Chilean mockingbird (Mimus thenca)
|Size||Length: 28 – 29 cm (2)|
Classified as Least Concern (LC) on the IUCN Red List (1).
Although unremarkable in appearance, the Chilean mockingbird’s song is considered to be the finest of any Chilean bird (3). The plumage is predominantly brownish-grey on the upperparts, with dark streaks on the head, neck and back. The underparts are paler brownish-grey, becoming dirty white on the belly and buff on the flanks, with elongated brown markings. Perhaps the most distinctive features of this species are the white stripe, which runs above the eye, and the dark streak directly below, as well as the white-tipped tail feathers. The impressive vocalisations of the Chilean mockingbird consist of variable notes and phrases, along with the mimicked songs of other bird species (2).
The Chilean mockingbird is endemic to central Chile (2).
The Chilean mockingbird occupies a broad range of habitats, including semi-desert; lowland, succulent coastal scrub; savanna bushland; and dense evergreen mattoral, where it is most abundant (2).
The Chilean mockingbird is most commonly encountered foraging on the forest floor, or in low-level vegetation, for insects and fruit (2). As observed by Charles Darwin during his visit to Chile, individuals of this species often have a dusting of yellow pollen around the bill, which is acquired while feeding on small beetles found inside flowers (4). The Chilean mockingbird plays a vital role in the life cycle of the parasitic mistletoe species Tristerix aphyllus by transferring seeds to the host plant, a cactus Echinopsis chilensis. After feeding on the berries, this species defecates on the cactus, where the seeds then germinate and grow into the cactus tissue, later producing flowers and more fruits (5).
The Chilean mockingbird is also occasionally the victim of parasitism. The shiny cowbird, a brood parasite, lays its eggs in the Chilean mockingbird’s nest (6), which are then unwittingly incubated and brooded by the Chilean mockingbird, often to the detriment of its own offspring (6) (7).
There are no major threats to the Chilean mockingbird at present (1).
With a relatively wide distribution and large population, specific conservation action is not currently required for the Chilean mockingbird (1).
To learn more about conservation initiatives in Chile visit
- The Nature Conservancy:
For more information on this and other bird species please see:
- BirdLife International:
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- Endemic: a species or taxonomic group that is only found in one particular country or geographic area.
- Mattoral: Spanish for ‘thicket’; in Chile, this refers to a Mediterranean scrub region, bound by the Atacama Desert in the north, the Valdivian forests in the south, the Andes in the east and the Pacific Ocean in the west. The only Mediterranean scrub ecoregion in South America, and one of only five in the world, the Chilean matorral is characterised by hot, dry summers and cool, wet winters, and contains a wide variety of endemic plant species.
IUCN Red List (February, 2009)
- del Hoyo, J., Elliott, A. and Sargatal, J. (2005) Handbook of the Birds of the World. Volume 10: Cuckoo-Shrikes to Thrushes. Lynx Edicions, Barcelona.
- Ridgely, R.S. and Tudor, G. (1989) The Birds of South America, Volume I: The Oscine Passerines: Jays, Swallows, Wrens, Thrushes and Allies, Vireos, Wood-warblers, Tanagers, Icterids and Finches. The University of Texas Press, Austin.
Gould, J. and Darwin, C.R. (1839) Birds: Part 3 No. 4 of The Zoology of the Voyage of H.M.S. Beagle. Smith Elder and Co, London. Available at:
- Botto-Mahan, C., Medel, R., Ginocchio, R. and Montenegro, G. (2000) Factors affecting the circular distribution of the leafless mistletoe Tristerix aphyllus (Loranthaceae) on the cactus Echinopsis chilensis. Revista Chilena de Historia Natural, 73: 525 - 531.
- Friedmann, H. (1949) Additional Data on Victims of Parasitic Cowbirds. The Auk, 66: 154 - 163.
- Payne, R.B. (1977) Ecology of brood parasitism in birds. Annual Reviews in Ecology and Systematics, 8: 1 - 28.