From their cultural references to their extensive repertoire of sounds, mockingbirds are fascinating creatures with many exciting qualities and characteristics.
With their neutral colors and unremarkable markings, these seemingly average-looking birds might not attract your attention at first, but their habits are what make them stand out.
Unsure what the intriguing inner workings of these feathered friends are? We’ll take you on a journey through the most interesting facts about mockingbirds to gain a newfound respect for these beaked beauties.
21 Interesting Facts about Mockingbirds
Whether it’s their near extinction status in earlier years or their ever-expanding sing-song symphonies, these birds have a treasure trove of fun facts to discover.
1. The Mockingbird Gets Its Name From Its Mimicking Abilities
While cats meow and dogs bark, mockingbirds mimic. Throughout their lifespan, these crafty creatures have a knack for imitating sounds they hear. From frogs croaking to other bird calls, the mockingbird will learn and recreate these sounds and often string them together in strange melodies.
Male mockingbirds have been known to learn over a hundred sounds, and also have the ability to keep picking up new ones throughout their life.
If you’re planning to do some bird watching in North America, you’re in for a confusing treat. The northern mockingbird is usually found in the forested areas, so you’ll better spot the bird’s body first before identifying it by its call.
2. The Northern Mockingbird’s Latin Name Has an Interesting Meaning
One of the most common mockingbirds is the Nothern mockingbird, also known as Mimus polyglottos. This translates to “many-tongued mimic,” which is a nod to its skill in producing a wide range of notes and phrases.
3. It’s the National Bird of Several North American States
A famous bird of note, the mockingbird is the chosen state bird for five different states in North America. These are namely: Arkansas, Texas, Florida, Mississippi, and Tennessee. Mockingbirds have the third most state bird appointments in the USA, after the Western meadowlark and Northern cardinal.
4. They’re Vulnerable to Various Prey — Even Other Birds
From freshly laid eggs to adulthood, mockingbirds have a list of predators that could lead to an early death. This includes hawks, owls, various snakes, and even squirrels.
5. The Northern Mockingbird Was Nearly Extinct
In the 1800s and 1900s, northern mockingbirds were popular pets and were often caged to keep them from escaping. The capturing of these birds for this booming pet trade nearly led to their demise. The most notable mockingbird pet in history was owned by Thomas Jefferson during his presidency, named Dick.
6. It Has Many Cultural References
From Harper Lee’s To Kill A Mockingbird to its inspiration for the interspecies bird in the famous Mockingjay in The Hunger Games trilogy, mockingbirds are continuously mentioned. Whether a symbol of innocence or defiance, this feathered creature has made waves in various creative outlets with its unique mannerisms.
Beyond literary symbolism, mockingbirds also feature in many songs throughout the ages. Whether it’s a rap icon such as Eminem or a 70’s classic by James Taylor, these songbirds are a common reference or song title in the music world.
While the lullaby “Hush Little Baby, Don’t Say a Word” has been a classic for consoling children, its lyrics mentioning mockingbirds are pretty dark. As mentioned, mockingbirds were near extinction due to their popularity as caged-bird, which gives the “… buy you a mockingbird” lyric a problematic layer.
7. The Galápagos Islands Mockingbirds Are Very Different & Nearly Extinct
Four types of mockingbirds are found on the Galápagos Islands, but these species have contrasting qualities and significantly smaller numbers than their Northern counterparts. One of the most significant differences between the Floreana mockingbird of the Galápagos and Northern species is that the former does not mimic other bird calls.
The Floreana mockingbird is critically endangered, most likely due to predators and the destruction of their habitats. These species are down to triple-digit population numbers and are only found on two small islands.
8. Mockingbirds Can Be Quite Aggressive
This type of bird is very territorial over their nests and, when threatened, they are known to attack creatures they deem as a threat, such as larger birds. This defensive strategy usually occurs during the breeding season.
9. They Conduct Wing Flashes
Bird watchers can quickly identify mockingbirds by their characteristic “wing flash.” This is where the white edges appear when their wings are overhead, which has been theorized to have an important objective. This is thought to be an act to distract predators and scare insects into moving for a better visual before eating them.
