Do Grackles Raise Your Hackles?

Sporting iridescent purple feathers on his head and with matching blue on his breast

Chestnut colored female is considerably smaller than the male

The Great-tailed grackle swaggers, he lopes across the grass, he flies into tall trees and meets up with his gang. They create a din; whistling, shrieking and clacking. He sails low over traffic on a busy street, he perches on the school yard fence with his neck stretched long and utters an ear splitting screech like a rusty hinge creaking. Unmistakably large, with jet black feathers and a long keel-like tail, the grackle is brassy and bold. His female is more petite, browner, and wears her tail feathers shorter. Both possess the same glittery, gold, quarrelsome eye. Juveniles can be identified by their darker colored eyes.
Grackles embrace the idea of casual sex, and hook ups tend to be fleeting. The male has no part in feeding the rambunctious young but defends his chicks with zeal. The female feeds the hatchlings and later teaches them to find food on their own. She brings her gaping babies plant materials such as berries and grains, assorted insects and small lizards, small fish and aquatic invertebrates as well as the eggs and young of other birds.
The territory claimed by Great-tailed grackles has extended from Central American through Mexico and into the Southwest. The species thrives in habitats created with irrigation and urbanization. Grackles are now widespread in the desert where they find water in suburban neighborhoods, city parks and school yards as well as ponds and irrigated agricultural fields.
A noisy flock of grackles dominates the tall shrubby growth of my neighbor’s ficus trees. One spring morning a dramatic confrontation breaks out between a trio of mockingbirds and three female grackles. The mockers swoop and dive at the heckling grackles who threaten their nest. It’s an uproar.
For those who feel annoyed at the omnipresence of these aggressive birds, ponder the words of biologist E.O. Wilson, “When we observe and interact with other animals we become aware of similarities. . . Every creature has its own unrepeatable life journey, each day of which is full of opportunities and risks.”


3 responses to “Do Grackles Raise Your Hackles?

  1. They are most definitely one of the “bad boys and neighborhood ruffians”, but if you have ever held one in your hand, a growing respect results….the tenacity is palpable, the iridescence is beautiful, their spirit is valuable…I kinda like ’em. But, I am sorry for the watched doves. That would make me feel bad also.

  2. Not feeling the love for these birds. They killed two baby dove hatchlings that I had been observing from nest building, to hatchlings last week.

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