By Molly Phillips
Although many studies have been conducted on the Northern Mockingbird, most of these studies investigate male behavior and ecology (i. e., territoriality, mating systems, survival), but especially singing behavior. Thus, female behavior and ecology has been overlooked. For this reason we are documenting female behavior and natural history especially during the breeding season. We are specifically looking at nest placement, clutch size, diet, territoriality, and length of incubation and nestling period.
Data is collected here at the University of Florida campus for the last two breeding seasons (March-July). Campus wide next searches are conducted multiple times a week for new Mockingbird nests. Once a nest is located, data is collected on the location of the nest (plant species and nest height.). We found and monitored 231 nests, and captured 146 females in 2005 and 2006 by mist netting and color banding them. Once the females were color banded we recorded their territory using a GPS. Nest observations are done 3 or more times a week to monitor survival, incubation and female behavior. We also look at winter territoriality by locating banded females during the non-breeding season using GPS.
This study shows that female Mockingbirds behave like male Mockingbirds in many aspects. Female Northern Mockingbirds shows site fidelity, staying in the same breeding territories for consecutive breeding seasons as well as in the winter seasons in between. Also, Northern Mockingbird’s diet was found to be similar to what it has been in other studies, with the addition of native and exotic flowers as well as fruits and arthropods.
This project is a great first step for me in terms of learning more about conducting research. My two main interests are natural history and behavioral ecology so this project has been a great introduction to those two fields. I hope to continue collecting data on site fidelity and territoriality in Northern Mockingbirds as well as carry my project to completion with a hopeful publication. Overall I hope to continue my education with similar projects in ecology, natural history and behavior.