In south-central Indiana, where I lived for 31 years, the last 21 of ’em at the same address, northern mockingbirds were a rare but possible winter treat. Spring through fall there, my neighborhood was full of them. I’d walk my dogs for a mile without being out of earshot of a mockingbird. I’m sure there were at least five audible along that route. But in winter, zip. On Christmas Bird Counts in the area, depending upon the weather, we might get a mockingbird or a few, but they weren’t a certainty.
Now, 300 miles east of there, I have a winter resident mockingbird in my yard! I see or hear him (I assume he’s a he) every day. He’s not doing the full-on crazy mockingbird repertoire, but a repeated squawking I learned to ID several years ago, when I happened upon a mocker nest with nestlings ready to fledge. Boy, were they attention-grabbing! I thought a cat must be disturbing a nest and the parents were defending it, but when I peeked behind the leafy branches, I found a nest full of young mockingbirds being themselves: noisy and demanding!
So I was happy to hear that sound again a month or two ago, coming from the holly tree in my backyard. I assumed he would be a brief visitor, but he is apparently here to stay.
About 2 inches of snow fell here overnight, and it was 6 degrees F when I walked my dogs in the dark this morning (with Koko wearing booties she hates). But afterward, as the sky was just starting to brighten and I was filling my bird feeders, I heard a loud squawking from the holly tree. Poor guy. This must be about the limit of his cold tolerance. I threw some dried mealworms and raisins onto the roof of the garden shed next to the holly for him. But why? That tall tree is heavy laden with berries right now, each one packed with carbs to keep a songbird warm, even when it’s frigid outside.
I went on a Christmas Bird Count Saturday, centered in Parkersburg, W.V., and in our small slice of territory, we tallied nine mockingbirds! On January 1, some friends and I undertook a Big Day throughout the Mid-Ohio Valley and found mockingbirds at most of our stops throughout the day—a dozen or so.
Koko, we’re not in Indiana anymore!
About the Author
Dawn Hewitt is the managing editor for Bird Watcher's Digest and Watching Backyard Birds. She has been watching birds since 1978, and wrote a weekly birding column for The Herald Times, a daily newspaper in Bloomington, Indiana, for 11 years.