The New International Encyclopædia/Mocking-bird

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MOCKING-BIRD (Mimus polyglottos) . The most famous, if not the sweetest and most beautiful, of American songsters. It receives its popular name from its extraordinary powers of vocal imitation. It is often called ‘mocking-thrush,’ and was formerly considered a peculiarly modified thrush, but now, with its near relatives the catbird and brown thrasher, it is olassified very near the wrens. The genus Mimus is characterized by the elongate form, long tail, short wings, and straight bill, much shorter than the head, notched near the tip, and whiteness of the plumage on the inferior surface of the body. The mocking-bird is about ten or eleven inches long, the tail being nearly one-half the total length. The upper parts are ashy-gray; the wings and tail are nearly black, extensively marked with white; under parts grayish-white. The bird is very common in the South Atlantic and Gulf States, and in summer ranges as far north as Massachusetts and westward to the Pacific coast. The nest is built in bushes and low trees. It is made of twigs, leaves, weed-stalks, and grasses, lined with rootlets, cotton, etc. The eggs are four to six in number, pale greenish-blue, heavily spotted and blotched, especially near the larger end, with bright brown. Two and sometimes three broods are reared in the season, which begins early in the spring and lasts until the end of the summer. During the spring and early summer the birds sing all day and even all night, and in many localities the air rings with their music. Their native song is extraordinarily beautiful, but it has in addition the power of reproducing the songs of other birds with such accuracy as to deceive even the imitated birds. There is, however, very great individual difference in this power, for while some birds seem seldom to attempt any mimicry, others are constantly imitating the sounds which they hear.

When taken from the nest, young mocking-birds readily become accustomed to cage life, and may live for many years. They are easily taught and often improve greatly with careful training. The food of the mocking-bird is largely composed of insects and berries or seeds. An inhabitant of gardens and roadsides, fond of human habitations, and seldom seen in the woods, the mocking-bird is often found in villages and even in the streets of large towns.

Besides the common mocking-bird, more than a dozen other species of Mimus occur in the West Indies, Mexico, Central and South America. The ‘mountain mockingbird’ (Oroscoptes montanus) of the Western United States is a much smaller and quite different bird, and not especially notable as a songster. See Colored Plate of Song-Birds with Thrush.