Northern Mockingbirds Start a Family

In our backyard!

This is a post I’ve been meaning to write since May. I’ve referenced the event in previous posts, but with more than one thousand photos to review, I’ve been putting it off.

But no longer! 😉

The date was April 27th. Katherine and I have seen Northern Mockingbirds in our yard before. What drew our attention to this one was that it had food in its beak. A moth, in fact. And it wasn’t eating the moth.

The Mockingbird looked around a bit and then…

Northern Mockingbird with Moth.

…it flew underneath and into the arch of Honeysuckle in our yard. We heard a burst of high-pitched “whee, whee, whee!” The Mockingbird then flew away, empty-beaked, even as the begging continued.

Now, Katherine and I looked around to make sure no bird was watching. We casually walked over and looked underneath the arch. Sure enough, a nest was perched atop the metal arch over which the Honeysuckle bush had grown.


We couldn’t see how many babies were in the nest, though it sounded like more than one. Katherine and I were very excited and determined to not scare the Mockingbirds at this delicate stage. We stopped walking under the arch and instead walked around the edge of the garden to get to the lawn.

We Googled Northern Mockingbirds and learned that the “nestling” period is 12-13 days. So, if on April 27th, we have baby birds in the nest, then May 8th would probably be about the time the babies would be fledging.

For the next week, we continued to see the parents bringing food to the babies in the nest.

Northern Mockingbird with berry for babies.

As it got closer to the babies possibly fledging, we began to look around the yard for signs of them. On May 6th, we saw the first baby! It was perched in the Bottlebrush near the back yard. It’s oversized-looking beak made it look cranky! But, it was adorable!

First to fledge! (May 6th)

The beak around which the feathers had not yet grown, the spotted chest and belly and the habit of perching around, staring at the sky were all signs of a juvenile bird that Katherine and I would see in other bird species. (That is not to say that all juvenile birds have these characteristics but we’ve seen several that have all three of these characteristics.)

The next day, I saw one of the babies perched near the top of the Honeysuckle. This one didn’t move around much but kept looking skyward. Soon, its vigilance was rewarded when a parent returned with its meal.

Northern Mockingbird delivering “Meals on Wings” to its baby.
A little protein for a growing Mockingbird.
Northern Mockingbird feeding second baby in Honeysuckle.
“I’m still hungry…okay, I’ll just wait here.”

Fifty-five minutes later, the baby bird is still perched near the top of the Honeysuckle. I watch as it spreads its tiny wings in excitement.

Unfledged baby Northern Mockingbird trying out its wings as it sees a parent approach.

I’m focused on it so I don’t readily see what is causing it so much excitement. However, I should have known…A parent has returned with more food!

And, now. some carbs for the growing baby.
Northern Mockingbird feeding its second (still unfledged) baby. Either that or its giving the baby its first Ear, Nose and Throat exam.

Apparently, the baby was trying to work up its strength. Shortly after the second meal (that I saw…who knows how many the bird ate before I came outside!), the bird jumped to the top of the Honeysuckle and took its first foray into Back Yard! The first leg of its journey took the baby from Honeysuckle to the base of Disc Golf Basket.

Baby Northern Mockingbird looking like a grumpy old man.
Grumpy old man spreading its wings as it prepares for leg #2 of its First Flight.

As I watched — through the viewfinder, of course — the baby bird flew to the grass. Leg #2 of its journey was completed successfully, if not gracefully.

Baby Northern Mockingbird preparing for the third leg of its journey.
Baby Northern Mockingbird on the third leg of its First Flight: from the grass to the Land of Nasturtium.

Two days later, the Mockingbird was still providing for its newly fledged offspring. We had read that the adult may feed its young for up to three weeks after the young have left the nest. This proved to be true.

Northern Mockingbird continues to feed its baby.
Maybe its not thrusting the berry quite so far down the baby’s throat.
“I’ll just wait here, okay?”

A week after the second bird fledged, an adult was still feeding the babies.

The Northern Mockingbird, a diligent and hardworking parent, continues to provide for its young.

Every day, I would take my camera into the backyard and document the baby birds. For the first week or so, I mostly saw the birds in the backyard. I would find them in the different trees and on the power line directly above the trees.

After about a week, I began to find the babies venturing out into the front yard. The photo below was taken May 14th, a week after the second bird fledged. This palm tree is in our neighbor’s front yard.

When not being fed, the young Mockingbird practices Awkward Flying.
Eleven days after fledging, and with the exception of brief trips to Front Yard, this Northern Mockingbird baby still finds itself spending most of its time in Back Yard.

When I started finding the babies across the street, on our neighbor’s roof, or a couple of doors down the street, I knew it was the beginning of the end of a fascinating and fun experience watching the new Northern Mockingbirds grow up.

From the beginning of this experience, I watched as the adult Mockingbirds were quick to drive away any threats. This photo, taken June 8th, shows an example of the fearlessness of the Mockingbird in the face of a much larger bird. (The last time I’d seen one of the babies was May 23rd; however, the Mockingbird may have been defending a territory rather than a specific nest.)

Northern Mockingbird continues to defend its territory from all trespassers, especially this American Crow.

Things we learned during the process of observing the Northern Mockingbirds for two months:

1) People said to us: “Mockingbirds are so noisy.”

Not true for us. A noisy Mockingbird is a single Mockingbird looking to impress. Our Mockingbirds were mated and had no need to sing. They did make little chirping noises to each other when they brought food — especially if they both arrived with food at the same time.

“You go first.”

“Oh, no, you were here first.”

“I insist.”

“Well, if you insist.”

“Wheee! Wheee! Wheee!”

2) People said to us: “Mockingbirds will dive bomb you or your pets if you are near their nest.”

Not true for us or our dogs. We didn’t walk under the arch (or trim it, for that matter, so it became quite overgrown), but otherwise we used our yard as we normally would. The dogs did what they normally do, including walking under the arch, laying in the yard near the arch, etc. The Mockingbirds never appeared bothered by any of that.

3) After watching the parents feed their babies for a week or so, we soon saw other Mockingbird parents in the neighborhood. We would see one with food and watch where it flew. Then we’d hear the “wheee! wheee! wheee!” coming from a tree or a bush. Katherine and I would nod knowingly at one another. People have nests in their yard and have no idea.

We recently saw a Lesser Goldfinch nesting in the front yard, but…they were no fun. They won’t be getting a blog post.

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