Mockingbird

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Mockingbird

Synopsis

Mockingbirds are closely associated with Charles Darwin and his famous studies in the Galapagos Islands off the coast of Ecuador. The differences he observed in the isolated birds of the island, including the mockingbirds and finches, along with the observations of the tortoises, led to his theory on the transmutation of species which he then published as On the Origin of Species. The birds are also commonly used in popular culture, such as the famous novel To Kill a Mockingbird and the song "Mockingbird" by Carly Simon and James Taylor.


Content List

1. Scientific & Common Names

2. Characteristics

a. Breeding

b. Behavior

3. History

4. Present Status

5. References


Scientific & Common Names

Kingdom - Animalia

Phylum - Chordata

Class - Aves

Order - Passeriformes

Family - Mimidae

Genus – Melanotis; Mimus; Nesomimus

Common Names – Mockingbird. The northern mockingbird is most commonly seen species in the United States and is scientifically referred to as Mimus polyglottos.


Characteristics

Visually, mockingbirds are almost colorless, displaying only grays, browns, and white patches. They are medium sized for a song bird and slender, with long legs and tail. Their beaks are also rather thin, with a slight downward curve. All mockingbirds are found in North and South America but the northern mockingbird is the only one likely to be seen in North America. They are related to thrashers and tremblers but different species of mockingbirds are not necessarily closely related to each other.


Breeding

Males will defend their territory and try to attract a female. Males who have failed to attract a mate will often sing late into the night for weeks. Females will incubate the 3-6 eggs for a few weeks and then both parents feed the young. The young will begin to leave the nest after two weeks but cannot fly well until about three weeks. Mockingbirds can have up to three nestings a year.


Behavior

As their family name (Mimidae) suggests, mockingbirds habitually mimic other animals, and not just birds. They have been known to reproduce the calls of frogs, toads, and even insects. Oddly, they do not have their own call and simply use variations of those of other animals. Aside from being extremely vocal, mockingbirds are also territorial and aggressive. They have been known to dive bomb dogs, other birds, and even humans when they are protecting their nests and young. While they are adept at flying, mockingbirds tend to feed on the ground, running along and scaring up insects. They are very comfortable around humans, even if their attacks and tendency toward night-time singing is not always welcome, and live very happily in the suburbs and cities.


History

The family Mimidae probably developed around 25 million years ago in eastern Asia and was distributed from there. There is still much debate about the individual genus and species development.


The northern mockingbird is the state bird of Florida, Arkansas, Mississippi, Tennessee, and Texas. It was also previously the state bird of South Carolina.


Present Status

Mockingbirds are protected in North America by the Migratory Bird Act but they are not considered threatened. While mainland birds are generally considered safe, the mockingbirds of the Galapagos Islands are not. The Floreana mockingbird is considered critically endangered and the San Cristóbal mockingbird is considered endangered. Both species, as well as all native species on the islands, are being pressured by loss of habitat and introduced species


References

International Union for Conservation of Nature and Natural Resources (IUCN)

The Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES)

Birds of North America: A Guide To Field Identification by Chandler S. Robbins and Bertel Bruun

Birds, Mammals, and Reptiles of the Galápagos Islands: An Identification Guide by Andy Swash and Rob Still

The Birds of Ecuador: Field Guide by Robert S. Ridgely and Paul J. Greenfield