The folks in the Riverwalk Bird Club don't just watch birds. The group includes some excellent photographers.
Nooga.com Outdoors is happy to share their great photos by featuring a Bird of the Week.
This week, we feature a common grackle, taken by Jack Gentle Jr.
Common grackles are blackbirds that look like they've been slightly stretched. They're taller and longer-tailed than a typical blackbird, with a longer, more tapered bill and glossy, iridescent bodies. Grackles walk around lawns and fields on their long legs or gather in noisy groups high in trees, typically evergreens. They eat many crops (notably corn) and nearly anything else as well, including garbage. In flight, their long tails trail behind them, sometimes folded down the middle into a shallow V-shape.
—Those raggedy figures out in cornfields may be called scarecrows, but grackles are the No. 1 threat to corn. They eat ripening corn, as well as corn sprouts, and their habit of foraging in big flocks means they have a multimillion-dollar impact. Some people have tried to reduce their effects by spraying a foul-tasting chemical on corn sprouts or by culling grackles at their roosts.
—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.
—Grackles have a hard keel on the inside of the upper mandible that they use for sawing open acorns. Typically, they score the outside of the narrow end, then bite the acorn open.
—You might see a common grackle hunched over on the ground, wings spread, letting ants crawl over its body and feathers. This is called anting, and grackles are frequent practitioners among the many bird species that do it. The ants secrete formic acid, the chemical in their stings, and this may rid the bird of parasites. In addition to ants, grackles have been seen using walnut juice, lemons and limes, marigold blossoms, chokecherries and mothballs in a similar fashion.
—In winter, common grackles forage and roost in large communal flocks with several different species of blackbirds. Sometimes, these flocks can number in the millions of individuals.
—Rarely, common grackles nest in places other than their usual treetops, including birdhouses, old woodpecker holes, barns and still-occupied nests of osprey and great blue heron.
—The oldest-recorded common grackle was 22 years, 11 months old.
This information is courtesy of the Cornell Lab of Ornithology.
Sign up for our email list to get your morning news delivered directly to your inbox. All we need is your email address.