Foam Lake Birding No. 108

No. 108
Our weather patterns down here seem to match those back home. We get extremely warm weather in the low 30sC only to have a cold snap of -2C several days later. It is quite a shock to be wearing shorts and hiding in the shade one day only to have to wear winter clothes and staying indoors the next. A new experience for me is ducking large chunks of ice falling off palm trees. Not only do these icicles make loud noises when they fall on trailer roofs but they dent cars and bruise heads. It is interesting to say the least.
In spite of the strange weather a Northern Mockingbird has claimed our yard for its own. It is very territorial and does not tolerate other birds near the feeders and seems to especially dislike House Sparrows. Not a bad thing. After observing it for several weeks I decided to feature it in this article.
In North America the Mockingbird is the most common member of the family of mimics (mimids) and the one most likely to copy (mimic) the sounds it hears nearby (hence its name). Most often it imitates the sounds of other birds but it has been known to mimic cats, babies crying and even lawn mowers starting up. When it is not mimicking, particularly during breeding season, it is a fine songster in its own right. Perched atop a large bush or small tree it will sing for hours often well into the night much like the robins back home. Its habit of singing in the night has earned it the nickname of Nightbird in some localities.
The Northern Mockingbird gets its “first” name simply because it is the most northerly member of a much larger family of mockingbirds found in the tropics. We in North America refer to it simply as the Mockingbird or the “Mocker”. Except in Mexico it does not have any other mockingbirds in its range. In the US the Mocker is found all along the east coast, most of the lands that drain into the Mississippi and throughout the southwest to the Pacific. It is non migratory and lives only as far north as snow melts shortly after it falls. In Canada it is relatively common only in southern Ontario. Elsewhere, it is a vagrant which has even been seen in Saskatchewan.
The robin-sized Mockingbird is a rather nondescript grey bird with white wing bars and a long tail that it likes to raise when agitated. When it takes flight its large white wing patches literally jump out at an observer providing an excellent field mark. It is one of the few birds that is easier to identify in flight than perched. Males and females are the same.
This week’s picture was taken at Laguna Atascosa near South Padre Island. In this photo it is shown in its typical Mockingbird pose. The profile is such that with a little practice it can be identified just by its shape. For those travelers who visit the US be on the lookout for it.