Mocking Bullies

You know the Mockingbird – a largish gray bird with flashy white wing bars and white on the sides of a long tail. It’s best known for its ability to mock or imitate just about anything, repeating a phrase 3 or 4 times before moving on the next birdsong. They have even been reported as mimicking the ring of a cell phone!

And they will go on and on into the night, or at least the bachelors do. As soon as he wins a mate, she will put an end to those rowdy night-long parties.

Mockingbirds are very territorial. The male sits as high as he can in his territory and sings loudly to tell all other male mockingbirds to scram – this territory is taken. If some bird doesn’t get the message, he will chase the intruder around until it leaves.

Once a Mockingbird claims a feeder, other species will hang back until it leaves. Of course, fledglings still follow their parents around, begging for food.

This morning, as I arrived at the Nature Preserve, I heard lots of racket in the picnic tree by the Field House. Mockingbirds were shouting and dashing in and out of the tree. In a few minutes, I found the source of their disturbance – Adell, our Red Shouldered Hawk. Mockingbirds are notorious for “mobbing” hawks. That is, they chase and bully the larger bird without mercy. Are they defending their nests? Some think so, but these hawks don’t hunt birds as their first choice in prey. I think Mockingbirds are just feathered bullies.

Every time Adell and her mate moved, several Mockingbirds followed them, calling loudly. Now I ask you, how is a self-respecting hawk supposed to sneak up on a mouse in the grass with all that noise going on? Do you think the Mockingbird is really trying to protect the mice these birds normally eat? If this were a Peregrine Falcon, which does hunt birds, they would stay clear, knowing the Falcon would have them for dinner in an instant.

Naturally yours,