Sunday, April 30, 2006

No grackles need apply

No grackles need apply

I hate grackles.

Noisy, dirty, troublesome birds, if you've got a bird feeder. We don't. Not here. We used to. In our backyard in Syracuse and before that we had one hanging off the deck of our third floor apartment in Ft Wayne, a gift from our pal Nance, a fellow amateur ornithologist. Thanks to the grackles, mainly, Nance dubbed our deck The Poop Deck. I had to muck out every time we had a cookout or the blonde and her chums desired to sunbathe. I'd have taken down the feeder to be rid of the grackles but I was too fond of the goldfinches, house finches, mourning doves, cardinals, and various sparrows who'd come along, when the grackles weren't hogging the feeder and using the deck the way rock bands have been known to use hotel rooms.

Grackles look like they should be noble birds. They have handsome profiles, long, elegant tail feathers, and their iridescent hoods flash and seem to change colors from minute to minute, now purple, now blue, now green, now purple again.

But they're just a less highly evolved form of crow, to whom they are not related, but whom they emulate in the ugliness of their calls and the swagger with which they throw their weight around and chase away other, prettier, humbler birds. Grackles make starlings look good.

I hate them. But I like reading what Rana has to say about them.

Rana's been keeping a careful eye on her feeder. I don't know if her grackles are more interesting and better behaved the grackles I've known and despised or if she is just a more patient, tolerant, and appreciative observer. What she is, to be sure, is a better nature writer.


Back in Syracuse the grackles stayed away from our feeder, which was much lower to the ground and hung in the shade of some hedges, which made it attractive to my favorite birds, black-capped chickadees. Chickadees are fun to watch because, for one thing, they let you watch them, they are fairly bold for such little birds, and, more than any other bird, they seem to be talking to each other. They may in fact be talking to each other. It has been speculated that chickadees have a language.

Turns out other birds may be chatting with each other too, not simply chattering. This news comes by way of Michael Bains at Silly Humans: Songbirds' songs may be grammatical.


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