Mockingbird is the boss of the backyard
By STEPHANIE HUGHES
Ohio certified volunteer naturalist
The first time I saw a Northern Mockingbird (Mimus polyglottos) was a couple of winters ago. I noticed snow and gravel flying around in the driveway, and beheld a blue jay flat on its back being harassed by a mockingbird.
We were owned. We were the territory. This describes the temperament of the Mockingbird – fierce, territorial, a scrapper.
Since then we have had numerous nests in the yard, and these birds are wonderful.
They are beautiful with brown/gray bodies, white flashed beneath their wings, and a long tail, black complements, and the sounds.
Mockingbirds are one of the most intelligent birds, and can recognize humans that are a threat in a crowd, in different clothes, hairdo, etc., and can pick them out for harassment.
Mockingbirds are from 9 to 11 inches long, with yellow eyes and black beak slightly curved, and “stick” black legs.
They are friendly, and eat seeds, berries, fruit, worms, insects, and they imitate other bird calls – they have more than 39 songs and 50 different calls, and imitate dogs barking, other birds, pianos, sirens, squeaky gates, car horns and alarms.
I heard ours one day and thought, “That cardinal sounds funny,” as our Mockingbird perfected the surrounding cardinals at the feeder.
These lovelies are territorial and adapt to any habitat, but they love brushy, scrubby areas to nest.
They pair up for the year and build a nest of usually four blue-green eggs with red spots.
After hatching, the male feeds the young, as the female moves to a new location to build a new nest and lay more eggs.
Thus, they produce young throughout the summer.
The nests are preyed on by blue jays, crows, snakes and squirrels, and Cow Birds are noted for laying their eggs in the Mockingbird nest for the parents to raise the young.
This native wonder is known as the “American Nightingale” and has come back from the brink of extinction in large cities.
They used to be captured and caged for their melodious songs, but are now in no danger.
Six states call the Mockingbird their state bird – Arkansas, Florida, Mississippi, South Carolina, Tennessee and Texas.
To learn more about this bird and more, download the free Birds of Ohio guide at: http://go.osu.edu/birdsofohio.