What do mockingbirds eat? Northern mockingbirds (Mimus polyglottos) are common backyard birds that are omnivores, meaning they eat a variety of food from both plant and animal sources. Mockingbird food can consist of plant materials such as fruits and berries, or animals like insects and even small lizards. The range of northern mockingbirds includes most of the United States and Mexico, and they live year-round in open areas with shrubby vegetation, according to The Cornell Lab of Ornithology. While it's common to spot a mockingbird singing in a hedgerow or picking berries from a bush, they do not usually visit bird feeders.
Common Mockingbird Food
Northern mockingbirds are omnivores and seasonal opportunistic eaters that tend to consume whatever source of food is readily available in their habitat. When berries are abundant in the fall, they become a main source of mockingbird food. Northern mockingbirds will continue to feast on small fruits that persist on trees and bushes through the winter and will forage for insects on the ground in the spring and summer.
Mockingbirds are adaptable eaters - they are capable of surviving on beetles, earthworms, moths, butterflies, ants, bees, wasps and grasshoppers when there are no berries or fruits in season. These territorial and talkative songbirds can be found living in towns, cities, forests, parks and the edges of woodland.
If you live within their range in most of the United States and Mexico and there are fruits and insects around your home, there are likely northern mockingbirds too!
Behavior of Mockingbirds
Mockingbirds are often heard before they are seen, as they are vocal songbirds that tend to sing all day and into the night. Nondescript in appearance, mockingbirds are about the size of a robin. They are mostly grayish brown, with paler breasts and bellies and white feathers on their wings and tails.
Male and female mockingbirds look alike, but males tend to sing more than females, according to Birds & Blooms. Mockingbirds have their own calls for mating and protecting their nests, and they can also mimic many other songbirds and animals, including frogs, dogs, orioles, hawks and others.
Mockingbirds usually live alone or in pairs. During mating season, northern mockingbirds build nests of twigs, leaves, grasses and debris in trees and shrubs, usually three to ten feet off the ground.
Northern mockingbirds protect their territory fiercely from competing mockingbirds, other types of songbirds, dogs and cats. If a mockingbird likes your yard or neighborhood, it may spend the whole year there. Mockingbirds that migrate may return year after year to the same area.
Attracting Mockingbirds to Your Yard
The best way to attract mockingbirds to your yard is to provide natural sources of food and habitat that they prefer. Ornamental berry bushes like elderberry, blackberry, juniper and pokeweed are preferred food sources for these gregarious birds. Trees like dogwood, mulberries, cherry and crabapples will supply both food and nesting sites for northern mockingbirds.
Suet and feeders filled with mealworms, dried fruits and seeds will also encourage mockingbirds to visit. However, mockingbirds can't hang upside down like woodpeckers and chickadees, so they will perch on top of suet feeders to have a snack.
Keeping a bird bath filled with water for drinking and bathing will attract all types of songbirds, including northern mockingbirds. Once a mockingbird has settled in your area, it may stay all year long. And northern mockingbirds tend to return to their previous nesting areas once they've found a favorable site, so if your winters are cold and the mockingbirds leave for a few months, they are likely to return if your yard continues to provide plenty of food, water and nesting sites.
About the Author
Meg Schader is a freelance writer and copyeditor. She holds a Bachelor of Science in agriculture from Cornell University and a Master of Professional Studies in environmental studies from SUNY College of Environmental Science and Forestry. Along with freelancing, she also runs a small farm with her family in Central New York.