8 julio, 2024

Mockingbird: characteristics, habitat, reproduction, feeding

He mockingbird (Mimus polyglottos) is a bird that is part of the Mimidae family. The main characteristic of this species is its song, which is made up of a group of syllables and phrases. For its conformation, it takes sounds from the environment that surrounds it, from other birds and from animals of different kinds.

Because of this, each nightingale, as it is also known, creates its own melody. Both the female and the male sing, but in this one it is more noticeable and frequent. Melodies fulfill several functions, one being that of being part of the reproductive process. They are also used when these birds defend their territory.

Mimus polyglottos it is grayish brown on the upper part, while the belly is much lighter, and can be completely white. The juvenile differs from the adult in that it has brown spots and stripes on the breast.

On the other hand, its legs are strong and long. This makes it easier for the bird to move and jump through the undergrowth to catch insects and fruits, which are part of its diet.

This species is distributed in Mexico, the United States and Canada. Its preferred habitats include open areas, scrub, and the edge of forests.

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Mockingbird Characteristics

– Size

The mockingbird is a medium-sized bird, with females being smaller than males. These measure between 22 and 25.5 centimeters in length and have an average weight of 51 grams. As for the females, their body length varies from 20.8 to 23.5 centimeters and their average body mass is 47 grams.

The tail is as long as its body, measuring from 10 to 13.4 centimeters. Regarding the wings, they are short and rounded, with a wingspan that varies from 31 to 38 centimeters.

– Coloring

The upper part is greyish-brown, while the underside is whitish-grey or white. As for the wings, they have black central rectrices and white outer ones, as well as a large white spot. These characteristics make this species distinctive, while in flight.

On the face, the Mimus polyglottos it has a thin dark line that starts at the eye and reaches the beak. The iris can be yellow or yellowish-green, although some may have an orange color. It has a black bill with a slight curvature.

The female has slightly darker tail feathers than the male. In relation to the young, they have dark lines on the dorsal area, as well as brown spots and stripes on the chest. As for its iris, it is grayish green or gray.

– Syrinx

The syrinx constitutes the vocal organ of this species, and of those of its class. It is located at the base of the trachea, before its bifurcation. Because birds lack vocal cords, sounds are produced by vibrations in the walls that form the syrinx.

This species can produce two sounds simultaneously, because the vocal structure is located right in the area where the trachea divides, to form the bronchi.

– Singing

Each mockingbird develops its own song. This is different from those vocalized by the vast majority of other songbirds. He Mimus polyglottos emits a specific configuration of phrases and syllables, while in the rest of the songbirds the songs are short imitated phrases, chained and sung repeatedly.

Furthermore, almost all songbirds learn and memorize the melodies of another bird. However, the mockingbird takes the sounds of the environment. Thus, it includes calls from its conspecifics, from others of its class or from different, non-avian species. These vocalizations are learned, memorized and incorporated into the repertoire of that species.

In this way, the songs are constantly renewed. From one spring season to the next, a male nightingale usually repeats between 35 and 63% of its own songs. Therefore, each season adds new tunes.

This could increase their chance of mating, since the female tends to prefer males with more complex songs.

He Mimus polyglottos May sing year-round, but becomes most vocal during courtship and in fall. In this season, the bird uses its song to establish the territory that it will inhabit during the winter. In the following video you can see a cezontle singing:

particularities

Both sexes produce songs, however, experts point out that those of females are usually less complex. They also point out that the mockingbird song has several components, among which are versatility, the interval of occurrence, and duration.

In addition, between each song, the bird makes a silent pause. This allows differentiating the elements that form it and distinguishing between one vocalization and the other.

Mimetic songs are found at high frequencies, as they possibly better attract females, in the reproductive stage. The vast majority of the time, the mockingbird sings in the morning, starting about half an hour or an hour before sunrise.

However, it can vocalize at night, if it is artificially illuminated or by the light of the full moon.

– Predators

The adult mockingbird is vulnerable to attack and death by other birds, reptiles and some mammals. Thus, among its predators are the great horned owl (Bubo virginianus), the American crow (Corvus brachyrhynchos), the blue jay (Cyanocitta cristata) and some species of squirrels.

A study carried out at the University of Florida indicates that cats are the main predators of the eggs and chicks of the Mimus polyglottos, who live in urban areas.

