Northern Mockingbirds: Made to Mimic

 By Kar DeGeiso, Teacher Naturalist
An adult Northern Mockingbird perches in a thicket. Image by Derek Stoner.

As I walked over the bridge to the DuPont Environmental Education Center (DEEC) recently, I saw a gray bird with a long tail and flashes of white on its wings.  These fieldmarks are the hallmark of our resident Northern Mockingbirds.

Mockingbirds, often called “Mockers,” can mimic other bird songs and man-made devices like cell phones. They are one of three birds in our area that are mimics, in the bird family known as Mimidae.  The other mimics are Brown Thrasher and Gray Catbird.

These birds have a series of phrases that are repeated 2-6 times before going on to another song. They often have over 150 distinguishing songs and can actually learn new ones throughout their lifetime. Both male and females sing, but it’s the single male that is usually found continually singing, even into the nighttime.  Mockingbirds also make a scratchy “chat” call to warn off intruders or when they are disturbed.

A young Northern Mockingbird investigates a Tiger Moth caterpillar crawling by. Image by Derek Stoner.

Mockingbirds are very territorial and have been known to chase animals and even people from their area, especially if they have a nest nearby.  They eat a wide variety of fruit and insects.  The area under the DEEC bridge is perfect Mockingbird habitat with open areas loaded with insects and native bushes loaded with fruit.

A fledgling Northern Mockingbird stretches its wings. Image by Derek Stoner.

Because the female lays 2-6 eggs and can have offspring 2-3 times during the summer, the five Mockingbirds in our area are probably from the same family.

As you walk over the bridge at DEEC, take a look and see if you can observe one of our resident Mockers.

3 thoughts on “Northern Mockingbirds: Made to Mimic”

  1. I used to live near Sandy Hook, NJ, where there are specific paths to walk on. When the mockers had a nest nearby, they would swoop down and peck at my head (and my dog’s) to chase us away. But when I put a cut orange out in my yard in a feeder, they would bring their babies to eat. Such fun to watch.

  2. I long to have a mockingbird. The are common in Florida, where I
    grew up, and there was one up the street from where Iived in Wilmington, but not in my territory. I had to settle for a catbird.


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