Mockingbirds belong to the family known as Mimidae – this consists of around 17 species that primarily live in the Americas, with little to no sighting in the rest of the world. As their name suggests, mockingbirds are creatures capable of mimicking advanced vocalizations – copying the sounds of their environment in a somewhat mocking fashion.
These small birds are capable of big things but, you may be wondering, what do they eat?
Well, the short answer is that mockingbirds are omnivorous, meaning their diet typically consists of seeds, fruits, arthropods, insects, and invertebrates, as worms.
The Northern mockingbird’s diet generally consists of approximately 50% meat – which is usually from insects – and 50% plant foods – such as seeds, flowers, and fruits. That said, in the warmer breeding seasons, a Northern mockingbird’s diet will usually consist of 85% insects. However, in the winter, this falls to approximately 15%.
Across the species, seasonal variation is prevalent in the mockingbird’s diet with the insect-rich breeding season taken full advantage of. With this in mind, this article will take a deeper look into the diet of a mockingbird, explaining everything you need to know about these small, yet mighty, birds.
Mockingbirds in the United States
There are 3 native species of Mockingbird found in America. As 2 of them are only vagrant visitors, we will be investigating what the Northern Mockingbird eats.
Northern Mockingbird (Mimus polyglottos)
The Northern Mockingbird can be seen in all states, including Alaska and Hawaii. It inhabits woodland but is also now comfortable in urban areas and is a familiar visitor to backyard bird feeders.
Bahama Mockingbird (Mimus gundlachii)
This Mockingbird is only seen occasionally in Florida, as shown in the range map below.
Blue Mockingbird (Melanotis caerulescens)
Another rare U.S. visitor to south western states.
What do Mockingbirds eat in the wild?
As previously mentioned, mockingbirds are known as omnivores, meaning they eat a variety of arthropods, insects, and a range of invertebrates, too. In addition to this, they also eat flowers, fruits, and seeds.
Although, when it comes down to it, these versatile creatures prefer to snack on arthropods and invertebrates, such as ants, beetles, caterpillars, bees, wasps, cicadas, worms, grasshoppers, and crickets.
On top of this, Northern mockingbirds are also known for their hunting skills, too, being able to hunt down small lizards despite their size.
In addition to all this, the Northern mockingbird is known to feed on a variety of seeds and fruits, as well as flowers, and has even been observed drinking the sap from trees and foraging through bushes, shrubs, trees, and even garden plants, too.
Throughout the year, their diet typically consists of around 50% plant foods and 50% meat – a nice, rounded diet if you ask us.
Although, when it comes to the breeding season, these mockingbirds need all the energy they can get, and thus, will eat more invertebrates and arthropods as opposed to plant foods.
When it comes to the foraging behaviors of these creatures, they can be considered extremely flexible. Plus, mockingbirds are also one of the most agile hunters, too – with the ability to catch fast-flying insects during an aerial pursuit.
Plus, if mockingbirds encounter them, they can never say no to feeding on garden feeders, either. Even though they are territorial feeders, these animals aren’t afraid of venturing into other birds’ territories to eat.
How do Mockingbirds hunt?
As mockingbirds are omnivores, they have to hunt for insects and arthropods to eat. This is generally achieved by hopping, walking, or running on the ground. Once they have spotted prey, they run a short distance and then lunge at them from the floor.
When not on the ground, mockingbirds can catch insects from above, too. For instance, if they are perched on a branch and spot an insect, they will fly down and kill it instantly. From here, they dismember their prey and bring it back to their perch.
When mockingbirds aren’t hunting for insects, they will simply pick off fruits where they are perched or on a nearby shrub or tree.
What do baby Mockingbirds eat?
Otherwise known as chicks, baby mockingbirds are pickier eaters when compared to their adult counterparts. Here, they will often eat softer invertebrates and arthropods, including various larvae, caterpillars, and worms. Indeed, in North America, the beetle larvae account for the majority of their diet. After a few days, the chicks get older, shifting from soft meals towards one including seeds and fruits.
Plus, something that is unique to the mockingbird species – which you don’t usually see with other birds – is that the parents will make efforts to feed their young in equal amounts, regardless of how many chicks are involved.
What do Mockingbirds eat in the winter?
When it comes to mockingbirds, their diets change depending on the season. For instance, in the winter, their diet is particularly disrupted, as such, it usually consists of fruits. Indeed, studies of the Northern mockingbirds have shown that 10% to 15% of their entire winter diet consists of animals, with the rest made up of nutritional foliage, fruits, and seeds.
For mockingbirds found in South America, this seasonal difference is less pronounced, this includes Tropical mockingbirds, Bahama mockingbirds, and Galapagos mockingbirds.
With the colder weather and less abundance of food, this is when mockingbirds come in search of bird feeders to get their nutrition.
What do Mockingbirds eat in the summer?
However, once the winter weather changes and the sun comes out, the mockingbird’s diet changes once again. In the summer months and late spring, they typically eat insects such as earthworms, beetles, ants, moths, butterflies, grasshoppers, bees, and small lizards!
Mockingbirds are small yet mighty creatures. They have the ability to eat a variety of foods, ranging from insects to seeds, which they gain through foraging or hunting.
While they may appear to be innocent birds, when it comes to their food, these birds are lethal. From perching on a branch, they can spot, transfix, and swoop down and kill their prey.
Hopefully, this guide has informed you about the eating habits of mockingbirds.
Mockingbirds love berries. If you want to attract them to your garden, putting out blackberries or elderberries is a great way to get their interest. Plus, you are supporting them during the lean winter months.
No, it is illegal to catch or keep them. Any birds you want to keep as pets must be from a reputable breeder and you should always check if it is legal.
As mockingbirds eat insects and fruits, they will get a lot of their hydration from them. But, they will still need to drink and will seek out sources of water to do so.