Thursday, March 19, 2009

The Common Grackle

In my previous posting I had mentioned that the Grackles
had starting coming back last weekend and Kathleen at
Kaseys Korner said that she wasn't excited to see them come.
I have to agree that they can really be a nuisance and feed
on baby birds.
Every year I have at least one pair who try to make a nest
under the soffit and eaves between the rooves of the back of the
house. I always have to chase them away because they can
make a real mess down the side of the house.

Aside from the downside on them they very pretty feathers.

The Common Grackle has iridescent feathers of blue
and black and has yellow eyes. I just love their shiny blue
heads otherwise I think of ravens and Edgar Allen Poe.
There is just something about those eyes with the black circle
that makes them look fierce somehow. Its bill is long and black.

It is a large bird with the female being slightly smaller and
less glossy. They are often seen with other black birds
foraging on the ground.

I counted 19 in my backyard at one time last weekend.
They were foraging through the torn up soil in my backyard
which had to be dug up to run new septic lines.

I looked up some facts about the birds from the Cornell Lab of
site because I did not know much about the bird
other than it had pretty feathers and I had to chase them out
in the Spring.

Some Cool Facts:

  • The Common Grackle is an opportunistic forager, taking
    advantage of whatever food sources it can find. It will follow
    plows for invertebrates and mice, wade into water to catch
    small fish, and sometimes kill and eat other birds at bird feeders.

  • The Common Grackle commonly engages in anting, allowing
    ants to crawl on its body and secrete formic acid, possibly
    to rid the body of parasites. In addition to ants, it has been seen
    using walnut juice, lemons and limes, marigold blossoms, choke
    cherries, and mothballs in a similar fashion.

  • The Common Grackle is found in a variety of open areas
    with scattered trees, including open woodland, boreal forest,
    swamps, marshes, agricultural areas, urban residential areas,
    and parks.

  • The nest is a bulky cup of woody stems, leaves, grass, string,
    bark, and other materials. Lined with mud and fine grasses or
    hair. Placed in small tree, usually a conifer, suspended between
    two branches or placed on a limb.

  • The eggs are light blue to gray, with dark scrawls and
    spots, often concentrated at large end.Usually has 1 to
    7 eggs in a clutch.

  • The juvenile is dull brown with brown eyes.


Dirt Princess said...

They are very pretty, too bad they are a pest! I would like to match paint to that shade of blue!!! Great coloring. Isn't nature amazing

Barbarapc said...

thanks for this Grackle post - in that one close-up that fellow looks quite menacing. Great bird photos once again!

Randy Emmitt said...

Nice article and photos. One more item of note. The gulf coast race of Common Grackle have reddish eyes not yellow. I've had them eat out of my hand in some parks where they are used to people.

kathleen said...

ugh, look at all those pesky birds! ;-) Just kidding. I know there has to be good in everything, I just have a little trouble seeing it with them. I think Robin (at Robins Nesting Place) actually photographed a grackle trying to kill a small bird (can't remember if it was a sparrow or finch or what) this winter. I never knew they did that until I saw those photos. Made me appreciate them even less! lol Thanks for the link love ~ that was sweet.

Hocking Hills Gardener said...

Dirt Princess: Don't you love the color but that is about all I like about them.

Barbara:I thought he looked quite fierce maybe he was having a bad day:)

Randy: Now reddish eyes would look more dangerous I would imagine. It is nice to see the differences that birds have from region to region.

Kathleen: That is quite alright.Reading that they get baby birds is a little different that actually watching one. That would make me hate them for sure.Birds eating birds just doesn't seem right. Nasty.

Aerie-el said...

They have beautiful feathers.
Many of these 'nuisance birds' eat rodents and grubs and cranefly larva, etc. Seems everything has its place in the big scheme of things.

Jan (Thanks For 2 Day) said...

I've been getting some huge flocks of them here...they do have a prett-i-ness (!) about them, colorwise. I'm not a fan of them either...but starlings are even worse!

Hocking Hills Gardener said...

Aerie-el: You are absolutely right they do get rid of some things that could cause problems. I guess nature has a way to balance out, sometimes it is hard for us to understand.

Jan: Starling are another nuisance bird. I think there feathers look rough the way they are marked.We usually do not have many in this area.