For anyone that can whistle, the Northern Mockingbird is one of our most fun birds. It gets its common name by it's incredible ability to mimic lots of other bird calls and a whole host of other sounds. When it is singing, it can usually be enticed to mimic whatever whistle you can throw at it. If you find one singing, just listen to the range of songs and sounds they make.

Mockingbirds are common year-round residents in East Brunswick. They don't visit feeders, but can be found in backyards and parks all around town. In the winter, they like to stay near shrubs with berries for food and often will have what must be a favorite because they can be found in the same one day after day. But they arent shy. Mockingbirds make their presence known by perching out in the open on a shrub or even in more exposed places like fence posts, telephone poles or the roof of a building. In the summer, they will sing for long periods of time from these exposed places. They are often very intolerant of intruders into their territory (sometimes us included) and will fly at them and harrass them until they hopefully leave. 

Mockingbirds are easy to recognize. They are sleek gray birds with black wings and a black tail. The wings have two prominent white wing bars across them and the outer tail feathers are white and are easily seen when the birds fly.

As I have done throughout this Backyard Bird series, I like to draw upon older ornithological literature and the writings of famous ornithologists to illustrate various life history aspects of the birds. For the Northern mockingbird, I like the contribution by the renowned ornithologist Alexander Sprunt Jr. in Arthur Cleveland Bent's monumental series, Life Histories of North American Birds:

"There is no possibility of doubt that the vocal attainments of the mockingbird are its primary characteristic. Its voice overshadows its every other trait, habit, and even appearance. Recognition of it is evident in both the common and the scientific name of the species, and neither could be more appropriate. Though its amazing powers of imitation were not known to Linnaeus except second-hand, his designation of Mimus polyglottos as its name was well chosen, for as a "many-tongued mimic" the mockingbird stands alone."  

Northern mockingbirds can be found in all of our parks and neighborhoods and even in our most developed urban areas along Route 18. Keep an eye out for them around the yard or town or use the Friends Online Guide to East Brunswick Parks to find some places to look and listen for them. The Guide is available at: http://www.friendsebec.com/ebparks.htm. For more information about the American Robin visit the Cornell Laboratory of Ornithology website http://www.allaboutbirds.org/guide/Northern_mockingbird/id/ac.

 

 

Published on the EB Patch, 18 February, 2012

 

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