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Learn About Northern Mockingbirds: Their Excellent Mimicry of Sounds

I live in Houston, and I have worked as a nurse. My interests include art, traveling, reading, gardening, cooking, and our wonderful pets.

Northern Mockingbird

Northern Mockingbird

Listen to the Mockingbird

On the last couple of walks that my hubby and I have taken, and when working in our yard and garden, I have been particularly noticing that the northern mockingbirds have been very active in mimicking other bird songs. It is fun to hear!

They will repeat one sound anywhere from two to eight times or so and then shift to another bird sound and do the same thing. Often within a minute or less, they will have made the noise of six or eight different birds! They also make other noises like mimicking squeaky gates or even sirens and alarms. What you might perceive as a croaking toad could be the sound from this bird!

I well remember my great uncle Ed relaxing while sitting in a lawn chair in McAllen, Texas. He would purposely make whistling sounds that a mockingbird would repeat. It amused him so much that I can still imagine seeing the twinkle in his eye.

Range of Habitat

I do not remember hearing the mockingbird songs in central Wisconsin when we used to live there. Looking at the range map below, it is no wonder that I never got to hear them while in Wisconsin. Only the very bottom tip of the state could have had some of them visiting in the summer months. Some written reports, however, do have mockingbirds visiting as far north as Canada in the summertime.

The northern mockingbirds live in our part of Texas year-round and can be a delight for the senses. They have adapted well to living in urban environments.

Approximate range/distribution map of the Northern Mockingbird (Mimus polyglottos). In keeping with WikiProject: Birds guidelines, yellow indicates the summer-only range, blue indicates the winter-only range, and green indicates the year-round range

Approximate range/distribution map of the Northern Mockingbird (Mimus polyglottos). In keeping with WikiProject: Birds guidelines, yellow indicates the summer-only range, blue indicates the winter-only range, and green indicates the year-round range

Northern Mockingbird Facts

  1. These are intelligent birds that can mimic many different sounds. While both birds (male and female) sing, it is the male of the species which does most of it, whether during courtship or just for the sheer joy of making songs that can last all day and into the night.
  2. As you can see from the photos, their color is mostly gray on top with a whitish underside. Their long black tail has white outer feathers, and they also have white wing bars. If you look closely at their eyes, you will notice they are a yellowish-orange color with a black band extending back from their black beak towards the eye.
  3. These birds are mostly monogamous and mate for life, which can be around eight years in the wild. Some people have kept them as pets. In those cases, their life can extend many more years up to 20 or so.
  4. One famous person who had a pet mockingbird was past the United States President Thomas Jefferson. The name he gave his bird was "Dick."
  5. A clutch of eggs ranges from 2 to 6, and the eggs are greenish with splotches of a reddish-tinged brown.
  6. Nesting sites are usually shrubs or trees, but these mockingbirds will also lay eggs in other birds' nests and let those birds feed their young. If the nests are their own, both parents take up the responsibility of feeding their young.
  7. Northern mockingbirds have an omnivorous diet. They dine on insects, from butterflies to ants. etc., but also enjoy eating worms, fruits, and berries.
  8. The official name of the northern mockingbird is Mimus polyglottos. A polyglot is a person who can speak many languages. Thus, it seems appropriate to name this bird that can mimic hundreds of sounds a polyglottos.
  9. Of the sixteen mockingbird species, the only one native to the United States is the northern mockingbird.
  10. These birds are very territorial. There are instances of people and pets being dive-bombed by these avian creatures. Perhaps unknowingly, a person may have gotten too close to a nest, which can be anywhere from three to ten feet off the ground.

“There is probably no bird in the world that possesses all the musical qualifications of this king of song, who has derived all from Nature's self."

— John James Audubon (from the book, Birds of America)

For those of you who did some guessing on the poll above as to the Northern Mockingbird being the State Bird of which state...here is the answer.

It is the State Bird of every state mentioned above. Whoever the people are who choose such designations, they all became enamored with this bird who so eloquently and very convincingly mimics countless other sounds.

The older a bird gets the more songs are added to its repertoire. The mockingbird has a great memory and likes to show off!

A fascinating look at a pair of mockingbirds incubating their eggs and raising their young to fledgling stage captured on film.

“Mockingbirds don’t do one thing 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. That’s why it’s a sin to kill a mockingbird.”

— Harper Lee, To Kill a Mockingbird

Mockingbird Song

Carly Simon and James Taylor performed the song Mockingbird in a concert in New York City in 1979. You can see images and hear them in the video below. Are any of you old enough to remember this song or these singers and performers?

Sources:

This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.

