Northern Mockingbird (Mimus polyglottos)

April 2023
Written By: 
Grand Strand Magazine Staff
Photographs by: 
courtesy of shutterstock

- One of the most familiar backyard birds in the U.S., the Northern Mockingbird has grayish upper portions, white undersides, and white patches on the tail and wings.

- The Northern Mockingbird frequently gives a "wing flash" display, where it half or fully opens its wings in jerky intermediate steps as it runs on the ground, showing off its big white patches. No one knows why it does this, but it may startle insects, making them easier to catch.

- This species was often captured for sale as a pet from the late 1700s to the early 1900s, and probably as a result became scarce along much of the northern edge of its range. After the caged bird trade was stopped, the mockingbird again became common in many areas.

- Speaking of territories, mockingbirds will feverishly defend theirs against all comers, buzz-bombing cats, squirrels, humans and anything else that threatens their nests.

- Known for their artful ability to mimic other birds, mockingbirds offer up a litany of songs in their repertoire that is both varied and repetitive, the males becoming especially vocal during mating season, noisily warbling day and night to attract females and notify other birds of their territorial boundaries. The nocturnal singers tend to be young, still-unattached males or older males who have lost their mate. The female sings too, although usually more quietly than the male.