Sycamore Grove Farm, Madison County
Following up on last week’s Bird Blog on blue jays, I wanted to share Atticus Finch’s quote on mockingbirds: “It’s a sin to kill a mockingbird,” Finch tells his daughter Scout. “Mockingbirds don’t do one thing but make music for us to enjoy. They don’t eat up people’s gardens, don’t nest in corncribs, they don’t do one thing but sing their hearts out for us.” While this doesn’t totally exonerate Finch for his statement about blue jays, it does capture the special essense of the Northern Mockingbird (Mimus polyglottos).
Every year since we moved into our house here in Madison County, we have had a pair of mockingbirds that own the immediate land around the house. The male mockingbird begins singing early each morning in the spring. He has several favorite perches, including the weather vane on our barn, the peak over our garage and the two large holly trees on the east side of our house. He will frequently fly straight up from his perch, then back down – all the while singing loudly. He moves from one perch to another to another, singing a lovely medley of songs – and sometimes I think I actually recognize which bird he is mimicking (or not). Mockingbirds also mimic other sounds, including crickets, cats and even sirens!
Once our pair of mockingbirds builds a nest, they actively chase other birds away. And they are very territorial overall – scientists and other birders have observed them attacking predatory birds, even bald eagles, when their territory is invaded.
Stan Tekiela describes their mating behavior perfectly in Birds of Virginia: “Very animated, male and female perform elaborate mating dances by facing each other, heads and tails erect. They run toward each other, flashing white wing patches, and then retreat to nearby cover.”
Birding tip: Mockingbirds eat seeds, insect, bugs and worms – and they will definitely visit your bird feeding area if you put out suet. But unlike woodpeckers, the mockingbird can’t hang upside down on the suet cage so they will perch on top of the feeder to have a snack.
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