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Northern Mockingbird

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Is the Northern Mockingbird right for you?

Species group:

Other common names: Mocker

Scientific name: Mimus polyglottus

The basics:
The Northern Mockingbird is one of the most beloved-- and most visible-- songbirds in North America, winning recognition as the official state bird of five US states. Over-collected as a prized pet in the 1800s and early 1900s, it is now legally protected. Americans will need the right permits to keep this bird, which will usually only be for the purposes of rescue and rehabilitation for release back into the wild. Since it also ranges into Mexico, some birds were formerly exported from that country into Europe for sale even into the 21st century.

A rare bird that may sometimes even sing at night (at least during a full moon), this mockingbird species is respected for both its energy and its intelligence. According to the Cornell Lab of Ornithology, a male may learn 200 songs during his lifetime. As this species adapts to modern life, in addition to mimicking the songs of other bird species, they may imitate garage door openers, doorbell chimes, cell phone ringtones, and more sounds of modern life.

The Thomas Jefferson Foundation has noted that founding father and third United States president Thomas Jefferson owned four of these singing birds. The favorite learned to follow him around and reportedly sang to him during his "siesta" each afternoon.

Appearance:
A slender gray bird that often flashes its white wing bars. Its swaggering tail is roughly half its length.

Weight:
40 - 58 grams (1.4 - 2 0z.)

Average Size:
20.5 - 28 centimeters (8 - 11 in.)

Lifespan:
15 years

Behavior/temperament:
This bird is noted for its aggressive behavior, and it won't hesitate to dive-bomb far larger birds and animals that they would like to drive off the territory. Even the song is an aggressive behavior. The bird runs through a repertoire of all the songs it has learned, essentially claiming that it's all these birds and the territory is completely taken. Although they should never be kept in captivity without the proper permits, it is well-known that the birds will sing from cages. Like other softbills, they are intelligent and can learn to fly to the hand for treats.

Housing:
Northern Mockingbirds are softbills who have surprisingly messy droppings, especially after eating some of their favorite fruits like mulberries, so the aviary must be constructed with an eye toward easy cleaning. Considering how aggressive they are toward any bird or animal perceived as a competitor, each pair should probably be housed in its own individual well-planted flight.

Diet:
Northern Mockingbirds are omnivorous softbills with a high need for protein, including live insect food, as well as nutritionally dense fruits like rosehips and mulberries.

Written by Elaine Radford

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