polyglottos, The Mockingbird
Critter / Florida State Bird
Mockingbird guarding fledged chick.
Click him to hear his song.
Click Image to Enlarge
Fledgling Mockingbird chick.
Image to Enlarge
Resolution No.3 of the 1927
legislative session designated the
mockingbird as the State Bird of
only a Florida favorite, it is the
State Bird of Arkansas, Mississippi,
Tennessee and Texas.
northern mockingbird is a medium-sized
songbird measuring about 23 cm (about
9 in.) and weighing about 50 g (about
2 oz.), with longish legs and tail and
a slightly curved bill.
grayish-brown color, two parallel
white wing bars and broad white wing
patch, which is easily seen in flight,
distinguish this bird from its
cousins, the brown thrasher and the
mockingbird is omnivorous. About half
its diet consists of arthropods,
including beetles, ants, bees, wasps,
and grasshoppers, but it will also eat
earthworms and small lizards. These
aggressive feeders can often be
observed chasing down a grasshopper on
a lawn, running, hopping and lunging
at the prey, or flying just above the
ground maneuvering behind a large
wasp. They are also fond of zebra
butterflies (Heliconius charitonius),
which are commonly available in
southern Florida. In the fall or
whenever available at a feeder, the
mockingbird enjoys eating fruits, both
wild and cultivated.
mockingbird is monogamous, usually for
the length of a breeding season, and
occasionally mates for life. Some
pairs in southern Florida have been
known to stay together for at least
eight years (their average lifespan in
spring, mockingbirds can be seen
performing their swift, acrobatic
flights, male chasing female, often
accompanied by the exchange of soft
"hew" calls, repeatedly
perching next to each other and taking
off again. It is estimated that this
behavior may assist the birds in
sizing up the general health of the
potential mate to make sure that it is
of good breeding stock, so to speak.
Other observed displays include
jumping from a perch, flapping wings
to ascend perhaps one meter, then
parachuting with open wings back down
to the perch again.
build and use several nests during the
breeding season, laying two or three
eggs in each nest. In Florida, nest
building starts as early as late
February, although March is more
common. Each pair produces two to
three broods per season, with the
female laying a total of about nine
eggs. Broods frequently overlap, and
the male cares for the fledglings
while the female incubates the next
clutch of eggs.
nests are built low to the ground in
shrubs and trees, usually between one
and three meters high, mostly by the
male using dead twigs lined with
grasses and dead leaves and/or human
artifacts such as paper, foil,
plastics, and even shredded cigarette
accessibility of the nests makes them
vulnerable to molestation, and nesting
birds may abandon the eggs if
disturbed during incubation. But
rarely will the parent birds abandon
the nest once the eggs have hatched.
are smooth and oval, about 18 mm x 24
mm (.75 in. x 1 in.). They can be
bluish gray or greenish white to
darker shades of blue and green, and
heavily marked with spots, blotches
and short scrawls in various shades of
brown. In southern Florida, the female
bird incubates the eggs for 12-13
days, while the male forages for food
and defends the territory from
intruders. Both parents feed the
hatchlings and defend the eggs and
hatchlings against potential
the chicks are about 12 days old, they
will venture from the nest and hop
around on the ground or in low shrubs.
During this transitional period (after
leaving the nest and before they can
fly), the young birds are still in the
care of the parents, who feed them up
to five times per hour. If found
hopping around on the ground, they
should be placed low in a tree or in a
shrub and left alone. The parents
will continue to care for them for
several days until they learn to
forage for themselves.
Floridians have experienced the wrath
of the mockingbird defending its nest.
Fiercely territorial, male
mockingbirds have been known to
recognize individual humans and will
selectively attack them while ignoring
other humans who pass by. Although we
rarely intend to disturb nests, this
behavior is not completely in vain. In
southern Florida it has been noted
that the strength of attacks against
potential predators is directly
associated with nesting success.
the two-week period that the nest is
in use, it is best to avoid the area
and to advise children and visitors do
the same. As a native, non-game
migratory song bird, the mocker is
protected against harm or molestation
by local, state and federal laws.
addition to their renown bravado,
mockingbirds are revered songsters.
These birds have extraordinarily
diverse repertoires acquired through
imitating the calls, songs and parts
of songs of other birds, other animals
such as dogs and cats, humans,
mechanical sounds, and even the sounds
of other mockingbirds.
sexes sing, but females much less so.
Two males in southern Florida were
reported to have approximately 200
song types each! Lists of other birds
and sounds imitated by mockingbirds
were common early in this century.
Male birds can often be heard
bellowing their borrowed tunes late at
night and into the wee hours of the
morning, especially during a full
mockingbird flourishes in developed,
suburban areas, because of its
fondness of mowed lawns. It also
thrives in land developed for
agriculture, as fruit is a favorite
part of the mockingbird diet.
are natural pest controllers,
consuming large quantities of beetles,
ants, wasps, and grasshoppers. By
eating a variety of berries and other
fruits, they also assist plants by
dispersing seeds. And their beautiful
singing is an invaluable accompaniment
to suburban life in South Florida.
are extremely territorial and become
defensive against potential predators.
If you or your child or pet approaches
a nest, either knowingly or otherwise,
the mockingbird will defend its nest
by swooping and chasing the intruder.
No known harm has resulted in attacks
from mockingbirds. This behavior is
temporary and will only continue for
as long as there are hatchlings in the
nest (about two weeks). It is best to
avoid the nesting area during this
short period. As a songbird it is
protected by the Florida Fish and
Wildlife Conservation Commission and
cannot be physically harmed, nor can
the habitat be molested in any way.
(Mimus polyglottos), Patricia
Sprott and Frank J. Mazzotti, Florida
Cooperative Extension Service /
Institute of Food and Agricultural
Sciences / University of Florida; The
Florida State Bird - Mockingbird