I cannot remember a time when my wife and I have not hosted mockingbirds in our yard. During this time, we have learned mockingbirds dine on a wide variety of foods. In fact, after watching these fascinating birds for more than four decades, we thought we had a pretty good understanding of what mockingbirds will and will not eat.
Each spring we compete with these vocal birds for blueberries. Later in the year, we always enjoy watching them defend our berry-laden dogwood trees, refusing to allow other birds to feed on the trees’ shiny red berries. We have observed them feast on pokeberries as well as the berries of the American beautyberry. We have also seen them devour all kinds of insects, earthworms and even a small lizard or two. Much to our chagrin, they seem to relish plucking black swallowtail caterpillars from bronze fennel plants.
In winter, we have watched them dining on slices of apples and oranges. They also seem to eat more than their share of suet laced with peanuts and peanut butter. While we frequently see mockingbird land on seed feeders, never had we seen one eat a single seed at these feeding stations. That all changed earlier this week when I watched a mockingbird feed on white millet for several minutes. This particular bird landed on a platform feeder filled with white millet seed. Upon landing, it began feeding by thrusting its bill forward scooping up several seeds at a time. Time after time, it repeated the process until it suddenly flew away.
If it is indeed true that mockingbirds rarely eat white millet seed at backyard feeders, I cannot help but wonder why this bird chose to partake in the shiny, round seeds. It will be interesting to see if the bird returns to dine on millet again. If not, perhaps this adventuresome mocker quickly learned why generations of its kin chose to ignore this common backyard bird food.