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Mockingbird, The Great Imitator

Mockingbird (Mimus polyglottos)

When the first ornithologist came to this country the Mockingbird was a species confined to the southern part of the country. Over the last several decades the mockingbird has been expanding its range northward and is now a common resident species across the southern two-thirds of the country and has expanded slightly into southeast Canada. One reason given for this expansion has been the planting of fruit-bearing shrubs and trees and the presence of winter bird feeders. Due to this expansion, many more backyard birdwatchers can become familiar with the song of the mockingbird.

The mockingbird is perhaps one of the best imitators in the bird world as far as song is concerned. Its' continuous song consists of phrases or calls of other birds, and many times when you first hear the bird you're really not sure what bird you are dealing with. However, when you can see the bird that is making all those songs, you can easily identify it as a Mockingbird due to its striking gray plumage, distinctive white wing patches and tail feathers, and long tail.

Mockingbirds are inhabitants of semi-open habitat and suburbs. They prefer patchy areas with old fields, lots of shrubs, and some trees. They have adapted well to man and can often be very common in suburban areas where they frequent ornamental plantings and nest in shrubbery. The Mockingbird loves to sing and during the spring and early summer will appear to sing almost constantly even at night.

Mockingbirds feed on both insects and plant material. During the summer they are primarily insect eaters, but during the fall and winter, they rely on fruits for the major portion of their diets. In this respect, they are very similar to robins and catbirds. However, Mockingbirds are not truly migratory and will generally stay in an area the your around. For this reason, they are often attracted to feeders.

At the feeding station, they will be attracted to suet, nutmeats, and dried fruits. If you have a "Mocker" around, try putting out raisins, peanuts, or other dried fruit. One of the best ways to attract this species is to have a good variety of fruit-bearing shrubs and trees such as hawthorns, mountain ash, multi-flora rose, and crab apple. Planting these kinds of shrubs will attract other fruit eaters as well and are good additions to your wildlife garden.

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