Birdwatching Canada

A voice for the northern birds

Grackle Diaper Patrol

male common grackle

Male common grackle

Common grackles are one of those largely overlooked backyard birds. In spite of the fact they are classed as songbirds, they don’t have a pretty singing voice and aren’t small and colorful.

At first glance, grackles are just plain black. Catch them in the sunlight however, and you’ll see iridescent black feathers on the body, a beautiful blue head on the males, and pale yellow eyes. Females are slightly smaller, and less glossy.

You’ll often find common grackles in large flocks, flying or foraging on lawns and fields. They strut on long legs, pecking for food rather than scratching. When resting they sit atop trees or on telephone lines, keeping up an incessant, raucous chattering.

If you have grackles in your yard, and if said grackles are nesting there, I doubt you can overlook the busy parents doing diaper duty.

Baby grackles produce fecal material that looks like miniature sandwich bags of poop. The parents grab these little bird diapers, and take them far away from the nest so predators can’t locate the baby birds. And drop them. Everywhere.

These clever birds consider water the perfect place to dump their cargo, as water washes away all traces. If you have a pond, a pool or even bird bath in your yard, this would be a good time to initiate regular cleanings. From the air, a glossy polish on a car apparently looks like water as well.

Native to open and semi-open areas east of the Rocky Mountains, the common grackle has adapted well to backyard bird feeders. Their size (13″) gives them first crack at the food, and I’ve even seen them intimidate squirrels into waiting for their dinner until the grackles are finished. The only species they don’t rule seems to be the blue jay, who is truly the lord of the feeder!

Common grackles are resourceful foragers. They sometimes follow plows to catch invertebrates and mice, wade into water to catch small fish, pick leeches off the legs of turtles, steal worms from American robins, raid nests, and kill and eat adult birds. They are the number one threat to corn crops, as they eat ripening corn and well as corn sprouts.

Their range expanded west as forests were cleared, and in some areas, they are now considered a pest by farmers because of their large numbers and fondness for corn and grain. Despite a currently robust population, a recent study by the National Audubon Society indicated that populations had declined by 61% to a population of 73 million from historic highs of over 190 million birds.

So even if they aren’t small and melodious, don’t overlook the common grackles in your yard. They have about 73 million relatives, and can be relied upon to visit your feeders sooner or later, and likely make a deposit in your pond.

Advertisements

Filed under: Songbirds,

Archives

Nature Blog Network
Bird Blogs - BlogCatalog Blog Directory
Add to Technorati Favorites
Blog Directory
All About Birds: Free Bird Guide and More

RSS BC Birding

  • [bcintbird] Salmon Arm Bay for Oct 20 (24th species of shorebird arrives...)
    Although the morning started out rather dismal it turned out to be a lovelywarm day, so much so that at least 2 western painted turtles dug themselvesout of the mud to surface.Highlights:Red-throated Loon 1 near mouth of Salmon River (too far off to age)Pectoral Sandpiper 15 juvsLong-billed Dowitcher 23 in pre-basic moultDunlin 1 basic (shorebird species #24 […]

RSS Vancouver Island Birding

  • [bcbirdingvanisland] woodpecker
    Not sure if you would be interested in an old sighting from March 5 of this year or perhaps you already know of my sighting of 3 black-backed woodpeckers on the Wilson Woodlot south of the Nile Creek.Robert McFetridge250 757-8709On 10/16/2017 11:35 AM, (email address filtered) [bcbirdingvanisland] wrote:>> BIRD REPORT> EXPLORE NATURE---GO BIRDING: […]
  • [bcbirdingvanisland] Nanaimo Bird Report October 15 2017
    QklSRCBSRVBPUlQNCiDigJxFWFBMT1JFIE5BVFVSReKAnS0tLUdPIEJJUkRJTkc6DQogVG8gcmVwb3J0IHlvdXIgc2lnaHRpbmdzIHBob25lIHRoZSBTdG9yZSBhdCAyNTAtMzkwLTM2NjkNCiBPciBlLW1haWwgdXMgYXQgdGhlYmFja3lhcmRAc2hhdy5jYQ0KIFBsZWFzZSByZW1lbWJlciwgd2hlbiByZXBvcnRpbmcgYSBzaWdodGluZywgdG8gbGVhdmUgeW91ciBuYW1lIGFuZCBwaG9uZSBudW1iZXIgYWxvbmcgd2l0aCB0aGUgZGF0ZSwgdGhlIHNwZWNpZXMgYW5kIGxvY2F0 […]

RSS Alberta Birding

  • An error has occurred; the feed is probably down. Try again later.

RSS Saskatchewan Birding

  • [Saskbirds] Swift Current (2017 October 09-17)

RSS Manitoba Birding

  • [Manitobabirds] Oak Lake
    Hi all: Glennis Lewis and I went to Oak Lake today to check on Tundra Swan numbers. We did see about 700 swans, lots of mallard ducks, and small numbers of other ducks. Four bald eagles on Grand Clariere road. The highlight of the trip was at the end of the day driving north on 150 we saw in a field over 1,000 sandhill cranes. I have never seen so many crane […]

RSS Ontario Birding

  • [Ontbirds] Detroit River Hawk Watch (21 Oct 2017) 202 Raptors
    Detroit River Hawk WatchBrownstown, Michigan, USADaily Raptor Counts: Oct 21, 2017-------------------------------------------------------------------Species Day's Count Month Total Season Total------------------ ----------- -------------- --------------Black Vulture 0 0 0Turkey Vulture 83 33903 36392Osprey 0 3 34Bald Eagle 1 51 94Northern Harrier 4 142 […]

RSS Nova Scotia Birding

  • An error has occurred; the feed is probably down. Try again later.