Northern Mockingbird (Mimus polyglottos)

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The Northern Mockingbird (Mimus polyglottos) is a songbird that measures nine inches in length, has a gray coloring to its head and upper body parts and a white belly. It has a long black tail that has white feathers to the outside, a white patch on its wings that is clearly seen during flight and white plumage on its wing bars. The Northern Mocking Bird has black legs and a very slender bill. It is generally, naturally, found in Florida, the Gulf Coast and in Texas. Mockingbirds are also found in San Francisco, Oregon, Hawaii, Canada and in the East. Most of these populations have been formed due to the release of caged birds, and due to human destruction of habitat the Mockingbird has found other regions to survive in.

The near extinction of the Northern Mockingbird in areas such as St Louis and Philadelphia was caused by the market for caged Mockingbirds in the 18th and 19th century. These amazing little birds were captured for their vocal talents, and it is now known that the Northern Mockingbird is capable of 200 different songs, sounds and noises. It can mimic other birds, make amphibian sounds and even copy the noises that are made by insects. The Northern Mockingbird is also known as the American Nightingale. The diet of the Northern Mockingbird can vary with the seasons but generally incorporates wild fruits such as prickly pears, blackberries, holly, poison ivy and pokeberry. They will also live close to cultivated areas to feed on grapes and other fruits that are farmed. Mockingbirds will feed on arthropods and insects through the year, but favor these food sources mostly during breeding season.

Northern Mockingbirds mate for life, but on the odd occasion they will separate during the winter months to establish a winter territory. Territories are established surrounding a food source or for breeding. Both the male and female will viciously defend their territories, as they need to protect themselves from other birds that also feed on fruit. During breeding season, these little songbirds show no fear, and will dive at any intruders, animal or human.

Northern Mockingbirds can be heard singing throughout the day and most of the year. Single males are known to sing into the night, and males tend to sing louder than the females, with the females only singing loudly when the male has left the territory. In breeding season, nests are constructed from roots, grasses, leaves and twigs, and are built in trees or shrubs. The female can lay two to six eggs that are white in color and speckled with reddish brown. The incubation period of twelve to thirteen days is attended to by the female, after which both parents will attend to the feeding of the hatched chicks. Northern Mockingbird chicks are ready to fledge the nest within twelve days.

Florida Scrub-jay (Aphelocoma coerulescens)

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The Florida scrub-jay (Aphelocoma coerulescens) is 10 to 12 inches long and weighs only two and half ounces. It is the size of a mockingbird and it is a blue and grey colored bird. The back and the belly of the scrub-jay is a pale grey in contrast to the pale blue found on the head, neck, nape and tail. The Florida scrub-jay is similar in appearance to the common blue jay, but does not have a crest, black bars and white tipped feathers.

There is little difference between the male and female scrub-jay. The only difference between the juveniles and the adults is that the juveniles lack the blue coloring on their crown and nape. To date the oldest reported scrub-jay is 15 and half years, but it is not often that they live that long.

As indicated by the name of the Florida scrub-jay, it can be found only in peninsular Florida; although historically the scrub-jay could be found in over 39 counties south of and including, Gilchrist, Levy, Clay, Alachua and Duval. They are now officially extinct in 9 of these counties, which includes Alachua, Dade, Gilchrist, Broward, Clay, Duval, St. Johns and Hendry Pinellas Counties. Over the last 15 years it has been estimated that the scrub-jay population has decreased by 25 to 50% but has declined as much as 80% in the last 100 years.

The Florida scrub-jay’s habitat is scrub, a unique vegetation community that is made up of plants that exist well in sandy, nutrient poor soil with a good drainage system. This vegetation is dependant on wildfires that periodically take place and can take both long periods of drought and high seasonal rainfall. You can also find a variety of oaks and pines in this vegetation, which the scrub-jays enjoy.

Florida Scrub-jays are territorial birds and so will defend their territory, which averages about 23 acres in size. Their territory will grow in size if either their family size grows or the habitat they live in is not optimal. They are therefore non-migratory birds unlike so many others.

These birds are omnivores, often eating insects, reptiles, frogs, acorns, seeds and berries. Of these it is the insects that make up the majority of the scrub-jays diet in spring and summer. Then in winter when insects are hard to come by, the birds will eat mostly acorns from a variety of oak trees.