Male mockingbirds are well known for their tuneful nighttime warblings and aggressive behavior towards any unwelcome visitors entering their territory. But is the same true for female Mockingbirds?
Read our guide to female mockingbirds to learn more about whether these behaviors are specific to males, or whether female mockingbirds are just as tuneful (and just as aggressive!)
Northern mockingbird males and females are alike in coloring and markings, and the only ways to tell them apart are by close observation of behavior, particularly during the breeding and nesting periods.
Singing is another giveaway, as male mockingbirds are widely known for their extensive melodic repertoire, while females are generally quieter, and do not sing at night.
Side by side, females are marginally smaller than males, but from a distance, or when observing a lone bird, it is not always possible to distinguish between the sexes on appearance alone.
There is no visual way to tell male and female Northern Mockingbirds apart, instead, observing behavior is one of the best ways
The plumage of female mockingbirds features various shades of gray. Their underparts are a lighter gray, becoming almost white on their chest and face. Their heads and rumps are a darker grayish-brown, darkening to almost black on the edges of the wings and tail.
Their wings feature two parallel white bars that are linked to a distinct patch of white. The edges of these markings can just be seen when the wings are folded.
The female mockingbird’s legs are grayish-green, their eyes are greenish-yellow. Their black bill is straight, with a slight brownish tinge at the base.
Female Mockingbirds have the same plumage as males
Unlike many other bird species, female mockingbirds are actually slightly smaller than their male counterparts, measuring 20.8 to 23.5 cm (8.2 to 9.3 in) in length and weighing about 47 g (1.7 oz). Males can be up to 2 cm (0.8 in) longer and 4 g (0.2 oz) heavier.
Behavior is one key way to tell the difference between male and female mockingbirds. Male mockingbirds exhibit particularly distinctive mating and courtship behaviors, with females taking a more passive, observational role.
Males use plunging flight displays accompanied by loud and boisterous bursts of song. Their energetic courtship flights possibly serve the additional purpose of showing off potential nest sites to impress a potential mate.
The female may fly with the male around the territory, but does not get involved in showy displays of her own.
Male mockingbirds are notoriously territorial, with aggressive and noisy warnings given to any threat to their nest site or young.
Female mockingbirds are also highly territorial and will noisily defend their nest site and territory against other females, while males are usually charged with driving off intruding males.
Mockingbird foraging for food in the park
Mockingbirds are famous for their beautiful and impressive singing talents, with a high-pitched tuneful chorus and the ability to mimic a wide range of other sounds. While the males are credited with the louder, long-lasting musical performances, females also sing, but are notably quieter and less vocal.
Female mockingbirds are more likely to be heard in winter and spring and tend not to sing when males are nearby.
Nest construction is a shared duty, with the male doing the bulk of building work, while the female may assist with material gathering and some weaving of twigs into the cup-shaped nest.
The female mockingbird’s main role during nest building is to watch from a nearby perch and alert when predators approach. A male may prepare three different nest sites at the outset of the breeding season, and these may be used for subsequent broods, or if an initial brood fails.
Once the eggs are laid, incubation is undertaken by the female. While brooding the eggs, the female continues to leave the nest to forage for food on a regular basis. The male does not bring her food during this time, so she remains independent and leaves her eggs unattended for short periods.
After the eggs have hatched, females brood the chicks for at least part of the day for up to 6 days. Both males and females bring food to the nestlings, with the task shared fairly evenly between the sexes.
For fledgling mockingbirds, initial support away from the nest is provided by both the male and female parent. However, soon afterwards, the male may go off the scene for a day or two, while he constructs a new nest for the next brood.
Then the female may depart to concentrate on laying and incubating her subsequent clutch, while the care of fledglings falls to the male until they gain independence up to three weeks later.
Northern Mockingbird in flight
During the incubation stage, female mockingbirds do regularly leave their eggs unattended to forage for food. After the chicks have hatched, females do continue to brood, but will also leave the nest to search for food for herself and her young.
Theoretically, females would be able to raise young alone. However, without the male nearby to warn of threats to the young and nest site, successfully raising young until they reach independence is certainly not a guaranteed prospect.
Female mockingbirds’ feathers are a wide range of shades of gray. They have pale grayish-white chests, a darker gray head and rump, and charcoal gray-black wing edges and tail.
Close up of a Mockingbird with a worm in its beak
Female mockingbirds do call, although they are not as loud or as vocal as their male counterparts. Males are known for their extensive playlist of mimicry and melody, and while females are also capable of singing, they tend to be less likely to show off their skills on such an outlandish scale.
Female mockingbirds do not sing as much as males, but under certain circumstances they are especially vocal, particularly when establishing their own winter territories during the fall. Females also make what is known as a hew call when predators approach their nest.
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