Northern Mockingbird (Mimus polyglottos)

Northern Mockingbird

[order] PASSERIFORMES | [family] Mimidae | [latin] Mimus polyglottos | [UK] Northern Mockingbird | [FR] Moqueur polyglotte | [DE] Spottdrossel | [ES] Sinsonte Comun | [NL] Spotlijster


Genus Species subspecies Breeding Range Breeding Range 2 Non Breeding Range
Mimus polyglottos NA, MA s Canada to s Mexico
Mimus polyglottos orpheus
Mimus polyglottos polyglottos

Physical charateristics

Northern Mockingbirds are primarily gray with long legs, long tails, and pale eyes. Their undersides are light buff to white, and their upperparts are plain gray. Their tails are black with white outer tail feathers, and their wings are black with white wing-bars and patches. Young juveniles have light spotting on their breasts.
Northern Mockingbirds are ground foragers and are commonly seen running across mowed lawns, with their wings lifted to flash their white wing-patches. Both sexes sing complex and variable songs, with each phrase often repeated many times. They are accomplished mimics and incorporate parts of other birds’ songs into their own.

Listen to the sound of Northern Mockingbird

[audio: Mockingbird.mp3]

Copyright remark: Most sounds derived from xeno-canto

wingspan min.: 31 cm wingspan max.: 36 cm
size min.: 22 cm size max.: 23 cm
incubation min.: 12 days incubation max.: 13 days
fledging min.: 12 days fledging max.: 13 days
broods: 1   eggs min.: 3  
      eggs max.: 5  


North America, Middle America : South Canada to South Mexico


Northern Mockingbirds typically inhabit dense, low shrubs and areas with open ground. Throughout their range, they are common in suburban areas and parks with short grass. They avoid the forest interior, but can often be found at forest edges.


Northern Mockingbirds are typically monogamous, but polygamy does occur. Some birds may remain paired year round, but pair bonds typically last a single breeding season. They nest in dense shrubs or low trees. The male builds a bulky foundation of twigs, and the female adds an open cup of weeds, grass, and leaves, lined with rootlets, moss, hair, and plant down. The female incubates 3-4 eggs for 12-13 days, and then broods the young for about 6 days after they hatch. Both parents help feed the young, which leave the nest at about 12 days. The young cannot fly well for another week or so, and the adults continue to feed the fledglings for up to 3 weeks after they leave the nest. Northern Mockingbirds can raise up to 4 broods in a season. A few days after the young fledge, the male begins building the foundation for the next nest, while the female continues feeding the fledglings. Once the foundation is built, they switch, and the female builds the rest of the nest while the male feeds the fledglings.

Feeding habits

The Northern Mockingbird’s diet is split evenly over the course of the year into fruit and invertebrates. Invertebrates, especially beetles, grasshoppers, spiders, snails, and worms, make up most of the diet during the breeding season, while berries and other fruits round out the winter diet.


This species has an extremely large range, and hence does not approach the thresholds for Vulnerable under the range size criterion (Extent of Occurrence <20,000 km2 combined with a declining or fluctuating range size, habitat extent/quality, or population size and a small number of locations or severe fragmentation). The population trend appears to be stable, and hence the species does not approach the thresholds for Vulnerable under the population trend criterion (>30% decline over ten years or three generations). The population size is extremely large, and hence does not approach the thresholds for Vulnerable under the population size criterion (<10,000 mature individuals with a continuing decline estimated to be >10% in ten years or three generations, or with a specified population structure). For these reasons the species is evaluated as Least Concern.
Northern Mockingbirds have declined in some southern parts of their range in recent decades, while at the same time expanding northward into other areas. They were captured and sold as caged birds from the late 1700s through the early 1900s, a practice that significantly reduced northern populations. Since the International Migratory Bird Treaty Act outlawed their capture, Northern Mockingbirds have been expanding back into their former range, and into new areas. This expansion is likely to continue with the spread of suburban and second-growth habitat, and ornamental plantings that provide food and cover. Northern Mockingbirds were formerly considered only vagrants in Washington, but have been recorded annually in Washington since the mid-1980s, and have nested a few times in the Columbia Basin. Very rare vagrant to Europe.
Northern Mockingbird status Least Concern


Poorly understood; probably partial migrant in northern part of range, with distances of up to 800 km recorded, moving south within breeding range though some winter at northern edge of distribution; movements in south-west USA and elsewhere local and complex.

Distribution map

Northern Mockingbird distribution range map

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