Mocking Bird

Mocking Bird

Mocking Bird

The mockingbird family’s name is derived from the ability of several members of the family, especially the Northern mocking-bird, to copy the noises made by other animals. Although birds of other species are the main source for their mimicry, mocking-birds have also been recorded mimicking frogs, pianos and even human voices. Their songs are clear. Powerful and far-carrying.

The mockingbirds (also known as mimic-thrushes) are a fairly distinct group of New World birds, thought to be closely related to thrushes and wrens. They are mostly thrush-sized, though they tend to have longer tails and longish beaks, the latter often strongly down curved as in the Curve-billed thrasher. Many are marked rather like “standard” thrush, brown above and paler below with heavy streaking. A num-beer of others is darker and more uniformly gray.

The brightest is probably the Blue mockingbird which is a bright, grayish-blue all over except for a black mask. The Gray catbird is one of the smaller members of the family and is somewhat aberrantly colored: it is a uniform gray all over with a black cap and bright chestnut under tail feathers. Many mocking-birds cock their long tail in a conspicuous manner.

The family occurs over much of North, South and Central America except for the northern parts of Canada; only the Patagonian mockingbird occurs in the southern third of South America. Mockingbirds are also found in many Caribbean islands and in the Galapagos and have been introduced to Bermuda and Hawaii. Many of the birds in the northern parts of this range move southwards for the northern winter; for example, most Gray and Black catbirds and Brown thrashers leave Canada during the winter and the large majority of’ the Sage thrashers that breed in the USA probably spend the winter in Mexico or farther south However, some Northern mockingbirds spend the winter in Canada.

The main habitat of’ the family is scrub or forest understory; many species inhabit dry. Near-desert habitats. All use the low often dense vegetation as cover and mostly on the ground. Two exceptions are the Brown trembler of Dominica and nearbrislands which lives in rainforest and Black-capped mocking thrush which lives dense vegetation in marshes.

The resident species spend most of the year in their territory which they-strongly against other members of their qx-cies. Usually they live alone or in pairs. Burin some species, such as the Galapagos mockingbird, the birds may live in popshop 4-1 o individuals, several of which mar help in raising the young. While it is not known for certain what the relationships of the birds in a group are, in some cases the extra members helping to raise a second or subsequent brood in a season are known tube young from an earlier brood of the same pair.

As far as is known all species build rather bulky, untidy nests of twigs in dense vegetation. In most cases the nest is either on the ground or within about 2 M (6ft) of the ground, though sometimes pairs may build at heights of 5m (soft) or more. Two to five (rarely six) eggs are laid and these hatch in about 12-13 days and are raised to the point of leaving the nest in about the same length of time. Breeding commences in the spring or, in some arid areas such as the Galapagos, shortly after the start of the rainy season.

The breeding season can be prolonged with two or even three broods being raised. Pairs will often remain together in successive seasons, though in the Gray catbird it has been shown that birds are more likely to separate and/or leave the territory and move to another if they fail to raise young than if they succeed. This is thought to be an adaptation against predators; since most nests that fail do so because they are taken by predators, moving after a nest is lost might result in the parent birds being able to find a safer place to nest.

The Brown trembler of Dominica another islands of the Lesser Antilles is an abler-rant species of mockingbird. It is easily recognized by its habit of trembling its wings (which is probably a social signal to others of its species). It also spends much of its time up in the trees of the rainforest where it forages while clinging to the trunk on its rather short legs. It is thought possible that it has taken over the wood creeper niche of hunting for insect prey on tree-trunks (wood-creepers are absent from these islands).

The Galapagos mockingbird is particularly interesting in that, as with the Galapagos finches (see p4o4), it influenced Charles Darwin’s thinking on evolution by means of natural selection. The mocking-birds in the Galapagos have differentiated strongly on different islands: four well-marked forms are present and some consider them to be four separate species.

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