Symbolic Meaning of Mockingbirds

Spiritual and Symbolic Meaning of Mockingbirds

Symbolic and Spiritual Meaning of Mockingbirds: As a native Texan, I’m all about mockingbirds.  To explain, this quirky, clever little baby is the state bird of Texas.  Watching mockingbirds dance, frolic, and play in my backyard was a common and welcomed sight when I was a kid.  They seemed so curious, and their calls were so hypnotic for me.  As I got older, I realized there is a lot of power, magic, and wisdom this bird can share with the world.  In a large part, my experience with this feathered friend has inspired this article on the symbolic and spiritual meaning of mockingbirds.

What’s in a Name: Why Are They Called Mockingbirds?

They’re called mockingbirds because they imitate other birds.  The word “mock” typically has a derogatory connotation.  However, the word mock does mean “to deceive” and it’s appropriate. Why? Because mockingbirds will throw their calls or mimic other bird calls in order to pitch predators off their trail.  Variable calls are also meant to lure baddies away from their eggs, nests, or offspring.

In any case, mockingbirds utilize different vocalizations in an array of strategies for thriving and surviving.  They have a dizzying collection of tones and calls used to communicate with each other and with other birds.  Mockingbirds have an incredible vocabulary and are known to have a repertoire of hundreds of songs. 

I rather think they should be called “mimicbirds” because they tend to mirror calls rather than mock other bird calls.  The Latin name for mockingbirds is Mimus polyglottos. That’s a fancy-pants way of saying “multi-tongued mimic.”  The word “polyglot” is taken from the Latin portion of their name, polyglottos, which is a reference to one who speaks multiple languages.  That’s really what the mockingbird does with flair.  This bird is multilingual in the avian world, and is quite the cunning linguist.

Meaning of Mockingbirds

At-a-Glance Keywords for Mockingbird Meaning

  • Security
  • Curiosity
  • Gratitude
  • Protection
  • Joyfulness
  • Cleverness
  • Intelligence
  • Playfulness
  • Communication
  • Resourcefulness

What’s Your Sign? What it Means When the Mockingbird Shows Up in Your Life

If you’re anything like me, you pay attention to certain visitations in your life.  So, when the mockingbird shows up in your life, you might be asking, “What does this mean?”  Fair question.  To be sure, when the mockingbird appears, there are profound messages that go along with that timely visit.  Here are a few ideas surrounding messages and signs of mockingbirds entering your awareness.

Communication is Key

When the mockingbird comes into our lives, it can be a message that we need to rethink how we interact and communicate with others.  Are we accommodating?  Are we being flexible?  Remember that the mockingbird way is to listen first, and then respond in kind.  They are flexible and adaptable.  Symbolically, this is a sign for us humans to be more attentive and innovative in our response to communication, work, and challenges in our lives. 

Take Time for Play

As you may have observed, the mockingbird is very playful – another profound lesson for us.  Few birds have the kind of bright vitality and obvious revelry.  So when this happy bird flies into our lives it is a cue for us to frolic, and suspend our severity for a time.  Enjoy, relax, and take time to appreciate the pleasurable things in our lives.  In other words, the mockingbird is often a sign to take time out to enjoy simple pleasures, be playful, smell the roses, and enjoy the sparkly bits life has to offer.

Embrace Unique Intelligence

Mockingbirds are extremely bright with intelligence equal to ravens, crows, and magpies (who are also very smart & even trainable). They can figure out how to get in and out of tight spots, and they are epic problem-solvers.  They are also quite clever at finding solutions to the increasing urban sprawls across various continents.  To explain, mockingbirds are deft at building homes in the most unlikely spaces.  Symbolically, this might be a message that we should “make the best of our situation.”

Protect What is Precious

Mockingbirds are also very protective of their families.  Like blue jays, they can be vicious – even attacking humans if they feel their brood is threatened. In other words, don’t mess with a mockingbird who is intent on protecting its youngins!  They are known to even dive-bomb trespassers. I remember, as a kid, I saw several mockingbirds attack cats that got too close to their territory. On a symbolic level, the meaning of mockingbird in this respect might be prompting us to consider doubling our efforts to protect the things and people we love in our life.

