Dusty green poplars against a blue sky. Lavender lilacs against a spruce green backdrop. A squadron of grackles zoom in as sunlight pours over the east fence. They appear every morning and evening to check out the feeders for any tidbits left by the song birds. But we have a feeling theirs is more of a personality quirk than hunger.
They can’t seem to stand having any activity go on without them being invited. It is a bit of an attitude problem-they think they own the place. They strut around, hold their heads high and defy one another to make a move. As sunshine bounces off their iridescent black, brown and blue, green and purple feathers, they strut around on long thin legs. Every now and then they wag their long glossy tails, bellowing out a Chewink.
Beady yellow eyes are one of their unique features. They try to stare down a pair of mallard ducks that make this feeding station part of their own morning rounds. It doesn’t work and the grackles are abashed at having to wait.
Their distant cousins, American crows are the same. However, they do not claim the ground. Only the air space and treetops. Their caw, caw is quite clear as they make off for larger feeding grounds in the township’s many farm fields. Every-once-in-a-while they sit above the yard and have a conversation with this writer.
As you may remember last week we mentioned using mnemonics to remember birds. Crows are easy. A deep CAW, CAW will get their attention. And being the curious birds that they are, they will call back. They may even move in closer to see just exactly who is at the other end of the conversation. As soon as they see that it is nothing more than a human acting like they are somebody, the crows give a last guffaw and off they go.
Grackles are a bit more difficult to imitate. It’s been said that their song is like a rusty gate that swings back and forth. Next time they’re in the yard listen and see if you don’t agree.
Sometime this summer, especially when it gets really hot, you may see a grackle on the ground, flat out like it’s bit the dust. While an occasional one succumbs in a yard, usually they are just ant bathing. Finding a nest or collection of ants, the bird will lay flat out, wings spread so the ants can crawl over them. Ants secret formic acid which kills parasites living in the bird’s feathers.
Evening finds a number of grackles walking back and forth over the lawn looking for an evening snack. They are not shy about stealing food if it means less work for them. Robins are feeding on worms surfaced after a good digging in the garden. A grackle grabs the worm and flies just out of the robin’s reach.
This particular bird must have seen himself in a mirror and decided he’s really something. He struts when no one is watching. He ruffles his feathers. He flies to the fence, walking along it as on a fashion show runway. Throwing his head back, out comes a Chewink. We respond with a squeaky chewink. He stares us down with those beady yellow eyes.
Shaking himself, he takes off for parts unknown. He’ll be back. He’s got that personality quirk-an attitude that says look at me, listen and learn. I’m big stuff. Chewink!