Is the Mockingjay from The Hunger Games Real?

from Wildlife Promise

Mockingjay vs. Mockingbird

With the release of  The Hunger Games and Catching Fire movies, we wanted to assure readers that while a government mishap hasn’t yet created anything like the mockingjay, we do see outstanding examples of mimicry in nature that help animals to survive in the wild.

The Story of the Mockingjay

In Suzanne Collins’ book, The Hunger Games, the mockingjay bird is the evolutionary result of a failed government breeding experiment. The evil government of Panem first created the jabberjay to spy on enemies and rebels of the Capitol, as they could memorize and repeat entire human conversations. However, once the rebels realized their conversations were being transmitted, they used the jabberjays against the Capitol, sending back false information. The government then abandoned the birds to die off in the wild.

But, in an example of extraordinary wildlife almost never doing what we expect, male jabberjays bred with female mockingbirds, giving birth to the mockingjay, which could repeat both human melodies and birdsong and were thus better able to protect themselves (and the rebels of Panem) in the wild. The inability of the government to control these animals made them an inspiration and a symbol for the rebel cause.

Though the mockingjay is not a real species, the fascinating trait of mimicry is very real in the wild, as seen in the mockingbird and other animals.

The Breakdown: Mockingbird vs. Mockingjay

  • Mockingjay - Fictional – It can repeat both human melodies and birdsong and plays a symbolic and thematic role in The Hunger Games.
  • Mockingbird - Real – It can mimic a variety of noises such as car alarms, cats, crickets, etc.

There are about 17 species of mockingbirds around the world. Northern mockingbirds are the only species commonly found in North America. Their Latin name, Mimus polyglottos, means “many-tongued mimic,” because rather than singing their own songs, northern mockingbirds learn and repeat the songs of other species. An individual can learn up to 200 songs during its lifetime.

Both males and females sing, but males are louder and active more often throughout the year than females. Unpaired males sing 24 hours a day during the breeding season. Once a male has courted a mate by elaborately displaying his flight and singing capabilities, the pair may stay in a monogamous mating relationship over many breeding seasons, or else one male may mate with many females.

“You name it–other bird calls, sirens, bells, frogs, crickets, squirrels, a home alarm, rusty gate, the whirring and squeaks of a washing machine–and this extrovert of lawns and hedges will imitate the sound with grace and skill.” – excerpt from “Listen to the Mockingbird” in National Wildlife magazine.

But Wait, There’s More… 

There are many other birds that use mimicry,  such as burrowing owlets who mimic the sound of rattlesnakes to ward off potential predators. One of our favorites is the the lyre bird, who will shock and enthrall you (almost as much as The Hunger Games) with the variety of sounds they can mimic (chainsaws, cameras and more).

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The Northern mockingbird is just one of 45 extra-ordinary wildlife species we’re celebrating during the 2012 National Wildlife Week. Find out more >>