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2011-11-26
Arkansas State Bird – Northern Mocking Bird - Mimus polyglottos


The Northern Mockingbird - Mimus polyglottos - is the only mockingbird commonly found in North America. This bird is mainly a permanent resident, but northern birds may move south during harsh weather. The bird is the state bird of Arkansas. Mockingbirds have a strong preference for certain trees such as maple, sweetgum and sycamore.

Description

The adults have mainly gray upperparts, but note the blackish wings with striking white wing bars and white patch (larger in males) at base of primaries. Tail is mainly black, but with contrasting white outer feathers. Dark line emphasizes the beady yellow eye. Underparts are pale gray-buff, palest on throat and undertail. Bill is dark and slightly down curved and legs are dark. Juveniles have paler upperparts, while underparts are warmer buff and heavily spotted on throat and breast.

Call

The Northern Mockingbird is best known for its mimicry in North America. It imitates not only birds but also other animals and mechanical sounds such as car alarms. They are also some of the loudest and most constantly vocal of birds. In addition to its well-known song, the Northern Mockingbird uses a variety of calls to communicate specific information. As with its song, these calls are among some of the louder sounds produced by birds of its size. Mockingbirds make a harsh, raspy noise when chasing other birds out of their territory. A similar but distinct call is used when defending against predators like a hawk or falcon. Other calls include a wheezing noise, a "chuck" note, and a very piercing series of notes "high low" repeated twice.

Food

They eat mainly insects in summer, but switch to eating mostly fruit in fall and winter. These birds forage on the ground or in vegetation; they also fly down from a perch to capture food. They mainly eat insects, berries and seeds.

Breeding

The males establish a nesting territory in early February. If a female enters his territory, the male will pursue the female with initial aggressive calls and, if she becomes uninterested, with softer calls. Once the pair is established, their song becomes gentler. Northern Mockingbirds tend to be monogamous, and the female may return to the same male from the previous season. Both the male and female are involved in the nest building. The male does most of the work.

The nest is built approximately three to 10 feet above the ground. The outer part of the nest is composed of twigs, while the inner part is lined with grasses, dead leaves, moss or artificial fibers. The eggs are a light blue or greenish color and speckled with dots. Three to five eggs are laid by the female, and she incubates them for nearly two weeks. Once the eggs are hatched, both the male and female feed the chicks.

The birds aggressively defend their nest and surrounding area against other birds and animals.

Conservation Status – Least Concern

Birdwatching

Look for Northern Mockingbirds sitting high on tall shrubs, poles, or utility lines. Around your yard, you can also look for them running or hopping along your mowed lawn. You may be able to first identify the presence of a Northern Mockingbird by listening for its song which usually mimics numerous other birds at once.

 

 


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