If there’s one word that describes the Northern Mockingbird, it’s got to be “personality” — and mockingbirds have lots of it! Found all over the U.S., the mockingbird has a rather tentative relationship with some backyard birders. This could be due to a number of “interesting” traits that don’t always make him a birder’s favorite.
One typical mockingbird characteristic is that he’s highly territorial. He loves to show off, making his presence known by perching boldly at the top of large shrubs and small trees. And if a mockingbird has claimed a spot near your bird feeders, just give up and move the feeder. He’ll never tire of aggressively diving at other birds in an effort to chase them away. The mockingbird doesn’t want the seeds; he’s an insect-eater. He’s just a tad particular about neighbors and visitors.
One mockingbird I know lives in a flowering crabapple in a Sam’s Club parking lot. He’s been there every summer for several years and every time I park near that tree, I’m never disappointed. There he is, surveying his little kingdom. The only other birds I ever see nearby are those irrepressible House Sparrows — he’s chased every other bird off. That’s a mockingbird for you!
Another one of a mockingbird’s little quirks is his penchant for singing at night. Oh, and what a wonderfully long, loud and varied song he has! The mockingbird is an excellent mimic! He can copy and repeat (over and over again) the lilting tune of a warbler, the clucking of a robin or the cawing and clicking of a crow! Mix in the sweet cadence of a Veery’s song and you have a performance that has no match. Of course this is absolutely delightful on a balmy summer evening as you relax on the porch. But good luck getting any shut-eye if it’s going on outside your bedroom window at 11 p.m.!
And although he’s decked in mostly gray plumage, the mockingbird is anything but dull. When you see him in flight, the first thing you’ll notice are his flashy, bright, white wing patches. And he knows how to use them! The mockingbird will use his patches in territorial displays to intimidate other birds, and then instantly turn into a charmer, flashing those lovely whites at a prospective mate.
Attracting a mockingbird (no, you can’t have more than one, unless it’s family!), is more a matter of having a suitable territory in your yard, rather than coaxing and tempting him with foods. However, mockingbirds do enjoy live insect foods and some fruits, such as apples, oranges and perhaps bits of banana skewered onto a fruit feeder or placed on a platform feeder. And if you are privileged to have the personable mockingbird claim your backyard as his territory, try to accept his antics and bravado — you’ll be rewarded with daily entertainment and nightly serenades!
— R. Brune