Let’s start with a challenging multiple-choice test. What is the Florida State bird?
B) Bald Eagle
D) Purple Martin
Since it’s unlikely that you chose the correct response, I’ll tell you a little about this flying charmer and see if it jogs your memory. Our state bird actually lives in Florida and most of the United States and up into Canada. The males are larger than the females, but they sound pretty much the same. They build nests with sticks and other found debris and they lay eggs. Sometimes, unusual materials can be found in their nests and they build them in unusual places. Figured it out yet?
That was purposeful information that all six have in common, so if it didn’t narrow your identification, don’t feel bad. Here’s a more definitive description. Our state bird doesn’t eat fish and won’t be seen gobbling up one, nor using its talons to grab one. Crazy, right? Wouldn’t you expect that in a state surrounded by water on three sides that the state bird would be related in some way to an aquatic environment?
More clues—our State Bird is not one that prefers building homes in high precarious places, like the tops of trees or empty gourds that are tethered from poles or white, high-rise apartment–style lodgings with a view of wide-open places. Did that eliminate one for you? This one described is the Purple Martin who flies in for the Spring/Summer and goes back north for the winter; go figure. They have quite a chatter, cackle and clicks that are fun to listen to and quite distinctive.
Final elimination—ready? One is a muted greyish-tan color, kind of puffy and makes the same repetitious “Cooing” sound. The other is a beautiful singer and copies the tunes of other birds, catches insects in the air and bugs on the ground and does us a favor by eliminating pests, thank you. The amazing Florida State Bird is… the Mockingbird!
What piqued my interest in the Mockingbird was coincidental. My bicycle was parked under the house in the same place for several days. I noticed the basket on the front had some sticks sticking through the holes of the basket and whoa, a bird’s nest was in process. After discovering the nest, I needed to find out more about the creator. One fact was spot on, the Mockingbird is an opportunistic nest builder and will choose a convenient place, no matter what or where. That also gives me a great excuse not to ride my bike.
Both the female and male Mockingbird are enthusiastic singers. It’s believed that they learn songs from their parents and add to them as they grow up. They also mimic other birds and can add other sounds to their repertoire up to 50 or more sounds. They are seen perching on telephone wires singing their hearts out and picking up another bird’s song and adding it to their own.
As I watched the progress of the nest, I wondered what the Mockingbird eggs would look like. In just three days, from the beginning of nest building to the first egg, my curiosity was satisfied; a beautiful teal egg with small, random, brown flourishes. And then there was another, then another; now that’s determination. Some research told me that they usually have three to four eggs, so I’m looking forward to another possible egg.
The Mockingbird is protective and will try to drive off other birds that come into its territory. The funny thing is that other birds will watch the dynamic defense and not participate, maybe getting pointers or leaving the heavy lifting to the Mockingbird.
Until the baby birds arrive, the nest will remain under sensitive watch. Will keep you posted.