13 Jul 2012

Creature Feature: Tropical Mockingbird (Mimus gilvus)

Creature Feature, News of Asa Wright, Tropical Nature News

Tropical Mockingbird photo by Mark Hedden/Caligo Ventures

 

The Tropical Mocking bird is a member of the Mimidae family, Mockingbirds and Thrashers, which are restricted to the New World. Although it is indeed a mockingbird it is not known to do what you would expect: mimic the calls of other species, but it shares other features of the same family.

The talented singer has quite a musical repertoire, which is unique to its species. The enthusiastic and oft repeated melodic phrases are sometimes likened to certain human phrases. The interpretations of these songs are as varied as the places in which the bird is found: southern Mexico to northern South America to the Lesser Antilles. Apart from whistling a tune, the Mockingbird can cluck and wheeze.

This graceful bird, just about ten inches, yellow eyes, black bill, white eyestripes and ashen plumage (grey upperparts and whitish underparts), will aggressively defend its territory, having the impudence to chase off larger birds and lizards. It forages near or on the ground, runs swiftly, and stops suddenly with its tail pointed up.

The Tropical Mockingbird eats insects, small vertebrates and likes fruits as much as you and I do. It makes a bowl-shaped nest out of twigs and normally lays two to three pale blue green eggs with brown spots. In Trinidad, breeding has been recorded in all months except August and December.

If you live in the suburbs, its delightful song will make you look up to a telephone line or fruit tree where you’ll see the Mockingbird perched.

– J.L. Ryan

References:

  • Hilty, Steven L. Birds of Venezuela 2003.
  • ffrench, Richard. Birds of Trinidad and Tobago. 1991
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