“People do refer to them as bullies, but in reality, they are just grackles being grackles.”
~ David Gascoigne
Spring is here, and one of my favourite birds to return to my backyard feeder is the common grackle.
I snapped a photo of a striking male grackle that landed on my neighbour’s roof and showed it to David Gascoigne, an expert birder in Waterloo.
“Soon the females will be arriving and he will have one thing on his mind,” said Gascoigne.
“I find the common grackle to be stunningly beautiful, especially when the light accentuates its purple or blue iridescence, with that piercing yellow eye set in a dark head. The way that the male struts and postures to the female is very appealing, sort of like a grand casanova strutting his stuff.”
Gascoigne told me that common grackles “can make a good living in Waterloo Region,” as there is plenty of good habitat for nesting and ample food.
“They are dedicated parents and adept at exploiting different food sources,” he said.
“These resourceful birds will visit the bank of a stream or creek to snatch fish that come too close to the bank. I admire grackles very much. They are shrewd, intelligent, successful birds.”
I asked Gascoigne, who writes about birds in his compelling blog travelswithbirds.blogspot.com, about the common grackle’s reputation as a bully of the backyard feeder.
“People do refer to them as bullies, but in reality, they are just grackles being grackles,” he said.
“They are aggressive and compete to get their share of food. Although the bird displays a wonderful range of iridescence, it is generally known as a ‘black’ bird and therein may lie a sinister connotation. Most birds that are disliked or hated by humans are black – crows, ravens, vultures, cormorants, and so on. Studies have indicated that just as there has been long-standing discrimination (against) and persecution of dark-skinned humans, similar sentiments have been directed at birds.”
For me and my family, grackles are one more reason to happily say farewell to winter.
People can often take for granted the beauty of wildlife that share our urban environments.
It's amazing what you can see when you take a moment to look out the window.