Be Fruitful and Multiply

When a mockingbird sighting seizes you by your snarglies, it might be a sign that it’s time to get more productive.  To explain, mockingbirds are fantastic breeders. They can breed up to seven times in a season!  The largest clutch on record for a mockingbird laying eggs is roughly 25 – 28 eggs per season.  Symbolically, this might be a nudge for us humans, to get busy.  I’m not talking about laying eggs or giving birth, necessarily (although the mockingbird could be a sign of fertility). My point is that the mockingbird could be a sign that it’s time to get more proactive about producing beneficial results in our lives.

Mimicry and Flattery?

spiritual and symbolic meaning of mockingbirds

It’s been said that mimicry is the highest form of flattery.  I’m not sure about that, but we can’t talk about the symbolic and spiritual meaning of mockingbirds without giving due acknowledgment to their extraordinary powers of mimicking other sounds in their environment.  Their ability to mirror sounds is so impressive.  Not only can the mockingbird replicate other birdsong, they can also echo other sounds. A recent study revealed that mockingbirds can imitate the sound of croaking frogs.  They can also mimic the sound of machinery! 

With this in mind, the mockingbird asks us how we can replicate and improve upon certain strategies in life.  I’m not talking about copycatting, necessarily.  However, there is some merit to observing beautiful solutions and putting our unique spin on them to improve the world.  In a way, mimicry can be an ode to the origin.  In many ways, the mockingbird asks us to seek origins, take that wisdom, and roll with it in our own way.   

Recognizing Potential

Did you know that mockingbirds can discern, recognize and detect facial features? Yes!  A study has shown that mockingbirds can detect faces in a crowd. What does this mean on a symbolic level? Well, in my way of thinking, I believe the mockingbird is a reminder to pay close attention to the people, faces, and moments in our lives.  Observe what seizes our attention.  Pick it apart and interpret what crops up in our daily lives in order to gain more meaning.  Or, the mockingbird might just be a reminder to remember people in our lives who either hinder or help us on any given level.

Signs the Mockingbird Might be Your Animal Guide

The mockingbird has certainly been a guide for me and has taught me a ton of lessons in life.  But could it be an animal totem or animal guide for you?  Here are a few suggestions that may hint that the mockingbird might be a life guide for you.

If You Seek Inspiration From Outside Sources

Symbolic and Spiritual Meaning of Mockingbirds
Symbolic and Spiritual Meaning of Mockingbirds

We’ve clearly detailed how the mockingbird is a master of mimicry.  The mockingbird might be your feathered friend if you look to mentors, teachers, and masters for inspiration.  There is nothing wrong with following in the footsteps of leaders, and imitating their brilliance.  However, the mockingbird is also a strong reminder that while mimicry is a high form of flattery, it is not an exclusive way to make our way in the world. 

The mockingbird might copy vocal possessions – but they take on these verbalizations in a way that is uniquely advantageous.  Therefore, the mockingbird is a great teacher when it comes to learning lessons from others while simultaneously taking this information and making it uniquely our own for our fullest benefit.

If You are Compelled to Keep Things Lighthearted

The mockingbird is a playful creature.  Sure, the mockingbird busies itself by providing for family and protecting its clan. Nevertheless, this bird takes time to play.  It is also observed to dance and present folly in their society in order to (seemingly) evoke joy and happiness.  They are known to kick over stones, look at glittery things, and go out of their way to find things that will both lighten their hearts and conjure joy within the community.  If this resonates with you, the mockingbird might be a solid animal guide for you.

If You are Viciously Protective

When it comes to keeping anything sacred and secure, the mockingbird is a great avian ally for you.  The mockingbird might be your animal guide if you will do pretty much anything to protect what you love.  I can relate to this.  I’ve been known to go ballistic in a millisecond in order to defend the defenseless or protect the people I love in my life.  If you are the same, the protective meaning of mockingbirds might be a sign that this is a bird that is your guiding light in life.

If You are Hyper-Opportunistic

Meaning of Mockingbirds
Meaning of Mockingbirds

Most mockingbirds hang out year-round in warmer climates.  In my native Texas and other southern-western regions, the mockingbird typically sticks around to enjoy the unique amenities the warmer climates offer.  However, the northern mockingbird has learned to branch out.  To explain, one of the mockingbird’s favorite edibles is the multiflora rose.  This plant has sprawled across the US into more northern areas (as far as Virginia, Pennsylvania, NY and Canada).  Researchers have observed that mockingbirds are beginning to follow this plant for its tasty treats as well as ideal nesting features.  As an animal guide, this behavior might be a sign that the mockingbird is a great partner in life for people who are willing to go to great lengths (or even uproot and migrate) in order to bite at the best berries of opportunities life might offer.

