“N.O. [New Orleans] mockg. bird begins to sing.”
- 1806 Feb. 19. “2d. Mockg. bird sings.”
- 1806 Feb. 25. “The old bird begins to sing.”
- 1806. March 3. Dick sings.
As the above journal entries and others like them suggest, Thomas Jefferson had a passion for mockingbirds. Our third president had several mockingbirds, but Dick — the only one he mentions by name — appears to have been his favorite.
Margaret Bayard Smith, a Jefferson friend and an early American historian, wrote that Dick’s cage was “suspended among the roses and geraniums in the window recesses of the presidential cabinet.”
Smith wrote that Jefferson cherished Dick “with peculiar fondness, not only for its melodious powers, but for its uncommon intelligence and affectionate disposition.”
Free Range in the White House
Dick would perch on Jefferson’s couch or sit on the president’s shoulder as he worked. Jefferson sometimes put a piece of food between his lips, and the bird would take it from him.
According to Smith, when Jefferson took out his violin and began to play, Dick would “pour out his song along with the violin.”
“How he loved the bird!” she continued. “He could not live without something to love… his bird and his flowers became the objects of his tender care.”
“A Superior Being in the Form of a Bird”
In 1793, Jefferson wrote to his friend Thomas Mann Randolph:
“I sincerely congratulate you on the arrival of the Mocking bird. [Teach] all the children to venerate it as a superior being in the form of a bird, or as a being which will haunt them if any harm is done to itself or its eggs.
“I shall hope that the multiplication of the cedar in the neighborhood, and of trees and shrubs round the house, will attract more of them.”