10. Humans Do Not Quell Them
Mockingbirds often build their twig-strewn havens in trees and low shrubbery, which often leads to their appearance in backyards and parks. While mockingbirds feed on fruit and berries they find, this will rarely affect plants negatively if you happen to have this type of vegetation on your premises.
While they might be more on guard during the breeding season, there is mostly no profound reason why humans and mockingbirds cannot co-exist on the same territory.
11. Female Mockingbirds Don’t Sing As Often As Males
Male mockingbirds can definitely be considered the singers of the species. While females are known to sing, they will only produce the bulk of their sound production during the colder months when establishing their territory.
12. Mockingbirds Were Part of Darwin’s Theory of Evolution
Regarding the theories of evolution, Charles Darwin and his exploration and documentation of the Galápagos Islands were a vital piece in this puzzle of our modern understanding. While his most famous theory involves finches and the natural selection theory, this type of bird was not the only bird documented on his journey.
Darwin took note of the variance and differences of mockingbirds across the various islands and those found in South America. This groundbreaking discovery led to one of the most significant scientific theories the world has ever known.
13. They Often Find Soul Mates
Mockingbirds are primarily found monogamously pairing, which may last their lifetimes. When paired, male mockingbirds sing less frequently and in a milder manner.
14. Mockingbirds Eat Different Things Depending on the Season
Northern mockingbirds have a pretty adventurous palette, as these winged creatures like to snack on both fruits and creepy crawlies. Their eating tendencies often rely on the season and what is readily available.
In late summer and spring, they will search for crunchy and wriggly invertebrate insects, such as beetles and ladybug creatures. In winter, you can expect hungry mockingbirds to target fruit-bearing trees and berries available nearby.
15. They Have an Interesting Courtship Method
When female mockingbirds make their way to a territory a male mockingbird has claimed, the delicate dance of courtship begins. The male makes a series of sounds and flight maneuvers to showcase their wings and vocal talent.
16. Baby Hatchlings Leave the Nest After 12-14 Days
When born, mockingbird hatchlings are altricial and cannot fend for themselves against the brutalities of nature. Altricial hatchlings are born without feathers and closed eyes and cannot feed themselves.
The parental pair of mockingbirds will both involve themselves in the duty of feeding their offspring. After around the 12th day, these baby mockingbirds will make their way out of the nest (many without mastering the art of flying).
17. Unpaired Males During Breeding Season Will Sing All Day (and Night)
Call it an act of unrequited love, loneliness, or a mere tantrum, a male mockingbird without a mate during breeding season sings a lot. Often throughout the day and night for the entire breeding season, individuals should beware of a scorned male finding his home on their property.
18. Their Songs Might Sound Different Depending on the Season
While mockingbird songs might seem like a chaotic medley of random sounds, they have a distinct pattern. You’ll frequently find a slight disparity between their fall and spring calls if you listen closely.
19. Captive Mockingbirds Live Much Longer
As mockingbirds have a comprehensive set of predators, captive birds often have a much higher life expectancy than their wild counterparts. Wild mockingbirds can expect to live up to eight years, while in wildlife reserve captivity, they can grow as old as 20 years.
20. Males and Females Are Involved in Nest Building
Predominately, females within the birding realm are considered house (or nest) builders. Mockingbird pairs, however, share the burden and take on the challenge together. Male mockingbirds are inclined to choose an appropriate setting for construction to begin.
It has been said that male counterparts are often found building the bulk of the nest. Mockingbirds will lay eggs a few times a year and will most likely not reuse their nests.
21. Biologists Believe They Have a Great Memory
According to Science Daily, a team of University of Florida biologists has reported findings that support the belief that mockingbirds are very perceptive of their environment.
The research consisted of students continuously approaching their nest, usually taking a different path and wearing other attire. After a few days, the mockingbirds were more inclined to behave aggressively toward students that often appeared at their nests.
So, if you’ve had a negative dalliance with a mockingbird and their nest full of eggs in the past, chances are they’ll probably remember it.