Hood mockingbird (Mimus macdonaldi)

Also known as: Espanola mockingbird, Española mockingbird
Synonyms: Nesomimus macdonaldi, Nesomimus trifasciatus
GenusMimus (1)
SizeLength: 26.5 - 28 cm (2)
Male average weight: 76.1 g (2)
Female average weight: 64.8 g (2)

The hood mockingbird is classified as Vulnerable (VU) on the IUCN Red List (1).

The inquisitive, blood-drinking hood mockingbird (Mimus macdonaldi) is the largest of all the mockingbirds in the Galapagos Islands (3). It has a very long bill that curves downwards, and yellowish-brown eyes surrounded by a dark patch. The feathers of the upperparts have blackish-brown centres and grey to brownish-grey margins, giving the plumage a streaked or scalloped appearance (2). The whitish underparts have indistinct brown markings on the breast and streaks on the flanks. The long, graduated tail is dark brown on top and whitish underneath.

The male and female hood mockingbird are similar in appearance, but the female is slightly smaller than the male. The hood mockingbird has a lengthy and strident song (2).

The hood mockingbird is endemic to the Galapagos Islands, where it occurs only on the islands of Española and Gardner-by-Española (2).

The hood mockingbird inhabits arid lowland scrub, low thorny mesquite scrub, and deciduous woodland (2).

The hood mocking bird is remarkably fearless of humans, and it is not uncommon for one to land on the head of a visitor to its islands (3) (4). It will eagerly explore any unknown object for food or drink (4), and the result of this behaviour is an incredibly varied diet. The hood mockingbird will typically feed on insects, fruits, berries, marine arthropods and small vertebrates, but will also eat carrion from the carcasses of seabirds, lizards and sea lions. Damaged seabird eggs are readily consumed, and it will also use its powerful bill to eat intact eggs and to pluck ticks from the backs of marine and land iguanas. A unique feature of the hood mockingbird is its blood-drinking habit. It commonly drinks blood, especially in the dry season, from wounds on living sea lions, from sea lion placentas, and even from wounds on the legs of humans (2).

A territorial species, the hood mockingbird lives in groups of seven to ten adult birds. However, within this territorial group there is often only one breeding pair (2). The hood mockingbird is a co-operative breeder, meaning that non-breeders act as helpers at the nests in their group's territory, and some breeders help raise nestlings in nests other than their own (3). The cup-shaped nest, made of twigs and lined with finer plant material, is often placed in a cactus. Breeding occurs from March to April, and clutches consist of one to four eggs. The chicks are fed by several adults (2). In the non-breeding season, hood mockingbirds gather in groups of up to 40 individuals, which forage together (5).

The restricted range of the hood mockingbird is an intrinsic threat to the species. Events such as extreme weather or an introduced predator could rapidly affect the entire species, with devastating consequences (2) (5).

At present, there are no introduced predators on either island inhabited by the hood mockingbird. Efforts should be made to reduce the chance of any accidental introductions, as well as to minimise the risk of any disease being introduced to the hood mockingbird population (2) (5).

Although the hood mockingbird is not known to be receiving any specific conservation attention, the Galapagos Islands are designated a National Park and a World Heritage Site (6). The Ecuadorian Government and the international conservation community recognise the importance of protecting the islands' biodiversity, and this should also help this fascinating bird to receive the protection it requires.

For more information on the hood mockingbird and other bird species, see:

For further information on conservation in the Galapagos Islands see:

This information is awaiting authentication by a species expert, and will be updated as soon as possible. If you are able to help please contact:

  1. IUCN Red List (January, 2007)
  2. 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.
  3. Española Mockingbird (June, 2007)
  4. Mockingbirds (June, 2007)
  5. BirdLife International (June, 2007)
  6. UNEP-WCMC: Galápagos Islands National Park and Marine Reserve, Ecuador (June, 2007)