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Northern Mockingbirds Wing-flashing

Occasionally one comes across animal behavior that has yet to be understood by humans.  If you watch Northern Mockingbirds for any length of time, especially females, you are likely to see them stop and raise their wings half to fully open, in several progressively higher jerky movements.  When they do this, their white wing patches are fully exposed. 

Ornithologists are not of one mind as to what this behavior achieves. Perhaps it is anti-predator behavior – an attempt to scare would-be nest raiders away.  It could be a way of startling insects enough to make them move and thus easier to see and catch.  It also could be a form of territorial display/defense. Interestingly, mockingbird species that lack the white wing patches also engage in this behavior.

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8 responses

  1. susantcloutier

    Years ago a mockingbird learned to train me to refill the peanut butter feeder by flashing her wings in front of my kitchen window.

    July 19, 2021 at 8:17 am

    • Fascinating!!!

      July 19, 2021 at 9:16 am

    • Well that’s very endearing! 🙂 ❤

      July 20, 2021 at 3:38 am

    • Bill on the Hill

      Funny you should mention being trained by a bird Susan… I experience this with my hummingbirds… Typically they will empty the feeder & then one or two of them will fly from window to window around the house looking for me, once they locate me, they hover in front of that window staring at me! Its like they are saying to me, ” we are waiting “…
      Bill on the Hill…

      July 30, 2021 at 8:24 am

      • Wow! Very interesting! some really smart bird there! 🙂 ❤

        July 30, 2021 at 8:27 am

  2. Alice

    This theory doesn’t work for the mockingbirds who don’t have a white wing patch, but to me, when the bird has it’s wings stretched, the white looks like the ‘top of the head and beak,’ on the ‘elbow’ of the wing is a huge eye, then the bottom of the ‘beak’…if I were a little bug I’d be hiding.

    July 19, 2021 at 10:30 am

    • HI Alice,
      Interestingly, even species of mockingbirds without the white patches on their wings wing-flash!

      July 19, 2021 at 2:30 pm

  3. I absolutely love these birds! We had Mocking birds everywhere when we first moved to our Franklin, MA home! 1/2 suburbia but still close to stores! That was in 1982 probably somewhere around 1998 I think I noticed they were not around anymore! Haven’t seen them since! Perhaps overdevelopment of the general area wasn’t their cup of tea! Miss them! 😦 ❤

    July 20, 2021 at 3:36 am

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