As migratory birds are beginning to show their presence in Florida, I have been keeping my bird feeders filled and awaiting with anticipation of those beautiful entertaining birds. Just yesterday, I had a plague of Common Grackles. Yep, a group of grackles is called plague.
How beautifully creepy they are. Those eyes, those eyes of greenish-yellow, remind me how an artist would illustrate the eyes of a witch. Their colorful feathers create a memorizing stare when the sun hits their feathers at the right angle. What an excellent combination for October 31st!
About the Common Grackle
Telling the female from the male is difficult, but most of the time in avifauna, the males are more eye-catching than females. For the grackles, the males have more flattering black, blue, purple, and coppery bronze colors than the female’s dull coloration.
While researching these birds, I came across a few papers referring to their survival rate and found it to be very complex, based on whether the female or male hatchling is fed more or less. However, there are debates on this observation about common grackle parental behaviors.
These high rates of mortality are likely the result of juveniles being underdeveloped and limited in their mobility upon leaving the nest, making them susceptible to several sources of post-fledging mortality (Cheng and Martin 2012, Martin 2015, Jones et al. 2020a, Jones and Ward 2020). Consequently, the post-fledging period has been referred to as a “survival bottleneck” (Naef-Daenzer and Grüebler 2016) in the context of avian population dynamics.- Source: Avian Conservation and Ecology: Why is the Common Grackle becoming less common? (ace-eco.org)
Have you ever heard of ‘anting’? No, neither did I until I read this article “Anting” Behavior by Common Grackles and European Starlings- Charles C. Clark, Linda Clark, and Larry Clark.
This is a common avian behavior and maybe a behavior of softshell turtles. While riding out and about at work, a co-worker and I noticed a softshell turtle lying in the sand and covered in red ants. I moved the turtle away from the ants, only to come back 30 minutes or so later to find the turtle in the same situation.
So now, after reading this article, this may have been what the softshell turtle was doing, ‘anting.’ You learn something new every day!
‘Anting’ in avian behavior birds, like common grackles, do to soothe skin irritations or control the spread of ectoparasites. Pretty smart!
As a photographer, these are really cool birds to photograph, and if by chance you are at the right place at the right time where you can accent the birds’ magnificent colors with an incredible background, well, you’ve got one fantastic story to create.
Today according to BirdLife International, this species is listed as nearly threatened. Common Grackle (Quiscalus quiscula) – BirdLife species factsheet