Our Pushy State Bird,

The North American mockingbird is described as a very territorial bird, and that is evident, as the critter has claimed the title of “State Bird,” not only in Mississippi, but in Arkansas, Florida, Tennessee, and Texas. The mockingbird was selected as Mississippi’s official state bird by the Women’s Federated Clubs and by the State Legislature in 1944.

Though most mockingbirds are found from Florida to central Texas, they are known to journey as far north as Southern Canada and as far south as Oaxaca and Veracruz, Mexico. These pushy birds have even been introduced and established in Hawaii.

Once the mockingbird has chosen his or her own favorite spot—and the girl birds are as aggressive as the boys—they will not abide an interloper, and will swoop down on cats and people. Once, while I was walking into a bank, I noticed children in the back of a pickup truck, watching me, and giggling. In the time it took me to look down and check that I was properly buttoned up, something whacked me in the back of the head. A mockingbird had spotted me for an undesirable, shot out of a lygustrum a few feet away, and parted my hair. The kids were howling in the bed of the truck.

It is no surprise that the mockingbird turned up nesting at a bank, as they are commonly found to be city dwellers. They like also open grassy areas and thick, thorny shrubs for nesting.

Mockingbirds are skilled imitators, and can entertain with as many as 200 songs. They add to their repertoire throughout the courses of their lives. They can meow like a cat, bark like a dog, and even produce machinery sounds. Each imitation is repeated a few times in quick sequence.

The mockingbird, scientifically known as Mimes polyglots, wears light gray outer feathers with white underneath. Mimes polyglots is an average sized yard bird with a thin bill, yellow eyes, and displaying no great differences of appearance between male and female. Both male and female mark their territories for fall and winter for food sources. They will defend their homes in pairs, and may mate for life.

According to Tracy at Wild Birds Unlimited, mockingbirds will come to outdoor feeders. The problem sometimes is that they will then claim the feeders as their own and not let other birds share. Tracy tells me that they love mealworms, and that they will also eat crawfish, lizards, small snakes, spiders, snails, and fruits. They will also pick the raisins out of suet. Mockingbirds are applauded for eating pest insects.

From what I’ve read and heard, it seems as if Mississippi has chosen a highly intelligent bird with a strong sense of loyalty to home, to family, to the vocal arts, and to grubs.