Length9 to 10 inches. About the size of the robin.
Male and FemaleGray above; wings arid wedge-shaped tail brownish; upper wing feathers tipped with white; outer tail quills white, conspicuous in flight; chin white; under- neath light gray, shading to whitish.
RangePeculiar to torrid and temperate zones of two Americas. MigrationsNo fixed migrations; usually resident where seen.
North of Delaware this commonest of Southern birds is all too rarely seen outside of cages, yet even in midwinter it is not unknown in Central Park, New York. This is the angel that it is said the catbird was before he fell from grace. Slim, neat, graceful, imitative, amusing, with a rich, tender song that only the thrush can hope to rival, and with an instinctive preference for the society of man, it is little wonder he is a favorite, caged or free. He is a most devoted parent, too, when the four or six speckled green eggs have produced as many mouths to be sup-plied with insects and berries.
In the Connecticut Valley, where many mocking-birds’ nests have been found, year after year, they are all seen near the ground, and without exception are loosely, poorly constructed affairs of leaves, feathers, grass, and even rags.
With all his virtues, it must be added, however, that this charming bird is a sad tease. There is no sound, whether made by bird or beast about him, that he cannot imitate so clearly as to deceive every one but himself. Very rarely can you find a mocking-bird without intelligence and mischief enough to appreciate his ventriloquism. In Sidney Lanier’s college note-book was found written this reflection: ” A poet is the mocking-bird of the spiritual universe. In him are collected all the individual songs of all individual natures.” Later in life, with the same thought in mind, he referred to the bird as “yon slim Shakespeare on the tree.” His exquisite stanzas, “To Our Mocking-bird,” exalt the singer with the immortals :
Trillets of humor,shrewdest whistle-wit Contralto cadences of grave desire, Such as from off the passionate Indian pyre Drift down through sandal-odored flames that split About the slim young widow, who doth sit And sing above,midnights of tone entire, Tissues of moonlight, shot with songs of fire Bright drops of tune, from oceans infinite Of melody, sipped off the thin-edged wave And trickling down the beak,discourses brave Of serious matter that no man may guess, Good-fellow greetings, cries of light distress All these but now within the house we heard : 0 Death, wast thou too deaf to hear the bird? Nay, Bird ; my grief gainsays the Lord’s best right. The Lord was fain, at some late festal time, That Keats should set all heaven’s woods in rhyme, And Thou in bird-notes. Lo, this tearful night Methinks I see thee, fresh from Death’s despite, Perched in a palm-grove, wild with pantomime O’er blissful companies couched in shady thyme. Methinks I hear thy silver whistlings bright Meet with the mighty discourse of the wise, ‘Till broad Beethoven, deaf no more, and Keats, ‘Midst of much talk, uplift their smiling eyes And mark the music of thy wood-conceits, And half-way pause on some large courteous word, And call thee ` Brother,’ 0 thou heavenly Bird !”