What is the State Bird of Texas? (And The Story Behind It)

Each state in the US has their own bird, each bird has a story behind why it became the state bird symbol. Texas is the second-largest state by area and population in the US, the longhorn, armadillo and Mexican free-tailed bat are all animal symbols of this state, but what is the state bird of texas?

The state of Texas chose the Northern mockingbird (Mimus Polyglottos) as the state bird in 1927. The medium-sized bird with long legs and tail showed love for the state of Texas and the state returned the feeling.

Continue reading to find out why and when the Northern Mockingbird became the state bird for Texas.

The state bird of Texas, the Northern Mockingbird

The state bird of Texas, the Northern Mockingbird

Why is the Northern mockingbird the state bird for Texas?

Texas recognized the loyalty of its state bird because throughout its extremely hot summers and freezing cold winters, it remained steadfast. The Northern mockingbird did not, nor does it today, migrate south for winter. It resides in Texas all the year round. As Senate Concurrent Resolution No. 8, 40th Legislature, the legislation naming it the state bird, notes, the bird remains protective of its territory “like any true Texan.”

When did the Northern mockingbird become the state bird for Texas?

People in the state noticed the bird in its open areas, which the bird prefers. The second largest US state by area and population, although Texas became a state on December 29, 1845, it waited to designate state symbols. It shares the northern mockingbird as a state bird with Arkansas, Florida, Mississippi, and Tennessee.

The legislation making it official occurred in 1927, but respect for the bird developed in the state long before that. In 1855, musician Richard Milburn composed the song “Listen to the Mockingbird.” Lobbying began in 1920 to name the bird the state bird. The push began with the Texas Federation of Women’s Club, who recommended the Northern mockingbird to the Texas State legislature. The women noted that the bird fought to protect its home and its fierceness made it like human Texans. Governor Dan Moody approved the legislation naming the mockingbird the state bird on January 31, 1927. This made Texas the first state to name a state bird.

Northern Mockingbird captured in Southern Texas

Northern Mockingbird captured in Southern Texas

What does the Texas state bird look like?

Males of the northern mockingbird grow a little larger than females, but not much. Otherwise, the two genders of the bird resemble each other physically. The bird’s chest and upper area appear grey, but their stomach appears white or light grey. Typically, these birds have a black bill featuring a brown shade at the base.

From head to tail, the Northern mockingbird measures eight to 11 inches. Its wingspan ranges from 12 to 15 inches. These little birds don’t weigh much – only 1.4 ounces to 2.0 ounces.

These birds can live in captivity or in the wild, but their lifespan in the wild lasts much longer. As a pet, the mockingbird can live 20 years, but in the wild that lifespan quadruples to 80 years.

Knowing that fact about the lifespan of the birds, the US legislature made it a crime to capture or make a pet of a Northern mockingbird. 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.”

How do these birds behave?

Mockingbirds draw their name from their song mimicry. A mockingbird can mimic other birdsongs. These talented creatures can also compose music. The typical mockingbird knows more than 200 melodies, some from other birds, others that are original compositions. They do not only repeat the songs of other birds. They also understand human music, including piano, other animals, such as dogs, and urban noises, such as gates and sirens. The birds will hear these items and try them out, typically repeating the sound two or three times quickly to create an original melody. So much for the old idiom of bird brains meaning dumb, because these birds rival Mozart or Bach in creativity.

While most people think of birds as singing in the morning, the mockingbird keeps a schedule similar to an Austin musician performing on Sixth Street. The mockingbird sings overnight. Its favorite nighttime performances occur during springtime in the moonlight.

Mockingbirds don’t sing the same song again and again. They perform a medley. The bird might perform its entire repertoire in one day, so you would hear 200 different songs. If you can’t see the bird performing for you, you might mistake this talented bird for being many different avian species. Instead, one bird performs all day. This bird sings a medley that is so well mixed that it comes off like a Spotify playlist with the crossfade turned on. Each bird comes up with its own medley, so no two Northern mockingbirds sing all the same songs.

Mated birds perform less often since these mockingbirds use their birdsongs to attract their mates. A bird who hasn’t “married” yet sings more often to attract potential mates. That’s plural because mockingbirds “date.” Once they find their mate though, the mockingbird marries for life. These monogamous couples build a nest of grass, twigs, leaves, and sticks, then breed. Their children grow up and follow the same pattern.

Northern Mockingbird

Northern Mockingbird

Do Northern mockingbirds form communities?

Mockingbirds live a protective and fiercely territorial life. You should not approach their nests nor allow your pets to do so. They will swoop down to attack or chase away any predator that approaches. These fearless birds will attack dogs, cats, dogs, or any predator that dares to come too near to their territory or nest. You should simply enjoy them from afar. Mockingbirds will remember you and can recognize both specific humans and animals. If you anger the bird, you make a lifelong enemy. It will show that it feels threatened every time you approach it and dive-bomb you, as documented in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

You could also live in Texas but spot the Northern mockingbird on vacation in Mexico or Canada. They typically enjoy living in a maritime setting because birds like the beach, too. Those birds do travel south for winter, especially those that reside in the provinces of Canada. You might also spot these birds in Great Britain, Hawaii, and southern Alaska. They tend to like any open area featuring sparse vegetation. Open areas don’t mean rural areas. These birds live in cities, too. You’ll see them in parks and gardens. They abhor the forest and completely avoid it. While those living in cold weather areas like Alaska and Canada do fly south for the winter, the birds residing in Texas stay in Texas. The preference of the Northern mockingbird is to live the entire year in the same habitat.

Northern Mockingbird eating a berry

Northern Mockingbird eating a berry

What do Northern mockingbirds eat?

This depends on the location and the season of the year, but they typically like the same categories of food. Fruit and seeds factor strongly in the diet of a mockingbird, while berries and small insects round it out. The mockingbird is a carnivore. It eats moths, earthworms, and beetles.

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