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What is a Northern Mockingbird?

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  • Written By: Anna T.
  • Edited By: Melissa Wiley
  • Last Modified Date: 08 December 2016
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The northern mockingbird is one variety of many different species of mockingbirds. These mockingbirds are best known for their unique ability to mock many different sounds, including those of other birds. Northern mockingbirds are typically gray, black, and white in color. The chest area is usually pale gray, and the wings may be black, white, and dark gray. These birds are often no longer than 10 inches (25 cm) in length, with a wingspan of approximately 13 inches (33 cm).

North America is the primary area of distribution for the northern mockingbird. They are often found in areas where there are people, such as suburban neighborhoods and parks. The northern mockingbird tends to prefer open, grassy areas to forests. People often spot them hopping along the ground or perched on top of telephone wires. Bird feeders do not typically attract them to a person's yard, but a lawn that is open and freshly mowed with fruit trees or bushes with berries would likely be ideal.

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Northern mockingbirds are omnivorous birds, meaning they eat both plants and animals. They normally eat many types of insects in the summer, including wasps, worms, and beetles. In the winter, when insects are not as plentiful, northern mockingbirds may switch to a diet consisting of mostly fruits and berries. These birds have even been known to drink sap from trees. Their aggressive nature benefits them for catching prey, but it can be a nuisance to some people because they may prevent other types of birds from entering a person's yard.

The northern mockingbird typically mates for life. After mating, the male mockingbird builds several different nests for the female, who chooses which one she likes best. Most of the time, the nests are located high up in trees or inside shrubs. It is normal for the female northern mockingbird to lay about five eggs, which are incubated for roughly two weeks. After the young mockingbirds hatch, they are cared for by both the male and female mockingbird.

As of 2010, the northern mockingbird is not considered endangered. Their numbers did start to diminish during the early part of the 19th century because many people hunted them to resell as cage birds. Since then, their population has increased significantly. Some people still choose to keep them as cage birds because of their unique ability to mimic so many sounds and their colorful personalities, but this is not as common as it once was. In the wild, northern mockingbirds birds live for roughly eight years.

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