Mockingbirds are cool. We have a few at school, and one likes to play games with me. He’ll fly beside me and stop a short distance in front of me while I talk to him. When I get within four or five feet, he flies a little further. Never does he seem intimidated.
I did some research on mockingbirds and found that behavior to be typical. Mockingbirds are smart and have great memories. Like crows, they remember if someone has been aggressive toward them. I haven’t.
A few weekends ago I was working on the greenhouses and this mockingbird shadowed me. He shifted around a little but basically stayed in my vicinity even though I was using power tools. I soon noticed he didn’t have a constant call. He’d make a robin call and a cardinal call interspersed with others I didn’t recognize.
Mockingbirds get their name from mimicking the sounds of other creatures. They copy the calls of other birds to ward off predators, but I think they imitate mostly for the fun of it. That one stayed with me for a few hours while I talked to it and ran saws and drills the whole time.
I’ve read where people have been attacked by mockingbirds, but I’ve never witnessed anything like that. I’ve had swallows divebomb me before but never mockingbirds.
For those not familiar with them, mockingbirds are small to medium sized somewhat long-legged gray birds with white patches on their wings. The underbelly is lighter colored. Their wingspan is slightly over a foot long, and their beaks are pointed and nearly black.
Mockingbirds prefer to live in an edge type habitat, where there are some open places interspersed with trees and shrubs. They like to have a few high perches to choose from. Normally, they nest only a few feet off the ground, but sometimes they make their homes much higher.
Mockingbirds are monogamous. Often you see them in pairs, and they work hard to find a mate. During the spring mating season, they are especially noisy.
Unlike most birds, it is the male who does most of the nest building work. The outer part is constructed of twigs, but the eggs lay amidst finer delicate materials. Each nest takes a couple days to make.
These noisy birds don’t often reuse nests either. Some couples may raise several clutches each year and use a different nest each time.
Females lay three to five pale bluish-green eggs and they hatch in less than two weeks. Only females incubate eggs, but both parents feed the young for 10-12 days. The whole nest construction to fledging process takes less than four weeks. Then they start all over again.
Mockingbirds are not picky eaters. They eat insects when they are available. Beetles, wasps, ants and caterpillars are their favorite. When insects are scarce, they eat seeds and berries.
There are some mockingbirds that migrate southward for the winter and return to breed in northern climates. Around here, they’re year-round residents. Enjoy them, talk to them and they’ll talk back.
Ted Manzer teaches agriculture at Northeastern High School.
Being a fellow Nature lover, I find your blog very interesting and informative. I knew crows were intelligent, but didn’t know that about Mockingbirds. When I lived in GA years ago, I witnessed the divebomber personality that one displayed. Every time one of my cats went near a certain tree, she would get attacked rather viciously. Bless her heart. (You would think she would avoid that tree.) When I moved out West for awhile, I missed the melodious songs of the Mockingbird. Now that I’m back in the South, I’m learning more about my surroundings through your writing. Keep up the good work. Your students are lucky to have you and your wife as teachers.
Reblogged this on Wolf's Birding and Bonsai Blog.
Back when I started writing my garden column in the early 2000s, my (best ever) editor studied the dysfunctional wildlife in here South San Jose Neighborhood, and observed that the mockingbirds there copied the sounds of ringing telephones (which were still in use back then) and car alarms (because so many were convinced that South San Jose was a bad neighborhood).