What is the State Bird of Mississippi? (And Why?)

Mississippi is the 32nd largest state in the US by area, and the 35th most populous. It's famous for the Mississippi River and is geographically mainly a mixture of low hills and lowland plains. The state animal for Mississippi is the White-tailed Deer, but what is the state bird?

The state of Mississippi chose the Northern mockingbird (Mimus Polyglottos) as the state bird. Mississippi made it its state bird on February 23, 1944. This long-legged, medium-sized bird with a long tail needs no encouragement to perform its birdsongs. This bird tends to settle in southern states during winter, but those that live in Mississippi typically do so year-round.

The state bird of Mississippi, the Northern Mockingbird

The state bird of Mississippi, the Northern Mockingbird

Why is the Northern Mockingbird the state bird for Mississippi?

Mississippians chose the songbird in a state bird campaign conducted by the Women’s Federated Clubs of Mississippi in the early 1940s. The state’s residents chose the bird and its legislature introduced legislation in the spring of 1944. One of the great entertainers, this avian sings day and night for the state’s residents.

When did the Northern Mockingbird become the state bird for Mississippi?

The legislature adopted the resolution naming the bird Mississippi’s official state bird and it became law on February 23, 1944. Senate Concurrent Resolution No. 3 declared the bird the official state avian.

Northern Mockingbird in full song

Northern Mockingbird in full song

What does the state bird of Mississippi look like?

Females of the Northern mockingbird are smaller than the males of its species. Both genders resemble each other otherwise with a grey chest and upper area and contrasting but complementary light gray or white color on their stomach areas. The bills of these birds feature brown at the base and black all over.

Although long and with a wide wingspan, these birds weigh little. They typically grow to between 1.75 ounces in weight. Mississippi’s Northern mockingbird typically measures 10 inches from its head to tail with a wingspan of 14 inches.

Because living in captivity shortens their lifespan remarkably, the US made it illegal to keep a mockingbird as a pet. Living in the wild, a mockingbird can live 80 years, but in captivity, they can only live one-quarter of that time. Title 16 of the US Code, sections 703 and 707a, make it a crime to “pursue, hunt, take, capture, kill, attempt to take, capture or kill, possess… at any time, or in any manner, any migratory bird… or any part, nest, or egg of any such bird.”

Northern Mockingbird perched on a tree

Northern Mockingbird perched on a tree

How do these birds behave?

People misunderstand the mockingbird’s songs. Typically, when surveyed, people think that the bird only copies others’ songs, but in reality, only ten percent of their repertoire. While a mockingbird can mimic the songs of other birds, the intelligent bird also composes original music. Since the average mockingbird performs more than 200 melodies, which means about 20 of its setlist come from other birds, but the other 180, the bird wrote, so to speak. These studious avians also understand other animals, including dogs, and human music, including musical instruments such as the piano. The bird can also urban noises like sirens and gates. The mockingbird decides whether to make up a song based on the sound by repeating the sound a few times. If, after imitating it, the sound resounds with the bird, they’ll write an original melody based upon it.

Unlike many birds who sing in the early morning, the mockingbird keeps company with night owls. The mockingbird sings during the night. During springtime, the birds favor putting on concerts in the moonlight.

You won’t hear the same mix from a mockingbird either. These birds string together a different playlist each day. This medley might include only part or all of its repertoire. You could mistake the mockingbird’s song for another bird if you can’t see it performing. Since each bird composes its own songs, every bird’s medley differs.

Mockingbirds date. They meet potential mates by singing. They date a few different birds until they meet the right one, then the birds choose a partner. You could think of it as marriage because this animal remains mated for life and monogamous. Together, they build a nest of twigs, grass, sticks, and leaves. Once they’ve built their home, the birds breed. They raise their baby birds to follow the same patterns. In Mississippi, a breeding territory consists of only one breeding pair of these birds per 20 acres.

A pair of Northern Mockingbirds fighting over territory

A pair of Northern Mockingbirds fighting over territory

Do Northern mockingbirds form communities?

Mockingbirds consider their nest their territory and they’re hugely territorial. They protect their nests by swooping down to attack or at least chase off any predator. These birds view humans and their pets as predators. Mockingbirds will attack animals much larger than themselves, including dogs and cats. As long as you keep away from their nest, you won’t have problems. Just enjoy their songs from afar. A mockingbird remembers both humans and animals it sees. Don’t anger one or you’ll make an enemy for life.

While some of these birds reside in Mississippi full time, others frequent Mexico or Canada. Mockingbirds typically favor a beach or ocean setting but in Mississippi, you can also find them happily live in a landlocked environment. These birds also live in Great Britain, another natural habitat for them. Look for them in open areas in the city or in rural environments. You won’t find them in the forest. The preference of the Northern mockingbird is to live the entire year in the same habitat, so if the area remains warm, they won’t fly further south.

Their young reach sexual maturity at the age of one. When this occurs, they find a mate and begin mating. These birds nest twice per year, sometimes more often than that if the condition suits them.

Northern Mockingbird eating berries from a bush

Northern Mockingbird eating berries from a bush

What do Northern Mockingbirds eat in Mississippi?

Mississippi’s northern mockingbirds like beetles, ants, wasps, and grasshoppers. Although this bird lives in many states, its diet varies by location and season. These birds also eat berries and love loose suet, if you want to draw it your yard. Mississippi’s mockingbirds dislike hanging suet, but they dig into the loose suet.

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