State Bird of Arkansas – A Melodious Wonder in the Natural State!

The state bird of Arkansas - Northern Mockingbird

Arkansas is a state in the southern part of the US recognized for its natural beauty and diverse geography.

The geographical diversity offers habitats for a wide range of wildlife. Speaking of which, this state is home to over 400 species of birds. But which one among them is designated as the state bird?

The bird that holds the title and represents the Natural State is a sublime bird with a striking appearance, the northern mockingbird. This songbird is decorated with sleek and stylish grey-brown plumage and elegant white patches on its wings and tail adding to its beauty. 

In this article, we take a closer look at the captivating northern mockingbird, Arkansas’s state bird.

Besides uncovering numerous fascinating details about this remarkable species, we will learn about its natural habitat, dietary habits, historical background, current state, etc.

10 Interesting Facts About Arkansas’s State Bird!

The twitchers and people in general show great interest in this bird species because of its remarkable features and intriguing characteristics.

In this part of the article, we’ll discuss some interesting and little-known facts about the northern mockingbird. Here they are –

1. This Bird Is a State Symbol of Five Different States

The northern mockingbird isn’t representative of Arkansas, the natural state only.

Because of its vocal artistry and resourcefulness, four other states of the US chose this bird as their official state symbol. They are – Florida, Texas, Tennessee, and Mississippi.  

Tennessee declared the northern mockingbird the state bird in 1933, and Mississippi did that a decade later in 1944.

However interestingly enough, both Texas and Florida state legislature designated the state bird in 1927. Until 1948, the northern mockingbird was also the state bird of South Carolina for 9 years!

2. It Has An Interesting Scientific Name

The scientific name of the northern mockingbird is Mimus polyglottos. This name was given based on the feature that makes this bird species special, their amazing vocal ability. Roughly translated, the name stands for “mimic of many tongues”. 

The first part of the scientific name is Latin, and the second is Greek.  The Latin word “mimus” means to mimic, and the Greek word “polyglottos” stands for “many-tongued” or “harmonious.” 

3. It Knows About 200 Songs

Northern mockingbirds are famous for their extraordinary singing prowess. This species of bird is capable of singing up to 200 songs. This bird doesn’t get tired of singing for extended hours without a pause. Especially the male ones. 

Unmated male passerines sing almost all day and night during the breeding season, loud and quite often. 

It’s one of those rare bird species that can imitate sounds. That includes the songs of different bird species, insects, dogs, and amphibians too! Surprisingly enough, the northern mockingbird can mimic toads and frogs of more than 10 species. 

Occasionally, these birds mimic mechanical noises as well. For example, a squeaky gate or urban sirens wailing nearby. They can also understand some musical instruments.

4. Northern Mockingbird is A Natural Composer

Because of the extraordinary mimicking ability, the creative property of this bird species is often misunderstood.

Only 10% of northern mockingbirds’ songs result from mimicry or imitation. The rest they produce on their own. That means they have about 180 original songs. 

After mimicking sounds, those are added to their repertoire. Then they compile some of those sounds, juggle them in their head, and compose an original melody if they like the outcome. Composing songs is one of their innate abilities.

5. They Have 15 Other Species

The northern mockingbird is a member of the Mimidae family from the New World passerine birds.

Besides the northern mockingbird, there are 15 other species in this world. Only the northern mockingbirds are found in Northern America, thus the name.

The other species are:

  • Blue mockingbird
  • Tropical mockingbird
  • Galápagos mockingbird
  • Blue-and-white mockingbird
  • Chalk-browed mockingbird
  • Hood mockingbird
  • Long-tailed mockingbird
  • Floreana mockingbird
  • Patagonian mockingbird
  • Chilean mockingbird
  • Bahama mockingbird
  • San Cristobal mockingbird
  • White-banded mockingbird
  • Brown-backed mockingbird, and
  • Socorro mockingbird. 

6. A Great Inspiration for Literature, Art, and Cinema

The northern mockingbird has inspired many individuals from the creative world, such as novelists, songwriters, and filmmakers.

Some of the artistic creations related to this bird species are – 

  • To Kill a Mockingbird –  Pulitzer Prize-winning novel by Harper Lee, published in 1960.
  • To Kill a Mockingbird – a 1962 American film directed by Robert Mulligan.
  • Hush, Little Baby –  a traditional lullaby (origin – unknown).
  • Mockin’ Bird Hill – a song by Les Paul and Mary Ford, released in 1951.
  • Listen to the Mockingbird – a popular American folk song from the mid-19th century.

7. Northern Mockingbird Will Make Enemies for Life

A feature that’s quite unique to the northern mockingbirds is their intelligence.

