How to Identify a Mockingbird

Two Methods:Noticing the Bird's AppearanceRecognizing Mockingbird Behaviors

Mockingbirds are a very common type of bird in the southern United States. They get their name due to their habit of imitating other birdsongs and sounds. If you're curious as to whether a bird is a mockingbird, there are several ways you can identify a mockingbird. First, take in the bird's appearance. From there, notice it's behavior and any noises it makes.

Method 1
Noticing the Bird's Appearance

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    Notice the size. If you want to figure out if a bird is a mockingbird, take note of its size first. This can help you determine whether he fits the characteristics of a mockingbird.
    • Male and female mockingbirds are both of similar sizes. However, some males may be slightly larger than females.[1]
    • Mockingbirds should be about the size of an American Robin. It's a fairly average sized bird.[2] Their wingspans are about 12 to 14 inches (30 to 36 cm).[3]
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    Take note of the shape. Once you've observed the bird's size, pay attention to its shape. This can give insight as to whether or not you're looking at a mockingbird.
    • Mockingbirds are thin in appearance with longer tails.[4]
    • A mockingbird will have a somewhat small head. Its beak will be long and curved downward slightly.[5]
    • Mockingbirds have relatively long legs in comparison to most birds.[6]
    • A mockingbird has short, somewhat stubby wings. In flight, the nature of the wings make their tails look even longer.[7]
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    Pay attention to colors. Coloring is one of the best tools you can use to identify a mockingbird. Mockingbirds have specific color patterns on different parts of the body.
    • Overall, mockingbirds are gray-brown in color. Their breasts and bellies tend to be grayer.[8] Their coloring is darker and more solid in appearance on the upper parts of the body, like the head and back.[9]
    • There are bits of white on specific places in the mockingbird. You'll see a few white feathers on their tales. Their wings should each have one white bar.[10]
    • A younger mockingbird will have a similar color scheme, but the grayish colors may be spottier and somewhat dappled in appearance, especially on the belly and breast.[11]
    • The mockingbird can be mistaken with the northern shrike, which has similar coloring. However, shrikes do not have white on their wings and their coloring tends to be blacker, especially around the face.[12]

Method 2
Recognizing Mockingbird Behaviors

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    Listen to the sounds the bird makes. You can also identify a mockingbird by its call. Mockingbirds both sing and call to one another.
    • The call of a mockingbird is loud and sharp. When singing, the mockingbird produces a complex series of notes and sounds. It tends to repeat the same songs over and over again.[13]
    • During the breeding season, in spring and summer, males will sing 24 hours a day. If you hear a bird singing for the entirety of a day, you might be hearing a mockingbird.[14]
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    See if the bird behaves in a territorial manner. Mockingbirds tend to be territorial. You can identify a mockingbird by paying attention to how it behaves around other birds.
    • Mockingbirds are easy to spot as they sit out in the open. If a bird is sitting on a tree branch in plain sight, hopping along the road, or in other easy-to-see places like fences or telephone poles, it may be a mockingbird.[15]
    • The mockingbird will be protective of what it sees as its environment. It's not uncommon to see a mockingbird dive and then attack other birds or animals that invade its space. A bird that is aggressive with intruders may very well be a mockingbird if it also matches the physical description.[16]
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    See if it's mimicking other sounds. Mockingbirds get their name because they are excellent imitators. A mockingbird will often imitate the noise of other bird's songs. However, you may also hear a mockingbird imitating the sound of a cat, a dog, or other animals in the area. If you hear a grayish brown bird imitating a variety of odd noises, you're likely looking at a mockingbird.[17]
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    Take in the habitat. Mockingbirds live in specific environments. If you're still unsure if what you're looking at is a mockingbird, examine the bird's environment.
    • Mockingbirds typically live in the southern half of the United States. They're present year-round in parts of California, Arizona, New Mexico, Texas, Louisiana, Tennessee, Oklahoma, Arkansas, Mississippi, Alabama, Georgia, North Carolina, South Carolina, Virginia, West Virginia, Kentucky, Delaware, Rhode Island, Pennsylvania, New York, and in the southern part of Maine. In some nearby states, like Colorado and Utah, you may see mockingbirds in the spring or summer during mating season.[18]
    • Mockingbirds are often present in suburbs or towns. They prefer open country areas where there are some woods and foliage present. If you live in a more urban town or suburb, with little forest, you're less likely to encounter a mockingbird.[19]


  • Invest in a pair of binoculars so you can more easily observe the bird's shape and color.
  • Make sure to move slowly and quietly when observing a bird. If you scare a bird away, you won't be able to identify it.


  • Consult a professional, if necessary. Mockingbirds are rarely pests, but if you're bothered by a bird in your area make sure you identify it properly before dealing with the situation. Some states may have regulations against exterminating or removing certain types of birds. Contact a professional exterminator or your state's Department of Natural Resources if you're having issues with birds on your property. They can explain to you how to identify the type of bird and to proceed with removal or pest management.

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Categories: Birdwatching