This finding challenges the assumption that metropolitan areas are a haven for nesting mockingbirds. These birds play an important ecological role, since they fulfill the function of natural pest control agents that affect the plants of these locations.

The results indicate that cats are responsible for more than 70% of the attacks on the mockingbird. After this mammal, the other predators are snakes and American crows.

taxonomy

-Animal Kingdom.

-Subkingdom: Bilateria

-Filum: Chordate.

-Subphylum: Vertebrate.

-Infraphylum: Gnathostomata.

-Superclass: Tetrapoda.

-Class: Birds.

-Order: Passeriformes.

-Family: Mimidae.

-Genre: Mimus.

-Species: Mimus polyglottos.

Subspecies:

Mimus polyglottos polyglottos.

-Mimus polyglottos orpheus.

Habitat and distribution

– Distribution

The mockingbird is distributed throughout North America, living in the United States, Mexico and Canada. In addition, it has been sighted in southeastern Alaska and in Hawaii, where it was introduced in 1920. In the United States, it is abundant in the southern states, especially Texas and southern Florida.

In relation to the range of reproduction, it extends from British Columbia to the marine provinces of Canada. Thus, it mates in almost the entire continental United States, including eastern Nebraska and northern California.

In Canada, it breeds south of Ontario and in the Atlantic provinces. As for Mexico, it breeds east of Oaxaca and in Veracruz.

The nightingale, as this species is also known, resides in its habitat throughout the year. However, during the winter, the birds that inhabit the northern area tend to move further south.

During the 19th century, the mockingbird’s range expanded northward. Thus, it currently occupies the Canadian provinces of Ontario and Nova Scotia. In the United States, it lives in Massachusetts, Arizona, New Mexico, along the California coast, and from Connecticut to Oklahoma.

– Habitat

He Mimus polyglottos prefers forest edges and open areas. It can usually be found in bushy deserts, open areas with scrub, and farmland. In these habitats, it requires tall trees, from where it can defend its territory.

Likewise, it is found in riparian corridors, forest edges and fields covered with vegetation, particularly where thorny plants abound. The range of this species is progressively expanding northward as food sources expand its range.

Also, it lives in urban and suburban areas, such as residential areas, city parks, gardens and on roadsides. This bird has a high affinity for places where there is grass, with shrubs that offer shade and a place to nest.

Mockingbirds found in western regions prefer chaparral and desert scrub. When searching for food they fly to areas with short grass and avoid dense wooded areas to build their nest.

Reproduction

The sexual maturity of this species occurs when it reaches the year of birth. The mockingbird is generally monogamous. The pair stays together during the breeding season, and occasionally for life. However, specialists have reported some cases of polygyny.

Before beginning courtship, the male establishes a territory. He then tries to attract the female, using flight displays and vocalizations, among other behaviors. Thus, he can chase her throughout the territory, while they sing.

Also, it can chase the female through the branches of the trees and among the bushes, showing her the possible nesting sites.

Another way to court the female is when the male flies with a very particular pattern. In it, it moves a few meters in the air and then drops like a parachute, displaying its wing patches. At the same time, he sings and hovers over the entire area, to show the female her territory.

The nest

Both parents are involved in building the nest, which is between one and three meters above the ground. However, the male is the one who does most of the work, while the female perches on the branch of the tree where the nest is, to protect her mate from predators.

Externally, the nest is made of twigs, while internally it is covered with leaves, grass and moss. This is bulky, cup-shaped, and made from small branches, dry leaves, stems, grass, and other organic materials. In the following video you can see the chicks of a mockingbird mother:

nesting

Mating usually occurs during the spring and early summer. After copulation, the female lays 2-6 eggs. These are blue-green in color and may have reddish or brown spots. The female is in charge of incubating them, however, when they hatch, the two parents feed and protect the young.

In a recent research work, it was shown that temperature and food availability affect parental incubation. In this sense, greater access to food gives the female more time to care for the nest.

However, the increase in environmental temperature reduces the time that the female dedicates to incubation, thus increasing the energy cost involved in cooling the eggs that have been exposed to heat.

The babies

The eggs hatch after 11-14 days have elapsed. In the first six days, the hatchlings open their…

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