This helps them in more than just finding previous spots that were suitable for mating and breeding. But how? These birds are highly territorial and mark anyone near their nests as a predator.

This species of bird can remember individuals they consider a threat. According to a paper published in 2009, researchers have proved that the theory is legit!

8. It Lives a Long Life as a Pet

Northern mockingbirds can make excellent pets, promising great life expectancy with proper care, diet, and an appropriate environment.

Some species of birds can’t live long unless they are free in the wild. But that’s quite the opposite in terms of this species. 

Usually, northern mockingbirds can live up to 8 years on average. There are many reasons behind the short lifespan, such as – predators and loss of habitats. But if they are kept as pet birds, this species can survive for two decades.

9. Antagonistic and Fierce by Nature 

The northern mockingbirds don’t get along with others quite well, not even their own. It’s normal for many bird species to be a little hostile during the breeding season.

But it’s common for the northern mockingbird all year round! Males fight with the males, and females fight with the females. 

While attacking other animals, these feathered creatures don’t consider size. They attack dogs, cats, and even humans without any fear. Their offense style is known as “dive bomb”. They swoop in suddenly, just like a dive bomber aircraft. 

10. Uncommon and Beautiful Eggs

Northern Mockingbirds lay beautiful eggs, like the ones you see in Disney cartoons and fairy tales. 

The eggs are greenish to bluish-grey and may feature small brown splotches. They breed 2-3 times a year and lay about 4 eggs at a time on average.  

When Did Northern Mockingbird Become a State Symbol of Arkansas?

The northern mockingbird became a state symbol of Arkansas on March 5, 1929. It was decided by the General Assembly in the presence of Governor Harvey Parnell.

The 1929 General Assembly adopted a concurrent resolution titled House Concurrent Resolution Number 22 that proclaims: 

“The mockingbird is declared and everywhere recognized as the state bird of the State of Arkansas.” 

The path to becoming the state symbol wasn’t really an easy one. As a matter of fact, it wasn’t even taken seriously when the bill was proposed to designate the northern mockingbird as the state bird.

Arkansas Federation of Women’s Clubs (AFWC) was instrumental in making this a reality. 

Mrs W. A. Utley led a campaign in Arkansas where the State Federation of Women’s Clubs advocated for the legislation of the mockingbird as the state bird.

The buildup presumably started in 1903 when an ornithologist named William Dutcher pointed out the economic value of this bird species to the AFWC. 

During the last legislative session, two bills were introduced to change the state bird’s name. The proposed names were painted bunting or mallard duck. However, neither of them gained any traction.

What’s the Habitat of Northern Mockingbird?

This bird species can be found in almost all habitats, such as towns, roadsides, deserts, farms, and thickets.

Northern mockingbirds prefer building their nests in the open. They usually build a nest about 10 feet above the ground from twigs and grass. Both males and females contribute equally. 

They must make 2-3 nests in a year but all within the territory. This songbird lives in the same nest year-round and protects the territory. They don’t migrate easily unless the weather is too harsh and their habitats are damaged. 

What Are the Food Habits of Northern Mockingbird?

The northern mockingbird is an omnivore species. It means they feed on both plants and insects.

They drink from rivers, puddles, and other sources of water. Even though they consume all kinds of food, a significant portion of their diet depends on the seasons. 

Spiders, ants, grasshoppers, caterpillars, beetles, and earthworms are on top of the diet chart during the breeding season.

However, a shift in their diet is notable during the fall and winter. During the winter season, they mostly depend on fruits and seeds. 

What’s the Current State of Northern Mockingbird?

The northern mockingbird species is abundant in number in the state of Arkansas and the whole world.

Currently, there are a total of 33 million to 45 million individuals of this species all over the world. This is due to their multiple breeding within a year. They aren’t like to face any threat of extinction shortly. 

IUCN (International Union for Conservation of Nature) Red List ranks the northern mockingbird as LC or “Least Concern” on the species conservation status.

This species is also protected by US Migratory Bird Treaty Act. That means killing, capturing, trading, selling, and transporting this species is prohibited. 

Wrap Up

The people of Arkansas state have a special place for the northern mockingbird because of its unique behavior and resourcefulness. 

The natives grow familiar with this bird’s melodious songs as they grow up and learn from their survival spirit. This species of bird also have great ecological and economic importance.

Photo of author

Written and Fact-checked by David Neff

Author at BirdBonica

David is an expert birder and bird parent with in-depth knowledge of birds. He has years of experience observing birds in their natural habitats, studying their diets, behavior, and more. (Learn more about David here...)

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