© 2016 Peggy Woods

Comments

Peggy Woods (author) from Houston, Texas on November 09, 2020:

Hi Aurelio,

Mockingbirds should be in your area of the country. They do mimic other bird sounds, so perhaps you have heard them, but did not realize it at the time.

Aurelio Locsin from Orange County, CA on November 09, 2020:

I've never seen or heard this bird in Southern California either, so thanks for introducing me to it. On the other hand, if it copies other sounds so well, maybe I have heard them and just not realized it.

Peggy Woods (author) from Houston, Texas on January 31, 2020:

Hi C E Clark,

We still have loads of mockingbirds and other songbirds in our area of Texas. Sorry that you are not seeing them in your area.

C E Clark from North Texas on January 31, 2020:

It's been a long time since I've seen a mockingbird around this city. Mostly grackles these days. I did hear a bluejay for the first time in a long time yesterday. Otherwise, no songbirds in months if not years. Where have they all gone? I'm really afraid something is killing them off, because there used to be lots of them everywhere.

Posting this article on FB & AH. Hope all is well with you . . .

Peggy Woods (author) from Houston, Texas on December 08, 2018:

Hi Zia,

Nice to know that you enjoyed this article. You seem to know your birds from what you wrote.

Zia Uddin from UK on December 08, 2018:

Another great and wonderfully presented hub. Northern mockingbirds and European starlings are chums.

Peggy Woods (author) from Houston, Texas on October 01, 2018:

Hi Rajan,

Mockingbirds certainly do seem to enjoy mimicking many different sounds. It is an interesting takeaway you got from watching that last video. Thanks for reading and commenting.

Rajan Singh Jolly from From Mumbai, presently in Jalandhar, INDIA. on September 30, 2018:

Very informative article about the mockingbird, the mimicry bird, as I would like to call it. Both the videos were excellent but I think the second video gives a great lesson for us humans on how to bring up our children and when to let go. Amazing!

Peggy Woods (author) from Houston, Texas on September 25, 2018:

Hi C E Clark,

I agree that nature is amazing and mockingbirds are just a small part of it. Thanks for your comment and the shares.

C E Clark from North Texas on September 25, 2018:

I was just reading about lyrebirds the other day. They also mimic the sounds around them, including the sounds of cameras, motorcycles, chainsaws, and more. They're much larger than mockingbirds. Isn't nature grand? So many different species with so many differences and yet some have commonalities as well.

I like the mockingbirds that are the state bird here in Texas. Their personalities seem so practical and no nonsense. The lyrebird is cool too -- I forgot where they live.

Posting this article to FB and to my own board labeled "Birds."

Autumn seems to be here at last! Hope it will last several weeks instead of turning to winter too soon, as is often the case. Hope all is well with you and that you too are getting a reprieve from the awful heat and humidity.

Peggy Woods (author) from Houston, Texas on September 15, 2018:

Hi Ethel,

I am glad you liked learning about mockingbirds. They can be very entertaining.

Ethel Smith from Kingston-Upon-Hull on September 14, 2018:

Enjoyable and informative hub. Enjoyed the polls and videos too thanks Peggy

Peggy Woods (author) from Houston, Texas on July 02, 2018:

Hi Patricia,

I am happy to hear that you have a few mockingbirds in your yard this summer. They are fun birds to listen to when they are mimicking all kinds of sounds. Wishing you and your family many blessings.

Patricia Scott from North Central Florida on July 02, 2018:

Enjoyed this so much...I have a few who are hanging out in my yard this summer....simply fascinated by them. So much you shared I did not know so you have helped to fill some of my gray matter in my headbone....

Angels and blessings on the way ps

Peggy Woods (author) from Houston, Texas on December 21, 2017:

Hi Jackie,

We do not have a bird feeder because there is plenty of natural things for birds in this area to feed upon year round. We do however have a birdbath. Now that you mentioned not seeing mockingbirds at your bird feeder, I don't think that I have spotted any at our birdbath either. We regularly see bluejays, doves, cardinals, robins when they are here, sparrows and even squirrels which occasionally take a drink. I even spotted a woodpecker one day sitting on the side of the birdbath leaning in to take a drink.

Jackie Lynnley from the beautiful south on December 20, 2017:

Am still enjoying my mockingbirds. The must really be multiplying more than others for they are more in abundance. Strange, they do not come to my feeder though a variety of others do, but they seem to prefer the ground for feeding, whatever is there!

Peggy Woods (author) from Houston, Texas on December 12, 2017:

Hi Patricia,

Sorry to know you cannot hear the mockingbirds where you now live. They are most entertaining! I just checked the video and it appears to still be working. Sending good thoughts your way!

