An Imperial Beach Hidden Gem and Bird of the Week, Bryan Brillhart Photography present the “Dig IB” Bird of the Week, the Northern Mockingbird
Mar 15, 2018 12:17AM
By Paul Spear
An Imperial Beach Hidden Gem and Bird of the Week, Bryan Brillhart Photography present the “Dig IB” Bird of the Week, Northern MockingbirdThis weekly column provides photos of birds photographed locally in the Tijuana Estuary or on IB's beaches along with background on the bird.
This week’s “Bird of the Week” is the northern mockingbird (Mimus polyglottos), the only mockingbird commonly found in North America. This bird's famous song, with its varied repetitions and artful imitations, is heard all day during nesting season (and often all night as well). Very common in towns and cities, especially in southern areas, the northern mockingbird often seeks insects on open lawns. When running in the open it may stop every few feet and partly spread its wings, flashing their white wing patches. Mockingbirds are bold in defense of their nests, attacking cats and even humans that venture too close.
This bird is mainly a permanent resident, but northern birds may move south during harsh weather.
This species was often captured for sale as a pet from the late 1700s to the early 1900s, and probably as a result it became scarce along much of the northern edge of its range. After the cagebird trade was stopped, the mockingbird again became common in many areas. During recent decades it has expanded its range north, especially in the northeast; its success there may have been partly owing to widespread planting of multiflora rose, a source of favorite berries and good nest sites.
Habitat is in towns, farms, roadsides, thickets, and in brushy areas. They favor areas with dense low shrubs and open ground, either short grass or open soil, thus they are often common around suburban hedges and lawns. They are also in many kinds of second growth areas, woodland edges, and on farmland. In the west, they are often very numerous in desert thickets or along streamsides in canyons.
Northern mockingbirds capture insects mostly while walking and running on the ground. They also watch from a low perch and flies down to capture items on the ground below. They often perch in shrubs and trees to eat berries.
Diet is mostly insects and berries. Their annual diet is about half insects and other arthropods, and half berries and fruits. They feed heavily on insects in late spring and summer, especially on beetles, grasshoppers, caterpillars, ants, wasps, and also many others, including spiders, snails, sowbugs, earthworms, and rarely crayfish and small lizards. In fall and winter, their diet leans heavily to berries and wild fruits, and sometimes a few cultivated fruits.
After mating, females lay 3-4, sometimes 2-6, variably greenish to bluish gray, with blotches of brown usually concentrated at larger end eggs. Incubation is by females in about 12-13 days. Both parents feed the nestlings. Young leave the nest about 12 days after hatching, and are not able to fly well for about another week. They produce 2-3 broods per year.
Nesting begins early, by late winter in southern areas. Males sing to defend their territory and to attract a mate, often leaping a few feet in the air and flapping their wings while singing. In early stages of courtship, males and females chase each other rapidly around their territory. Nests are built in a dense shrub or tree, usually 3-10' above the ground, but sometimes lower or higher (rarely up to 60'). Nests have a bulky foundation of twigs supporting an open cup of weeds, grass, and leaves lined with fine material such as rootlets, moss, animal hair, or plant down. Males build most of the foundation, and females add most of the lining.
I spotted this bird in the Tijuana Estuary in a low tree looking for an insect snack. Look for this bird there while enjoying a walk or bicycle ride on the great trails there. Until next week, happy birding!
If you would like to see more of Bryan's Bird Photos you can click on this link:
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Paul Spear, Publisher, and Editor of Dig Imperial Beach