Northern mockingbirds (Mimus polyglottos) are most common in the South, although their range is increasing and expanding North. More recent range maps indicate that northern mockingbirds should breed where Leonard and I live in the mountains of Northeastern California. These prolific singers are less common in the higher mountains, which might explain why the last northern mockingbird we saw locally was in 1995.
I was surprised to see an unfamiliar bird outside my kitchen window several days ago. Leonard, who grew up in Southern California around northern mockingbirds, immediately identified it. (There were no northern mockingbirds near my Western Pennsylvania childhood home.) What a delightful surprise to see this rare visitor.
Northern mockingbirds are grey above and greyish white below. Their white outer tail feathers and white wing patches flash when they fly. We watched the mockingbird run a few steps on the ground, stop and then flash its wings open in a jerky motion, showing the white wing patches. The reason for this behavior is unknown, but it might serve a social function or flush insects, their main food.
The following day the northern mockingbird was nowhere to be found so we feel fortunate to have caught its brief visit to our ranch near Lookout CA (Modoc County).
My previous post on the northern mockingbird (01-13-2016) featured birds seen near Dallas TX.