Patricia Scott from North Central Florida on December 12, 2017:

O that little Northern Mockingbird had a lot to share did he not? I love that. I so adore listening to birds when I am out working in my yard or when I walk. I have not heard a mockingbird in many years. Well done...I could not get the bird documentary video to play but will try again later. Many blessings and Angels are on the way ps

Peggy Woods (author) from Houston, Texas on November 23, 2017:

Hi Shyron,

Many states including ours have the mockingbird as their state bird. It is much appreciated for its beauty and the sounds that it makes. I know that I always like hearing it.

Happy Thanksgiving to you!

Shyron E Shenko from Texas on November 20, 2017:

I am back to look at these beautiful birds again, this is such a wonderful hub about our state bird.

Blessings my friend.

Peggy Woods (author) from Houston, Texas on November 20, 2017:

Hi Rochelle,

Nice that you got to enjoy the antics of mockingbirds when you lived in Southern California. They would be hard to forget!

Rochelle Frank from California Gold Country on November 19, 2017:

Yes, I do miss Mockingbirds. I grew up in Southern California in a spot where they were plentiful. Thogh they were a bit aggressive toward other birds (protecting their own, I think) they were always interesting. Beautiful bird-- we don't have them where I live now.

Peggy Woods (author) from Houston, Texas on November 19, 2017:

Hi Roberta,

I do think that they also delight in the sounds that they make. Shenanigans is a good word for it. So glad you enjoyed reading about these creatures called mockingbirds.

RTalloni on November 18, 2017:

Though the mockingbird is convincing in its simulations there's no doubt that they take real joy in their shenanigans. Doing what they were designed to do, they also delight their hearers, as proved by your uncle's twinkle. A neat look at a delightful creature!

Peggy Woods (author) from Houston, Texas on July 26, 2017:

Hi Dolores,

It is quite amazing the sounds that can be replicated by mocking birds. I'm not surprised that a cell phone could be mimicked by one.

Dolores Monet from East Coast, United States on July 26, 2017:

I love mocking birds and how their song is so complicated. Years ago when cell phones were sort of new, I used to walk around an area of my neighborhood and noticed how every time I was there, I'd hear a cell phone. That was when they all pretty much sounded the same. It took quite a while before I realized that the sound was not a phone but a mockingbird!

Peggy Woods (author) from Houston, Texas on March 20, 2016:

Hi Ann,

I'll bet that guy with a chough or chuff on his shoulder walking about in town certainly got some looks. Would have been fun to see! Thanks for explaining that the bird is related to the crow.

Peggy Woods (author) from Houston, Texas on March 20, 2016:

Hello chef-de-jour,

I do think that mockingbirds must be intelligent to pick up all those different sounds, remember them and then reproduce them at will. Sounds like you have some fun listening to the birds where you live. My hubby and I visited a nature preserve in our area today and heard lots of birds. We spotted cardinals, doves and the other ones we saw I am not sure what they were. We heard lots of bird calls and songs however! Thanks for the share.

Ann Carr from SW England on March 20, 2016:

The chough (chuff) is related to the crow. I knew a lad who had one as a pet back in the late 50s; it perched on his shoulder as he walked around the village!

Andrew Spacey from Near Huddersfield, West Yorkshire,UK on March 20, 2016:

Thank you for this insightful hub, enjoyed it. Such a bright eyed bird is the mockingbird. I can see from the photos that this avian has a specialist role - to listen and absorb the songs and sounds of its immediate environment. What a gift! It must have a complex brain to assimilate so many different sounds and express them in its own unique way. Fascinating. Here in the UK we have starlings and they're capable of a limited mimicry - pipes and whistles and flutey sounds they pick up from the blackbird and thrushes and other songbirds. Occasionally I hear a local blackbird song that is what you might call normal - a la Beatles song about the same bird - beautiful flowing relaxed melodic - but then I'll hear a mobile phone tone or electronic alarm type sound the bird has somehow picked up! Comical, musical.

Sharing this bird!

Peggy Woods (author) from Houston, Texas on March 20, 2016:

Hello Jodah,

You certainly have your share of noisemakers by way of interesting birds in Australia. I am going to look up that lyrebird right now. I had previously looked up the kookaburra and listened to its laughing-like sound. Glad you liked this hub about northern mockingbirds.

John Hansen from Queensland Australia on March 20, 2016:

I don't think we have mockingbirds here in Australia, at least where I live, but we do have cat birds, whip birds, bell birds, kookaburras. Avian novice is right about the lyrebird they can mimic almost any sound including a chainsaw. Very interesting hub however about a very popular bird especially being the state bird of so many US states. Great videos too.

