“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.” – To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee.
The Northern Mockingbird is a very popular and intelligent character. They hold a place in our culture, songs, books and movies. Mockers are found in great numbers nesting all over North America, and they are such delightful songbirds that they have been named the state bird for 5 different states, including Texas.
Medium in size, mockingbirds have striking white patches on their wings and tails that can be prominently seen while in flight. Otherwise, they have rather bland gray bodies with long legs and tails, small heads, skinny bodies, but very colorful personalities! During mating season, the male makes most of the nest. It has an outer geometric structure of large twigs and a center of softer material for the eggs and chicks. If a female likes his songs and nest work, she will lay a clutch of blue eggs with brown speckles. The chicks will hatch about two weeks afterward, and in two more weeks the chicks will fledge.
Named for its ability to mimic, the mockingbird’s medley is copied from many other birds such as bluebirds, cardinals, and even bald eagles. Sometimes from frogs and toads as well! The better he is at singing, the better he will be at attracting a lady. It is not unusual for one bird to have many songs in its current repertoire, and both females and males sing complex tunes. Although you may think there are 5 different birds singing in a nearby tree, the songs could all be coming from just one gleeful hopeful mockingbird. They sing anytime of the day, and amazingly, even at night!
Although they sing high up in the trees, they are ground foraging omnivores. Mockingbirds prefer bugs from the grass in summertime, and berries from low shrubs in the winter. A few summers ago one particular mocker followed behind our lawnmower, gobbling grasshoppers that flipped up as the mower went by. Every week this mockingbird would swoop down and chase behind the mower! It was an easy meal for an intelligent opportunistic bird, and great entertainment for us bystanders.
To hear a mocker’s birdsong, go to https://www.allaboutbirds.org/guide/Northern_Mockingbird. Recorded birdsong is a service offered by Cornell Lab of Ornithology. Or just walk outside to your back porch and listen. Sit back and enjoy the free concert given by your little winged virtuoso!
Learn more about the incredible nature in our area by joining a chapter of the Texas Master Naturalist organization. To find a chapter close to you, or to read about the state program, go online to www.txmn.org. Volunteer and get involved!
- Mockingbirds are plain in looks, but beautiful in song!
- You won’t find them at your seed feeders because they eat insects in the warmer months and berries in winter.
- A mockingbird nest has a geometric twig framework with a center nest made of soft Spanish Moss. Their eggs are light blue with brown speckles.
- When not singing in the trees, they can be spotted foraging through the grass for a meal.