A practical guide to bird watching in Sonoma County, California

(Unless otherwise indicated, all phone numbers are in the 707 area code)


Northern Mockingbird is a fairly common site in suburban and even urban settings. Mockingbirds also favor farmland, orchards, vineyards, woodland edges, and desert. According to Bolander and Parmeter, quoting earlier sources, Northern Mockingbird is a fairly new arrival in the county. The first country record is from 1928. According to the same source, originally a denizen of sagebrush, chaparral, and desert environments that has adapted to and benefited from suburban development. Widespread breeder in the eastern and southern parts of the county. Highly territorial. Sings to claim feeding territories in the fall. Known for displaying its white wing patches and white outermost tail feathers in displays of fluttering and jumping to warn off competitors (for both mates and food) and to startle insect prey. May sing incessantly, stringing together imitations of the songs of various other birds and sometimes mimics human-produced sounds. Known for singing into the night (mostly unmated males in the spring, according to The Birder's Handbook). Almost always solitary.

When perched and sitting still, the long-tailed, short-billed Northern Mockingbird is fairly nondescript--mostly grey with two white wing bars--although the bird is slightly darker above, paler below, and the belly and flanks may be washed with the barest hint of buff. A faint dark eyeline is typical (albeit easy to miss in the field). The wings and tail are darker than the rest of the bird. When the bird flies, however, it's hard to miss: Look for bright white patches in the wings and white outer tail feathers (the latter clearly visible in the photo above). Juveniles are streaked on the throat, breast, and belly.     

Further reading:

Bolander and Parmeter, Birds of Sonoma County California, rev. ed., 2000, p. 98

Brinkley, National Wildlife Federation Field Guide to Birds of North America, 2007, p. 400

Burridge, ed., Sonoma County Breeding Bird Atlas, 1995, pg. 137

Dunn and Alderfer, eds., National Geographic Field Guide to the Birds of North America, 5th ed., 2006, p. 362

Dunn and Alderfer, eds., National Geographic Field Guide to the Birds of North America, 6th ed., 2011, p. 404

Dunne, Pete Dunne’s Essential Field Guide Companion, 2006, pp. 507-508

Ehrlich, Dobkin, and Wheye, The Birder's Handbook, paperback edition, 1988, p. 468

Fix and Bezener, Birds of Northern California, 2000, p. 304

Floyd, Smithsonian Field Guide to the Birds of North America, 2008, p. 365

Kaufman, Field Guide to Birds of North America, 2000, p. 264

Kaufman, Field Guide to Advanced Birding, 2011, pp. 100, 103

Lukas, Bay Area Birds: From Sonoma County to Monterey Bay, 2012, pp. 230-231, 245

Parmeter and Wight, Birds of Sonoma County California, Update (2000-2010), 2012, p. 59

Peterson, Birds of Eastern and Central North America, 5th ed., 2002, p. 248

Peterson, Field Guide to Birds of Western North America, 4th ed., 2010, p. 294

Peterson, Western Birds, 3rd ed., 1990,  p. 270

Sibley, Field Guide to Birds of Western North America,1st ed., 2003, p. 351

Stokes, Stokes Field Guide to the Birds of North America, 1st ed., 2010, p. 570

Vuilleumier, American Museum of Natural History, Birds of North America: Western Region, 2011, p. 316

Voice: Cornell Lab of Ornithology: All About Birds--Northern Mockingbird



© Colin Talcroft, 2009, 2010, 2011, 2012, 2013

Unless noted, all photos by the author. If you would like to use one of my images, please ask for permission for non-commercial use with proper credit or commercial use with proper compensation.


Northern Mockingbird, South Harbor Way, Bodega Bay, December 13, 2011

Northern Mockingbird

Mimus polyglottus

1990-2013 Sonoma County data. Graph provided by eBird (www.ebird.org), generated July 28, 2013

EBird reported occurrence in Sonoma County