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State Birds of the US
State Symbols: State Birds

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Tennessee State Bird

Northern Mockingbird

State Symbol: Tennessee State Bird - Mockingbird

(Mimus polyglottos)

Adopted on April 19, 1933.

According to the Nashville Banner of April 16, 1933, the mockingbird, (Mimus polyglottos,) was selected on April 19, 1933, as state bird of Tennessee in an election conducted by the Tennessee Ornithological Society. The choice was confirmed by Senate Joint Resolution 51 adopted by the General Assembly in 1933.

The Northern Mockingbird, clad in shades of gray with conspicuous white wing patches, enjoys exceptional popularity for such a drab specimen, evident in the fact that it is the state bird of Arkansas, Florida, Mississippi, Tennessee and Texas.

Tennessee State Bird: Northern Mockingbird

State Symbol: Tennessee State Bird - Mockingbird

The Mimus polyglottos, as the mockingbird is known scientifically, is about ten inches in length, including its relatively long tail. It has a light gray coat and a whitish underside. Its wings and tail are darker gray with white patches. The male and females look alike. Juvenile has spotted breast.

The common mockingbird of Tennessee is a superb songbird and mimic. Its own song has a pleasant lilt, varied and repetitive. Often it will sing all night long, especially in bright springtime moonlight. Unmated male mockingbirds sing more than mated ones. Both sexes sing in the fall to claim winter feeding territories. These areas are often different than their spring breeding territories.

The song of the mockingbird is, in fact, a medley of the calls of many other birds, each repeated several times. It will imitate other species' songs and calls, squeaky gates, pianos, sirens, barking dogs, etc. Each imitation is repeated two or three times, then another song is started, all in rapid succession. In the above sample audio file, the songs of four distinct species were recorded in the span of about seven seconds. It is common for an individual bird to have as many as 25-30 songs in its repertory.

The mockingbird is also known as a fierce protector of its nest and environment. It is sometimes seen swooping down on a dog, cat or predator that may be venturing too close to the bird's protected territory.

Identification of the Tennessee Northern Mockingbird

  • Abundance: Common urban bird
  • Length: 10 inches
  • Weight: 1-3/4 ounces
  • Wing Span: 14 inches
  • General description: Diurnal, omnivore, altricial
  • Sexual maturity : 1 year
  • Mating season: Spring and early summer. Mockingbirds usually nest twice a year sometimes 3 or 4 times when conditions are favorable.
  • Breeding territory: 1 pair per 20 acres
  • Gestation: Eggs hatch in 12-13 days, the young fledge 11-13 days after that.
  • Number of young: Eggs are blue-green with brown markings. The 2-6, usually 3-5, eggs per nest are a pale blue-greenish with brown spots.
  • Nest Location: Ground-low nesting
  • Nest Type: Open-cup The nest, a joint male/female project, is a bulky, open cup of grass, twigs and rootlets carelessly arranged in a dense.
  • Migration Status: Permanent resident. This year-round resident is known for its fierce defense of the family nest.
  • Diet: Mockingbirds require open grassy areas for their feeding, thick, thorny shrubs for hiding the nest and high perches where the male can sing and defend his territory. Gardens are among its favorite dwelling places especially if winter berries are available. The Mockingbird's primary diet is insects (beetles, ants, grasshoppers and spiders),berries and seed.

Facts about the Northern Mockingbird

  • Only unmated males sing at night.
  • Mockingbirds often form long-term pair bonds.
  • Mockingbirds vigorously defend their territory against many other species including dogs, cats and man!
  • Female mockingbirds often build a new nest while the males finish feeding older fledglings and teaching them to fly.
  • Scientists have found that female mockingbirds are attracted to males that can make the most different sounds.
  • Mockingbirds are the state bird of Arkansas, Florida, Mississippi, Tennessee, and Texas and one of the few birds found in every kind of habitat, from desert to forest to city.
  • Mockingbirds are thought to raise and lower their wings in order to scare up a meal of insects, frighten snakes and impress their mates.

Tennessee Senate Joint Resolution No. 51

The law designating the mocking bird, or mockingbird as the official Tennessee state bird is Senate Joint Resolution No. 51 on April 19, 1933. It read, in part:

"WHEREAS, forty-five of the forty-eight States of the Union have chosen an official bird for their commonwealth, and

WHEREAS, the State of Tennessee did not, until this year, determine to choose the State Bird, and

WHEREAS, The Tennessee Ornithological Society, aided by the Garden Clubs, the Parent Teacher Associations, the Superintendents of Schools, the State Department of Education, the State Department of Agriculture and the Division of Game and Fish, has just conducted a campaign of education in connection with a state-wide choice of an official bird, and

WHEREAS, an election has just been concluded in which every person within the confines of the State has been afforded the opportunity of expressing a preference for a State bird, and

WHEREAS, the Mocking Bird received more votes, according to the official count of the ballots, made by the Division of Game and Fish, now

THEREFORE, Be It Resolved, That the Mocking Bird is hereby declared the official State Bird of Tennessee."

The Tennessee Code

The Tennessee state bird was adopted by Senate Joint Resolution, rather than an act of the Legislature, and is not recorded in the Tennessee Code.

Taxonomic Hierarchy: Northern Mockingbird

Kingdom: Animalia (animal) 
Phylum: Chordata (chordates) 
    Subphylum: Vertebrata (vertebrates)
Class: Aves (birds) 
Order: Passeriformes (perching birds)
Family: Sturnidae (starlings) 
Genus: Mimus Boie, 1826 (mockingbirds)
Species: Mimus polyglottos (Linnaeus, 1758) - Centzontle norteno (northern mockingbird)
Scientific Name: Mimus polyglottos
Taxonomic Serial Number: 17862

Official State Birds
US map : Birds & Flowers
State Bird:  Bird selected (by the legislature) as an emblem of a State.
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