Where Do Northern Mockingbirds Nest?

Baby Northern Mockingbirds (Mimus polyglottos) in a nest.
© Microfile.org/Shutterstock.com

Written by Deniz Martinez

Updated: October 11, 2023

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The Northern mockingbird (Mimus polyglottos, meaning “many-tongued mimic”) is a well-known species throughout much of the United States. This popular songbird is also the official bird of five states — Arkansas, Florida, Mississippi, Tennessee, and Texas.

Where Do Northern Mockingbirds Live?

Northern mockingbirds are common throughout much of the Contiguous U.S. and Mexico, as well as the Caribbean. Although less common in the northernmost states, they have been steadily expanding their range northward. They can be increasingly found across the border in the extreme southern regions of Canada as well. While most are year-round residents, some populations in both the northern and southern limits of their breeding range may migrate further south to overwinter.

Northern mockingbirds have also been introduced to Hawaii. They have even been recorded a few times as extremely rare vagrants in Great Britain!

Mockingbird Breeding Season

Northern Mockingbird pair (Mimus polyglottos) perched on a branch against the bright blue sky.

Unlike some other common yard birds, such as northern cardinals, both adult male and female northern mockingbirds display the same basic gray, black, and white plumage pattern.

©Chris Klonowski/Shutterstock.com

Northern mockingbirds are prolific breeders. They actively nest from early spring to later summer and can raise 2 to 3 broods per season. Males first establish territories through competitive boundary dances and will also engage in both ground and air courtship displays to attract females to their territory. Paired mates will then work together to build nests and raise young.

Mockingbird Nests and Eggs

Mockingbird eggs waiting to hatch in the spring.

Northern mockingbird nests are generally started by males and completed by females.

©Ashley0825/Shutterstock.com

Researchers believe the male chooses potential nest sites and may begin building multiple nests before the female chooses one. Males construct most of the outer twig foundation of these open-cup nests. Females then finish the inner lining with softer materials such as leaves, grasses, moss, and, increasingly, artificial materials such as paper, plastics, and other trash. Mockingbirds most commonly build their nests 3-10 feet off the ground in shrubs and trees, though higher nests may occur. They rarely reuse their nests, however, new nests may be built on top of old ones. It can take three days to a week to build a northern mockingbird nest.

Females lay clutches of 2 – 6 eggs (usually 3 – 5). Egg color color varies from pale blue to greenish white with brown or red splotches. Females incubate these eggs for 12 – 13 days and may sing while in their nest.

Mockingbird Parental Care

Mockingbird Mother Giving Insect to Babies

Northern mockingbirds generally feed their chicks a mix of arthropods and fruits, although nestlings in southern Florida are also fed small lizards.

©Tommy Daynjer/Shutterstock.com

While the female continues to do most of the brooding, both parents share feeding and cleaning duties. Both males and females also aggressively defend their nests. These bold birds will regularly attack much larger predators, including swooping at humans who get too close! Furthermore, multiple mockingbird families may band together to drive away a particularly aggressive predator.

Nestlings fledge about 12 – 13 days after hatching. Parents continue to watch over and feed newly fledged birds; often, this duty falls to the male if the female is busy incubating her next clutch.


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About the Author

Deniz Martinez is a writer at A-Z Animals where her primary focus is on biogeography, ornithology, and mammalogy. Deniz has been researching, teaching, and writing about animals for over 10 years and holds both an MS degree from American Public University earned in 2016 and an MA degree from Lindenwood University earned in 2022. A resident of Pennsylvania, Deniz also runs Art History Animalia, a website and associated social media dedicated to investigating intersections of natural history with art & visual culture history via exploring animal iconography.

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