mimic thrush, common name for members of the Mimidae, a family of exclusively American birds, allied to the wrens and thrushes, that includes the mockingbird, the catbird, and the thrashers. Mimic thrushes are most numerous in Mexico. They are about the size of a robin or slightly larger but are proportionately slimmer and have slender, down-curved bills, long tails which they twitch vigorously when excited, and strong legs suited to scratching through dead leaves and underbrush for insects; they also eat berries and fruit. All these birds are famous for their vocal powers. The preeminent songster of all North American birds is the common mockingbird, Mimus polyglottos, found in the E United States S of Maryland—the northernmost of nine similar species. It is gray above, with white wing patches and whitish underparts. Its song, usually delivered from a high, exposed perch, includes phrases from other birds' songs (of which it will repeat as many as 30 in succession), imitations of familiar sounds, and a melodious song of its own. Unmated males sing more than mated males and only unmated males sing at night in the spring. Two species of blue mockingbirds, genus Melanotis, are found in Mexico. Another member of the family, the catbird, Dumatella carolinensis, slate gray with a black cap and a chestnut patch under the tail, is also an expert singer, with a plaintive mewing call that gives it its name. Of the 17 species of thrashers, the brown thrasher, Toxostoma rufum, of the E United States is typical. It is a rich chestnut above, with whitish underparts streaked with brown; it is sometimes erroneously called the brown thrush. Thrashers also are tuneful singers and are valuable destroyers of harmful insects. Mimic thrushes are classified in the phylum Chordata, subphylum Vertebrata, class Aves, order Passeriformes, family Mimidae.
The Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia, 6th ed. Copyright © 2012, Columbia University Press. All rights reserved.