Sunday, December 11, 2011

Winter Mockingbirds

In June I wrote about a mockingbird that sang in my garden. You can see that story by clicking here. That bird was impossible to ignore as he persistently delivered loud and varied songs from a regular round of perches on each of the garden lights, a fence post, a conspicuous branch, and the antenna on top of the building. The high perches gave the singer a good view of this garden territory.

He sang in the shadow of the Brooklyn Queens Expressway, competing with its constant and equally vigorous chorus of traffic noise. He and his mate raised one chick that I got a glimpse of, and maybe more that I did not see.
The northern mockingbird is a medium sized, pale grey bird, eight to ten inches long, whitish below, with a thin black bill and two wide white wing bars across each wing that flash when the bird flies. 

Today I watched an adult mockingbird move warily through the red-berried broadleaf evergreen shrub outside my window. The bird moved silently. Mockingbirds are still here, but they are not singing. They're in winter mode. Mockingbirds don't migrate; they will stay put through cold winters as far north as southern Canada.

Instead of stalking the earthworms and insects of summer, they have switched to eating dried fruits and berries. Ornamental shrubs, especially multiflora rose, provide winter fruit for them too. The birds are possessive about their shrubs. Mockingbirds are among the few birds that defend a winter territory, sometimes as a couple. Like defending a breeding territory in spring, they defend their food in winter, chasing away robins, jays, and anyone else who covets winter fruit. My condo building's garden seems to be a good spot for mockingbirds year round.

If you are giving out birdseed this winter, consider adding a few grapes and an occasional opened pomegranate for the mockingbirds -- for the sake of summer songs that can be heard above New York City traffic.


  1. On your advice, we've hung the half a dried out old pomegranate from the veggie drawer out in the garden... Strategically placed in mockingbird's favorite (currently bare) elderberry bush. Thanks for the tip!

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  3. Zoe,

    That's great! I'm sure it will be appreciated. I bet the cardinals and robins will be interested in it too. I have a huge pomegranate that I'm going to split with the birds this weekend after I eat my half. -- Julie

  4. After seeing them (or more often hearing them!) in my neighborhood near Red Hook all throughout the summer, when I no longer heard them I thought that they had moved on along with the many other birds that take off for the winter. That was until I saw a pair fighting mid-air just a few feet in front of me right over a BQE overpass the other day. It was quite entertaining for me, but I hope they worked it out :)

    I'll have to try the pomegranates to lure them into my garden. Just have to figure out how to keep the squirrels away from them....


  5. Ania, Yep, when they stop singing it seems like they have disappeared, but they are still here. I see one quietly breakfasting on pomegranate outside my window these January mornings.