Bird of the Week: Northern Mockingbird

Northern Mockingbird, Marlin Greene

Northern Mockingbird

The mockingbird is our state bird, and it’s not hard to see why Texans might feel an affinity for this brash, talkative songbird. The Aztecs called the mockingbird zinzontle, which roughly translates to “the bird with four hundred songs”, and they weren’t far off: the average mockingbird learns about two hundred in its life. While most of their imitations are of bird song, mockingbirds are also adept mimics of cats and dogs, insects, and even man-made sounds like car alarms. Both male and female mockingbirds sing (though the males more often), and are somewhat unusual among songbirds for their habit of singing at night. In addition to their musical aptitude, mockingbirds share with native Texans a fierce territoriality, and will pick fights with almost anything that happens to threaten their nests or their young, including hawks, cats, humans and even coyotes!

Compiled by Owen Moorhead. Sources include the Cornell Lab of Ornithology and National Audubon Society. Image courtesy of Kelly Colgan Azar via Flickr Creative Commons.