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12.11: Mimus polyglottos: Mockingbird

Difficulty Level: At Grade Created by: CK-12
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Common Name

  • Northern Mockingbird
  • Jamaican Mockingbird


Northern mockingbirds are gray, white, and black. They can be 8.3 to 10.2 inches long. Their wingspan can be 12.2 to 13.8 inches long. They weigh anywhere from 45 to 58 grams.

  • Kingdom: Animalia
  • Phylum: Chordata
  • Order: Passeriformes
  • Family: Mimidae
  • Genus: Mimus
  • Species: Mimus polyglottos


The range that the northern mockingbird lives in is from Canada south to Mexico. The areas where they live include backyards, forests, parks and edges of cliffs. They can live in the savanna, on the coast, in the desert, and in forests.


Cell Biology

Mimus polyglottos has eukaryotic cells, which have a nucleus. Organelles are cell parts within a cell. Some examples of cell organelles are the cell nucleus, which contains DNA with genes, mitochondria, which provide energy, ribosomes, which produce proteins, and lysosomes, which carry waste away.

The northern mockingbird has red blood cells. Red blood cells’ main function is to carry oxygen to other cells in the body. It also removes carbon dioxide from the body.

A cell can divide in two ways. In mitosis, it duplicates all of the cell’s contents including it’s chromosomes, and it splits to form two new, identical cells. Through meiosis, it reduces chromosome number by half to form sperm and egg cells.


Wings may have evolved from a bird ancestor that leapt into the air to avoid predators. Therefore, bird wings are modified arms that may have helped them leap higher. Birds are thought to have evolved from a group of bipedal dinosaurs called theropods. The ancestor of birds was probably similar to the theropod called Deinonychus. Deinonychus was a dinosaur that is considered to be one of the closest non-bird relatives of modern birds. It lived in North America about 110 million years ago.


Mockingbirds are omnivores, which means they eat both plants and animals. Their main diet is insects, seeds, berries, earthworms, sometimes small animals, and small crustaceans. They help disperse seeds. They affect the population of species that they eat by eating them, so the population of those species decreases. Northern mockingbirds host several ectoparasites, which are parasites on the skin or feathers. These parasites include blowfly larvae (family Calliphoridae), fleas and mites. Finally, three Molothrus are brood parasites of northern mockingbirds. This means that the cowbirds lay eggs in the northern mockingbirds’ nests. Sometimes the northern mockingbirds will incubate the egg and raise the cowbird chicks along with their own chicks.

Anatomy and Physiology

After the eggs are laid, it takes eleven days to two weeks for them to hatch. It takes them 10 to 12 days to leave the nest. They reach sexual maturity in one year. They breed in spring and early summertime. They can live eight years in the wild and twenty years in captivity.

Mockingbirds have four chambers in their heart. Their crop stores food for later, which they process for their nestlings. They have something called a gizzard, which they use for grinding/chewing their food. They have a two-cycle respiratory system, unlike mammals, which only have one. Their feathers are made of keratin, which is a type of protein that wears down easily and it has to be replaced.


The mockingbird mimics fifty other birds. It usually sits on fences or telephone wires, runs or hops on the ground. They are alone or in pairs throughout the year. They aggressively chase off intruders in their territory. They perform thirty-nine songs and fifty calling notes. They can also imitate certain sounds such as dogs barking, pianos, sirens and squeaking. Songs are important in mating. Males sing to attract females and to defend their territory against other males. They sing often, at night and during the day.




  • Jayden Garcia
  • Morgan Knowles

Supervising Faculty

  • Amy Huff Shah


  • Museum School, San Diego, California


  • Published prior to review.

Edit History

  • Created: April 5, 2013
  • Version 1.0 submitted to CK-12: July 11, 2013
  • CK-12 edits: in progress


  • Middle School (grades 6-8)

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Date Created:
Jul 18, 2013
Last Modified:
Jan 30, 2016
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