Peggy Woods (author) from Houston, Texas on March 20, 2016:

Hi Ann,

So glad you liked this. I am familiar with starlings but never heard of a Chough bird. Will have to look that one up. Thanks for the share.

Peggy Woods (author) from Houston, Texas on March 20, 2016:

Hello aviannovice,

You certainly know your birds! I will have to look up the bird you mentioned in response to peachpurple. It must really make a racket when it sings! :)

Ann Carr from SW England on March 20, 2016:

What a wonderful bird. Of course, I knew of its existence but never knew it had such a wide repertoire. They are so entertaining.

The birds which mimic the most in Britain are the Starling (widespread) and the Chough (in the crow family but not nearly so common). Starlings mimic phones, cars and just about any sounds around them. They are amusing to hear and to watch.

I'm a keen bird-watcher and I love this hub. Sharing.

Ann

Deb Hirt from Stillwater, OK on March 20, 2016:

Glad to see that you are writing about some of your local birds. The mocker is a fascinating character, as well as a bit of a troublemaker at times. Brown Thrasher also does the same thing, and they bear watching, too. Tell peach purple that the Superb Lyrebird is the king of sounds, even more so than the Kookaburra.

Peggy Woods (author) from Houston, Texas on March 18, 2016:

Hi peachpurple,

I am not sure mockingbirds live where kookaburra birds do but I am sure they would try to replicate that laughing sound if they did live near one another. They are great mimics.

Peggy Woods (author) from Houston, Texas on March 18, 2016:

Hi Randy,

They must nest around our home or our neighbor's yards also because we always have them performing their songs on a frequent basis. They can get to be a bit vociferous!

Peggy Woods (author) from Houston, Texas on March 17, 2016:

Hi Alicia,

We never saw mockingbirds when we lived in Wisconsin either but surely do enjoy them now. So glad to hear that you enjoyed this and are sharing it with others.

peachy from Home Sweet Home on March 17, 2016:

mocking birds are very cute, do they mock like a kukubarra ?

Randy Godwin from Southern Georgia on March 16, 2016:

Our mockingbirds--we always have a pair nesting in our backyard--also have been rather vociferous lately. Enjoyed the hub and they are rather special birds. :)

Linda Crampton from British Columbia, Canada on March 16, 2016:

I love reading nature hubs like this. The mockingbird is a bird that I would very much like to see in real life. Thanks for sharing the photos, videos and information, Peggy. I'll share this interesting article.

Peggy Woods (author) from Houston, Texas on March 16, 2016:

Hi Shyron,

What thrilled your husband is what kept my Uncle Ed so gratified as well. He had so much fun with the mockingbirds replicating his whistling sounds. :)

Peggy Woods (author) from Houston, Texas on March 16, 2016:

Hi Blonde Logic,

Nice that you have other types of mockingbirds living where you do. It is amazing the sounds that mockingbirds can replicate.

Peggy Woods (author) from Houston, Texas on March 16, 2016:

Greetings B. Leekley,

Catbirds are probably fun to watch and listen to their bird sounds. The mockingbirds surely are fun and we have many of them where we now live.

Shyron E Shenko from Texas on March 15, 2016:

Peggy, this is one of my favorite and is my hubby's very favorite birds. when we first moved to Texas one would sit on the roof and mimic my hubby's whistling, which was thrilling.

This is a beautiful hub.

Blessings my friend.

Mary Wickison from Brazil on March 15, 2016:

Interesting hub.

We don't get the northern mockingbird where I live but we have a family of tropical mocking birds which always seem to be hanging around our place. They do have a variety of sounds. I once thought it was the monkeys outside and when I went out to see them, it was just the mockingbirds. They also make some hissing sounds as well .

Peggy Woods (author) from Houston, Texas on March 15, 2016:

Hi Frank,

So glad you liked this hub. We surely do enjoy our mockingbirds! :)

Brian Leekley from Bainbridge Island, Washington, USA on March 15, 2016:

Growing up in northeast Illinois, we didn't have mockingbirds but did have catbirds (Dumetella carolinensis), which are also in the mimidae bird family. I have admired mockingbird songs on my travels.

Frank Atanacio from Shelton on March 15, 2016:

again Peggy W you hit the bird lover in me right in the gut.. I love the photos.. and the hub.. awesome

Peggy Woods (author) from Houston, Texas on March 14, 2016:

Hi Jackie,

Like you I have never thought to capture them on my digital camera. I simply enjoy their antics and songs (noises) they sing and replicate.

Jackie Lynnley from the beautiful south on March 14, 2016:

Very interesting! I love these little bird too and I see them flashing around everywhere. I saw a pair mating I guess it was last spring and they did the wildest and flashiest dance. (Unless it was two makes.) Too bad I didn't get to capture that!

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