south to Mexico , and Socorro Island. Larger than ''M. p. polyglottos'' and has a slightly shorter tail, upperparts are more buff and paler, underparts have a stronger buff pigment.
⤷ ''M. p. orpheus'' : Ranges from the Bahamas to the Greater Antilles, also the Cayman and Virgin Islands. Similar to ''M. m. polyglottos'' except smaller, a paler shade of gray on its back, and underparts with practically little, if any buff at all.
DistributionThe Mockingbird usually resides in fields and forest edges. It is usually seen in farmlands, roadsides, city parks, suburban areas, and open grassy areas with thickets and brushy deserts. When foraging for food, it prefers short grass. It also has an affinity for mowed lawns. This bird does not nest in densely forested areas.
The Mockingbirds' breeding range is from Maritime provinces of Canada westwards to British Columbia, practically the entire Continental United States, and the majority of Mexico to eastern Oaxaca and Veracruz. The Mockingbird is generally a year-round resident of its range, but the birds that live in the northern portion of its range have been noted further south during the winter season. The bird can most frequently be found in the Southern United States. Sightings of the Mockingbird has also been recorded in Hawaii , southeastern Alaska, as well as three recorded British transatlantic vagrants, though one was certain to be an escaped bird.
HabitatThe Mockingbird usually resides in fields and forest edges. It is usually seen in farmlands, roadsides, city parks, suburban areas, and open grassy areas with thickets and brushy deserts. When foraging for food, it prefers short grass. It also has an affinity for mowed lawns. This bird does not nest in densely forested areas.
The Mockingbirds' breeding range is from Maritime provinces of Canada westwards to British Columbia, practically the entire Continental United States, and the majority of Mexico to eastern Oaxaca and Veracruz. The Mockingbird is generally a year-round resident of its range, but the birds that live in the northern portion of its range have been noted further south during the winter season. The bird can most frequently be found in the Southern United States. Sightings of the Mockingbird has also been recorded in Hawaii , southeastern Alaska, as well as three recorded British transatlantic vagrants, though one was certain to be an escaped bird.Northern Mockingbird is a species that is found in both urban and rural habitats. There are now more Northern Mockingbirds living in urban habitats than non-urban environments, so they are consequently known as an urban-positive species. Biologists have long questioned how Northern Mockingbirds adapt to a novel environment in cities, and whether they fall into the typical ecological traps that are common for urban-dwelling birds. A comparative study between an urban dwelling population and a rural dwelling one shows that the apparent survival is higher for individuals in the urban habitats. Lower food availability and travel costs may account for the higher mortality rate in rural habitats. Urban birds are more likely to return to the nest where they had successfully bred the previous year and avoid those where breeding success was low. One explanation for this phenomenon is that urban environments are more predictable than non-urban ones, as the site fidelity among urban birds prevents them from ecological traps.
ReproductionBoth the male and female of the species reach sexual maturity after 1 year of life. The breeding season occurs in the spring and early summer. The males arrive before the beginning of the season to establish their territories. The males use a series of courtship displays to attract the females to their sites. They run around the area either to showcase their territory to the females or to pursue the females. The males also engage in flight to showcase their wings. They sing and call as they perform all of these displays. The species is monogamous, so once the pair forms they typically mate with each other for life. The Northern Mockingbird pairs hatch about 2 to 4 broods a year. In one breeding season, the Northern Mockingbird lays an average of 4 eggs. They hatch after about 11 to 14 days of incubation. After about 10 to 15 days of life, the offspring become independent.
Both the male and female are involved in the nest building. The male does most of the work, while the female perches on the shrub or tree where the nest is being built to watch for predators. The nest is built approximately three to ten feet above the ground. The outer part of the nest is composed of twigs, while the inner part is lined with grasses, dead leaves, moss, or artificial fibers. The eggs are a light blue or greenish color and speckled with dots. The female lays three to five eggs, and she incubates them for nearly two weeks. Once the eggs are hatched, both the male and female will feed the chicks.
The birds aggressively defend their nests and surrounding areas against other birds and animals. When a predator is persistent, mockingbirds that are summoned by distinct calls from neighboring territories may join the attack. Other birds may gather to watch as the mockingbirds harass the intruder. In addition to harassing domestic cats and dogs they consider a threat, it is not unheard of for mockingbirds to target humans. The birds are absolutely unafraid and will attack much larger birds, even hawks. One famous incident in Tulsa, Oklahoma involving a postal carrier resulted in the distribution of a warning letter to residents.
FoodThe Northern Mockingbird is an omnivore. The birds' diet consists of arthropods, earthworms, berries, fruits, seeds, and seldom, lizards. Mockingbirds can drink from puddles, river and lake edges, or dew and rain droplets that amass onto plants. Adult Mockingbirds also have been seen drinking sap from the cuts on recently pruned trees. Its diet heavily consists of animal prey during the breeding season, but takes a drastic shift to fruits during the fall and winter. The drive for fruits amid winter has been noted for the geographic expansion of the Mockingbird, and in particular, the fruit of the ''Rosa multiflora'', a favorite of the birds, is a possible link.
These birds forage on the ground or in vegetation; they also fly down from a perch to capture food. While foraging, they frequently spread their wings in a peculiar two-step motion to display the white patches. There is disagreement among ornithologists over the purpose of this behavior, with hypotheses ranging from deceleration to intimidation of predators or prey.
CulturalIt also features in the title and central metaphor of the novel ''To Kill a Mockingbird'', by Harper Lee. In that novel, mockingbirds are portrayed as innocent and generous, and two of the major characters, Atticus Finch and Miss Maudie, say it is a sin to kill a mockingbird because "they don't do one thing for us but make music for us to enjoy. They don't eat up people's gardens, don't nest in corncribs, they don't do one thing but sing their hearts out for us".
The Northern Mockingbird also shows up in a classic American folk song, "Listen to the Mocking Bird".
Thomas Jefferson, the third President of the United States, had a pet mockingbird named "Dick."
Hip hop music artist Eminem recorded a song titled "Mockingbird", based on the traditional lullaby called "Hush, Little Baby" which includes the lyric "Momma's gonna buy you a mockingbird."
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