Of course, I can’t leave this article about the spiritual and symbolic meaning of mockingbirds without mentioning their presence in American pop culture. Most notably, we have the legendary novel, To Kill a Mockingbird written by Harper Lee. In the Pulitzer Prize-winning novel, the mockingbird is a symbol of naivete and innocence. The bird also galvanizes the idea that each of us has a moral responsibility to protect the defenseless and defend the innocent. In fact, the protagonist in the novel, lawyer Atticus Finch explained to his daughter Scout, “It’s a sin to kill a mockingbird…they don’t do one thing but make music for us to enjoy” – another underscore of how precious life and innocence should be preserved and protected.

The mockingbird is also (in a roundabout way) featured in Hunger Games novels by Suzanne Collins, which later became blockbuster movies. The Mockingjay became a symbol of defiance in the novels and the movie – an icon that stands for freedom and standing against oppression. We can also say the Mockingjay is a symbol that is meant to stand for protecting the lives of innocent people, and saving them from the atrocities of a tyrannic government. To be clear, the Mockingjay is a fictional bird – but it’s widely known as a mix between a jay and a mockingbird.

The song Mockingbird has undergone many renditions and sung by various artists. There are rumors the song began as an old folk lullaby. The song was adapted and first became popularized by Inez and Charlie Foxx in 1962. Later, it took listeners by storm in popular music when sung by Carly Simon in 1974, and won even further accolades when Simon sang Mockingbird as a duet with James Taylor. Whether the bluesy-jazz version or the folk-pop version, the song captures the innocence of young love. The song has a naivete that kind of pats you on the head with a “it’s going to be okay” message. It’s also a song that speaks to the blindness of love. Again, we see the mockingbird as a symbol of innocence.

As a lullaby-turned-modern pop song, Mockingbird is an ode to comfort small children in the midst of a confusing and often chaotic world. For instance, American rapper, Eminem, loosely referenced the song too in his 2009 release of his touching rap ballad Mockingbird, which stands as both a heartfelt apology and reassurance to his daughter(s). The rapper rhythmically conveys a story of a hard life lived that he diligently attempted to shelter his daughters from – again, underscoring the overarching theme of protecting the innocent from the cruelties often found in the world.

Meaning of Mockingbird
Mockingbird Image courtesy of Wikipedia

Frequently Asked Questions About Mockingbirds

What does the mockingbird symbolize?

In popular literature, it is a symbol of innocence as well as a statement on standing up to authority in the face of injustice. In various cultures, the mockingbird is symbolic of intelligence, communication, and resourcefulness. It is commonly viewed as a symbol of freedom as well as the freedom of artistic and creative expression without fear of judgment.

Can mockingbirds speak?

These clever birds have a vast vocabulary and are able to string together hundreds of different sounds. These sounds could be construed as “words” and can be recognized as a type of speech within their community. In some cases, mockingbirds can mimic sounds that are almost identical to the source.

How intelligent are mockingbirds?

While it’s difficult to measure intelligence in birds, the mockingbird is heralded for its extraordinary ability to learn, retain, and utter a dizzying array of sounds and so-called speech. In terms of intelligence, mockingbirds are often compared to crows, who display a staggering level of savviness in the bird realm.

Are mockingbirds rare?

No, not really. There are 16 known species of mockingbirds. The most common is the Northern Mockingbird found in the US. A more rarified version is the Blue Mockingbird found in Mexico. Mockingbirds are indigenous to Asia, and can be found throughout north and south America as well as the Caribbean. And while sightings are rare, mockingbirds have been spotted in the UK.

Are mockingbirds mean?

It depends on your definition of “mean.” Mockingbirds are known to attack predators. They’ve been reported to dive-bomb cats and snakes and other predators – even humans. If they detect their territory or their babies are under threat, they can definitely get nasty. However, when you consider they are protecting the innocence of their young and safeguarding their assets – I’m not sure this could be considered “mean.” Rather, they are only defending themselves and their families.

The Last word on the Spiritual and Symbolic Meaning of Mockingbirds

I hope this article on the meaning of mockingbirds offers you some new insights into this magnificent bird. I also hope it reminded you of some features of this fine feathered friend that are often overlooked – but worthy of our attention.  So, the next time you witness a mockingbird, pay attention.  You never know what kind of meaning, sign, or symbolism this beauty might have to offer!  As always, thanks for reading!  Happy mockingbirding!

Mighty brightly,

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