Culture Magazine

Photo Essay: Northern Mockingbird Sighted Near Thickson’s Woods, Whitby, Ontario

By Frame To Frame - Bob And Jean @frametoframebJ

Northern Mockingbird sits on tree branch- Thickson's Woods - Whitby - Ontario

Thickson's Woods sign - Whitby - Ontario

Yesterday, the Arctic air was being driven into southern Ontario by a gusty wind right out of the north.  Bob and I, nevertheless, seized the opportunity to go in search of two Great Horned Owls that live in Thickson’s Woods in Whitby, Ontario.  They have been sighted frequently, so we arrived there in early afternoon in the hopes that the owls might be active on such a cold and overcast day.

Northern Mockingbird looks right - Thickson's Woods - Whitby - Ontario

No sooner had we set out on our walk, than Bob’s keen eye noticed an unfamiliar bird fly by and land in a nearby tree.

Northern Mockingbird looks upward proudly- Thickson's Woods - Whitby - Ontario

The website that reports local bird sightings had indicated that a shrike and a mockingbird have been seen in the vicinity of Thickson’s Woods.  We later identified this bird to be a Northern Mockingbird (Mimus polyglottos), so called because most mockingbirds live in the tropics.

In this video that Bob filmed, you get to observe the Northern Mockingbird’s movements.

Northern Mockingbird among fruit on tree- Thickson's Woods - Whitby - Ontario

During summer months, insects make up the bulk of a Northern Mockingbird’s diet.  In winter, however, berries left over from the previous summer’s bounty constitute most of a mockingbird’s fare.

Jean shoots mockingbird, Thickson's woods - Whitby, Ontario

Bob and I were well bundled up against the strong north wind, and operating the camera with mittens on was a real challenge.

Northern Mockingbird gives us a look- Thickson's Woods - Whitby - Ontario

It was a good thing that the mockingbird could find some shelter in amongst the branches of a tree.

Northern Mockingbird - breast & long tail feathers - Thickson's Woods - Whitby - Ontario

Here, you get a good look at the Northern Mockingbird’s long tail and underbelly feathers.  A mockingbird is a little larger than a robin, about 10 1/2 inches, with the tail contributing significantly to that length.

Northern Mockingbird looks forward- Thickson's Woods - Whitby - Ontario

As the frigid wind ruffled the mockingbird’s feathers, it sat puffed up against the cold before it decided to consume some of the abundant berries.

Robin sits in tree in Thickson's Woods - Whitby - Ontario

Not far from where the mockingbird was chowing down on the little black berries, an American Robin (Turdus migratorius) sat similarly puffed up  in a deciduous tree.  Although it might seem odd to see a robin on a subzero January day here in Ontario, it has become much more common in recent years.  Two years ago, Bob and I witnessed a whole flock of robins in the forest adjacent to Toogood Pond in Unionville, Ontario, and that was on a frosty New Year’s Day.

American Robin - sizes up fruit - Thickson's Woods - Whitby - Ontario

Perhaps taking its cue from the mockingbird, the American Robin staked out another shrub full of tempting black berries.

American Robin - picks fruit - Thickson's Woods - Whitby - Ontario

As we watched, the robin ate one berry after another, fortifying itself for the even colder night ahead.

American Robin - holds fruit in its peak- Thickson's Woods - Whitby - Ontario

Bob and I were so pleased to learn that local residents and other supporters saved the precious woodland refuge of Thickson’s Woods from destruction as it now serves as a source of food and shelter for local and migrating birds.

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By Ellen Humphrey
posted on 10 February at 14:56

There's a pair of Northern Mockingbirds that have nested, for the last several years, in the vicinity of Stevenson Road South and Wentworth, near the Train Tracks. :)