In 1927, the mockingbird was named the state bird of Florida by the state's Senate. When adopting the resolution making the mockingbird the state bird of Florida, the Senate singled out the mockingbird’s charm and the delight that it has given to residents since the days of pioneers. The mockingbird also is the state bird of Texas, Tennessee, Mississippi and Arkansas. Interestingly, because the mockingbird was proclaimed the state bird of Florida by resolution, its status is not actually written into Florida law.
The mockingbird, properly known as the northern mockingbird, is a songbird of medium size that belongs to the same family of birds as catbirds and thrashers. In appearance, mockingbirds are slender, somewhat tall, mostly gray birds with flashes of white on their wings and long tails. Fully grown mockingbirds range from 8.3-10.2 inches (21-26 cm) in length, have a wingspan of about 12.2-13.8 inches (31-35 cm) and weigh 1.6-2.0 ounces (45-57 g). Females and males resemble each other in appearance, with no dramatic differences in either color or size. Birdwatchers will be able to tell young mockingbirds by the spots, or mottling, on their chests.
By far, the most distinguishing characteristic of the mockingbird is its song and vocalizations. These birds are regarded as one of the loudest and most continuously vocal of all species of birds. Its scientific name of Mimus polyglottos means “mimic of many tongues” in Greek. In addition to its song, the mockingbird has a variety of calls and can mimic not only other birds’ calls but other animals, insects, amphibians, machinery and even police sirens.
These birds sing and call almost endlessly year-round, throughout the day and frequently into the night hours. Nighttime singing happens more often during a full moon and is mostly done by males that do not have mates. Scientists estimate that a male might learn about 200 songs during his lifetime. Female mockingbirds also sing but do so more quietly and less often than the males. A female is more likely to sing in the fall when she is establishing her winter territory.
As the state bird of Florida, mockingbirds can be found throughout the entire state. Geographically, these birds are widely distributed outside of the state as well. Mockingbirds can be found throughout the continental United States, in Mexico and on Cuba and other Caribbean islands. Their range extends as far north as Newfoundland in Canada.