How many northern mockingbirds are wintering in your backyard? Believe it or not, whether you have none, one, two, or more is an indication of the quality of the winter bird habitat in your backyard.
Typically, a single mockingbird claims my backyard as its winter residence. However, this year I was pleasantly surprised two mockingbirds have staked out my yard as their personal domain.
Anyone that has watched mockingbirds for any length of time knows mockingbirds are territorial. They definitely do not like to share food with other birds, let alone another mockingbird. As such, unless it is a mate, a mockingbird will quickly try to discourage other mockingbirds that happen to cross over the invisible border that delineates its turf.
Each year with the approach of winter, mockingbirds carefully select their winter homes. Since sixty-five percent of the mockingbird’s winter diet is made up primarily of fruits and berries, the availability of these foods is a primary concern. Consequently, even if mockingbirds nested in your yard the previous summer, if a yard is not blessed with an abundance of winter foods, there is a good chance they will winter elsewhere.
The size of a mockingbird’s winter territory is determined by food abundance. When food is scarce, territories will be larger than in locales where food abounds.
Banding studies have shown when two mockingbirds occupy the same winter territory; invariably they are a male and female. In comparison, if one bird is present it is either a single male or a single female.
I find it satisfying to know that I am hosting a pair of mockingbirds this year. It tells me that my efforts to enhance the wildlife habitat in my yard are paying dividends.
Like most folks when I first tried to attract mockingbirds and other birds to my yard, I tried to do so by putting up a bunch of bird feeders. Nowadays feeders still play a key role in my efforts to attract backyard birds. Currently I am offering mockingbirds such comfort foods as cornbread, suet, grape jelly.
However, over the years, in addition to installing a couple of birdbaths, I have tried to plant or encourage a number of plants that bear fruit and berries throughout the winter. As a result, this winter hungry mockingbirds can also dine on the berries and of greenbrier, flowering dogwood, Callaway crabapple, American holly, persimmon, coral honeysuckle, and red cedar. Before they were gobbled up, early in the winter, mockingbirds were also dining on the berries of American beautyberry, and pokeweed.
If you would like to be the winter host for more than one mockingbird, this winter, begin planting fruits and berries that persist well into winter. Then when you somebody wants to know how many mockingbirds are wintering in your yard, you can proudly say, “TWO!”