Mockingbird Facts: Lesson for Kids

Instructor: Sarah Caughron

Sarah has a master's degree in Applied Anthropology/Archaeology and has worked in formal and informal education since 2006.

If you live in North America, you've probably seen or heard a mockingbird in your backyard before. This lesson will teach you about where these birds live, what they eat, and how they got their name!

What Is a Mockingbird?

A mockingbird is a medium-sized bird that is common in North America. On average, it measures 9 inches long from head to tail, which is a long as a banana! But it has a very slender body and generally weighs less than 2 ounces, which is less than a medium-sized plum. The males are a little bit bigger than the females.

The mockingbird is a very common North American backyard bird.
Northern Mockingbird

Both the male and female mockingbird has brown-gray feathers on their back and gray feathers on their bellies as well as a black bill. They also have distinctive white patches on the wings and tail. But this bird's most unique feature is its call (the sound a bird makes).

Mockingbirds get their name from their ability to mimic the sounds and calls of other animals. This includes non-animal sounds such as sirens, squeaky doors, and animal sounds like meowing or barking. Ornithologists (scientists who study birds) have identified that mockingbirds can make up to 50 separate call sounds, which is a remarkable vocal ability.

Mockingbird Dietary and Breeding Habits

Considered omnivores, mockingbirds eat both plants and animals, including berries, figs, grapes, insects like spiders, beetles, and ants. Seeds are another favorite food of mockingbirds, and you can attract mockingbirds by placing a birdfeeder filled with seed in your backyard. Baby birds, called chicks, eat food regurgitated (swallowed and then brought back up) from its mother's mouth.

Mockingbirds make nests and lay eggs that look like this.
Mockingbird Eggs and Nest

The way chicks become independent is very interesting. Females build the nest, lay a set of eggs (called a brood), and incubate the eggs (keep them warm). It takes about 12 days for the eggs to hatch, but the babies don't stick around very long--they're ready to learn to fly in as few as 12 days.

That's because mother and father birds have a hard time keeping all their babies fed, and so chicks are motivated to learn to fly and leave their nests as soon as possible to get all the food they need. Once the chicks are ready to learn to fly, the father will stick around to teach them, while the mother birds goes and prepares a new nest for her next brood. A female bird can have between 2 and 4 broods each year.

Where Can I Find Mockingbirds?

Mockingbirds can survive in a great range of habitats in North America. You can find mockingbirds thriving in farmlands, cities, suburbs, deserts, and thickets. Some mockingbirds will migrate after breeding, but most mockingbirds will stay in one habitat year-round.

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