I didn’t know a lot about birds as a kid and they weren’t really on my radar. However, Grackles are a bird that I knew and could identify as they came through our area in droves, gathering noisily together in trees!
One really interesting thing that we learned through Cornell Lab’s allaboutbirds is their impact on corn. They explain, “Those raggedy figures out in cornfields may be called scare-crows, but grackles are the #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.” (source)
It was amazing to read about their foraging ability from following farm equipment in order to catch rodents that are left vulnerable by their wake to prying open acorns to a behavior called anting which is truly amazing:
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.Allaboutbirds.org
So not only do Grackles forage for food, but they forage for solutions. Pretty amazing stuff, none of which I had any idea about as a child.
The ever present Peter Rabbit asks Creaker about his foraging for other birds’ eggs in The Burgess Bird Book for Children and puts him in the same category as Sammy Jay and Blacky the Crow for this tendency. But that is only after he adores Creaker’s coat. Thornton W. Burgess captures it perfectly,
Creaker the Grackle with the sun shining on him was truly beautiful. His head and neck, his throat and upper breast, were shining blue-black, while his back was a rich, shining brassy-green. His wings and tail were much like his head and neck. As Peter watched it seemed as if the colors were constantly changing. This changing of colors is called iridescence. One other thing Peter noticed and this was that Creaker’s eyes were yellow.Thornton W. Burgess, The Burgess Bird Book for Children, Living Books Press, p. 96
I know my son agreed about Creaker’s coat and really enjoyed capturing his beautiful colors. You can see what we gathered using our resources! Until next time, keep on birding! <3 Kate
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