Northern Mockingbirds Found In Snowy Southern Ontario

While I enjoy watching winter ducks and the small birds that only flock south to visit us when there’s snow on the ground, I’m always interested in birds that aren’t common in my immediate area. So this February, I went in search of Northern Mockingbirds and found not one but two despite the snow here in southern Ontario.

Photo of Northern Mockingbird Right Profile on NaturalCrooksDotCom

The Silence of the Mockingbirds

According to the Cornell University website Northern Mockingbirds “sing almost endlessly.”  I guess that’s birds that aren’t freezing their tail feathers off as neither of the two I spent time with recently emitted even the faintest “cheep.”

Photo of Northern Mockingbird One Leg Pose Shadows25 on NaturalCrooksDotCom

What Do Mockingbirds Eat Especially In Winter?

Photo of Northern Mockingbird ShortTailed on NaturalCrooksDotCom
Mockingbirds are noted for their long tails but if you see one in a pose like this you might not agree.

Like many birds, Mockingbirds eat insects in summer and fruit in winter. So when I was looking for them this winter, I paid more attention in places with rose bushes and small decorative crabapples than in open wind-swept fields of dry grasses and in the spruce and maple forests.

Photo of Northern Mockingbird on Spruce On NaturalCrooksDotCom
OK, this one was perched on a spruce but only briefly.

Both of the birds I found were near Multiflora Rose bushes still covered in small red fruit. My two Mockingbirds were not unique for eating the hips off the rose bushes: the AllAboutBirds website says they eat many fruits in the colder months “as well as fruits from multiflora rose.”

Photo of Northern Mockingbird Eating Multiflora Rosehip Shadows 25 on NaturalCrooksDotCom
It’s hard to see but this Mockingbird is actually plucking a rose hip off the bush.

In the summer, I would expect to see them just about anywhere as they eat worms, caterpillars, bees, moths, beetles and just about anything else small that moves!

Are Mockingbirds Common in Ontario?

Photo of Northern Mockingbird Gape on NaturalCrooksDotCom
The shape of the bill is a bit unusual as you can see in this out-of-focus shot.

Like many southern birds that are expanding north, Northern Mockingbirds are “locally” common. Like the Northern Cardinals who moved into southern Ontario a few decades ahead of them, the Mockingbirds first move into an area as an unexpected surprise but if they experience breeding success become a regular year-round resident of their new neighbourhood.

In general, Mockingbirds don’t migrate south for the winter. So like Cardinals, Tufted Titmice, Carolina Wrens and other southern birds that now make Ontario their home, Northern Mockingbirds are limited in how far north they can establish themselves.

Photo of Northern Mockingbird Through Multiflora Rose on NaturalCrooksDotCom
The eye is quite noticeably bright and looks red, yellow, orange or even greenish depending on the lighting.

In a mild winter, like this one (so far) in 2015-2016, mortality will usually be low. In a winter with weeks of -20C weather punctuated with fruit-hiding ice storms, the mortality rate will be much higher. Unlike Black-capped Chickadees, Dark-eyed Juncos and Gray Jays which have developed strategies to deal with cold weather, Mockingbirds don’t have techniques to cope. If there are enough “warm” winters in a row, their range grows and more people get to enjoy these new neighbours.

Photo of Northern Mockingbird Front Only Shadows25 on NaturalCrooksDotCom
From the front, Mockingbirds are very plainly coloured.

While I’ve seen Mockingbirds several times in the Toronto to Hamilton area, I still enjoy each sighting. I’m sure some Birders in the US would find it quite amusing that I had to “stalk” these birds to get photos: to them, it would be like having to “stalk” a backyard Robin. That’s one of the amusing quirks of bird watching.

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Join In
Have Northern Mockingbirds made it to your neighbourhood yet? Does the steady singing of the males disturb your sleep? Please share your experiences with a comment.

10 thoughts on “Northern Mockingbirds Found In Snowy Southern Ontario

  1. my husband and I saw a northern mockingbird in our backyard this morning. we have quite a few bushes that contain red berries as well as a few rose bushes, so I guess that’s what attracted it. we were quite excited to see it. We live in Welland.

  2. Just saw one today in a stand of sumac trees in Meadowvale (North Mississauga) along with a flock of about 30 Robins

  3. There is one the past week or so in Riverside Park here in Guelph.
    Got out and saw it yesterday.

  4. I believe I have one cheerily going through a seemingly endless repertoire here near Penetanguishene . Trying to get a decent photo but it’s staying up high in the maples.

    • That’s a bit out of their usual range but anything is possible especially since they are trying to expand northwards. Some others to consider are Brown Thrashers which are great mimics and known to be in your area right now, Catbirds and European Starlings. Catbirds are also good singers and have dull grey colouring. I hope the singing isn’t waking you up too early and thanks for sharing your sighting!

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