CROW Case of the Week: Northern Mockingbird (#19-2021)

The northern mockingbird (Mimus polyglottos) is the only mockingbird regularly found in the continent. There is no such thing as a southern mockingbird. The northern songbirds move south during the winter. Northern mockingbirds are distinguishable by their long tail. Their short wings make their tails look longer, especially in flight. Adults have gray backs and white underbellies. 

Mockingbirds mimic sounds from other birds, various animals and even environmental sounds like car alarms and creaky gates. Each song is a series of phases that are repeated several times before the singer moves on to another song. Males are more vocal than the female species. A male can learn close to 200 songs during its lifetime. In an act of courting, unmated males may even sing at night, especially when there is a full moon. While they are not known to visit feeders, you can spot a northern mockingbird on poles, utility lines or tall shrubs. These New World passerine birds like to live by farms and woodland areas. They will dine on berries while perched on shrubs and trees or hop to the ground to capture insects. 

At CROW, a northern mockingbird was admitted from a Fort Myers parking lot after it had fallen from a nest. Upon its initial exam, veterinarians noticed that the patient’s right leg was not positioned correctly and was unable to be properly used by the bird. X-rays revealed that the patient had a right tibiotarsal (shin) fracture. Veterinarians placed the injured limb in a splint to help the fracture properly heal. 

“The splint is made of medical tape and pieces of a wooden tongue depressor. This was applied under general anesthesia and guidance using radiographs,” said Dr. Kyle Abbott, CROW veterinary intern. “The patient will be in the splint somewhere between 10 and 14 days. At that time, the fracture will be stable enough to not require a splint.” 

The young mockingbird will spend time with other youthful members of its species once its leg is better. “Once the splint is removed, the patient is monitored for progress while being raised with other baby mockingbirds prior to release,” said Dr. Abbott. 

The patient was given pain medication as well as a course of antibiotics to treat a series of small wounds found on its body. “The patient will be on antibiotics until the skin can be assessed under the splint,” said Dr. Abbott. “The patient was placed on antibiotics due to some small wounds on the legs from the trauma it underwent.” 

The release of the juvenile northern mockingbird will be judged upon the growth of the young patient. It will also need flying and eating skills prior to release to survive. “The mockingbird is doing well, growing and gaining weight,” added Dr. Abbott. “Release occurs once the patient is old enough and eating well on its own in an outside enclosure. The fracture will be stable long before the patient has reached an age where it can be released.”


CROW Case of the Week stories are written by Bob Petcher and appear weekly in the Island Sun and River Weekly Newspapers.

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