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Biology

Species focus – Northern Mockingbird

It seems fitting, with the third installment of The Hunger Games “Mockingjay” coming out, to look into the actual mockingbird. I admit that I had to look up mockingbird biology, but that isn’t really surprising considering they are not local or even regional. The Northern Mockingbird lives in the US and Ontario south to southern Mexico. They tend to like open and semi-open landscapes and thrive in cities.

In The Hunger Games the mockingjay is a mutated creation. The result of some creepy science involving genetic manipulation and then cross-breeding between the natural and the mutated species. The product is the mockingjay, which can not only mimic other music or sounds, but it can also mimic the sound of a human voice perfectly.

The actual mockingbird is also an excellent mimic, singing other bird’s songs and other sounds including car alarms and chainsaws. While the mutated mockingbirds in The Hunger Games were created to use as spies that could report back to their creators the exact conversations they had overhead, the reason that the real mockingbird has developed into such an excellent mimic is a little less certain.

Most likely, mockingbirds developed their abilities as they defended their territories. Mimicking the songs of other birds helped them to hold larger territories, preventing not just other mockingbirds from moving in, but also other species. By singing other bird songs they created the illusion that those birds already lived in the area, preventing competitors from moving in. The belief is that males who had a wider range of songs were preferred by females because they would have bigger territories.

http://www.allaboutbirds.org/guide/northern_mockingbird/id

http://birds.audubon.org/birds/northern-mockingbird

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About Peyto

I am passionate about making science, sustainability, and sport accessible through engaging information and activities. Peyto is a reference to Bill Peyto who was an outfitter, trapper, and eventually a park warden in Banff National Park. Peyto Lake and Peyto Glacier are both named after him. He is also a distant relative of mine.

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