These birds caught my eye during my last trip to Tupelo, MS. I was walking around in my daughter's back yard, observing the squirrels and robins when I noticed a couple of blackbirds chasing a smaller bird and harassing it. I was relieved to see the small bird escape the terror of the bigger bullies. The blackbirds then gathered along a fence and chattered noisily while they consistently looked upward, toward the top branches of the nearest cedar tree. Were they looking for another victim to bully? I wondered what they were so interested in, but I didn't see anything moving above them.
The "gang leader" appeared to be the largest and most colorful bird of the group. As he walked back and forth a few feet along the fence line, he intermittently looked upward, into the tree tops, and cackled at his cohorts. It was as if he were scolding them. Strange, but that was my perception of him.
Initially I thought they were just ordinary blackbirds which are common just about anywhere. Then I noticed their bright yellow-gold eyes and the colorful reflections of their feathers. I took note of their size- quite larger than the blackbirds I've seen before. I captured some images for later comparison.
It didn't take long for me to identify these birds online. The Common Grackle is a large blackbird with a long, wedge-shaped tail displaying a longitudinal ridge or keel when in flight. It appears all black at a distance but is actually highly iridescent, with colors varying from blue to purple to green to bronze, depending on the light. The female is duller and somewhat smaller than the male. The Common Grackle adult has bright yellow eyes.
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. 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. Apparently, they've created a lot of agricultural problems targeted at farmers who raise corn and rice. Grackles are the #1 threat to corn and have had a multi-million dollar impact on the industry.
Since they're so numerous in the U.S., there must be some Common Grackles in or near our area, but I have neither noticed or observed them before. From the history I've read on these birds, they're more a nuisance than anything else. Perhaps some of my readers who are familiar with this bird species has a difference of opinion- if so, please feel free to share!
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Linking up with Stewart on Wild Bird Wednesday