Reflections of a Dumb Bird

A painting of grackles

The boat-tailed grackle has finally arrived in Dripping Springs. He is not here in great numbers but his very appearance means we are becoming an urban area. The grackle is a sociable critter. He doesn’t care much for open spaces, though Peterson lists his habitat as farmland as well as town.

There are two kinds of grackles that hang around in town. The boat tailed is a very large bird with a long, folded tail. The common grackle has a similar tail but he is not very common in his looks. He has a purplish sheen on his feathers that looks like oil on water.

Now the boat tailed grackle is not real bright, even for a bird. He doesn’t look much like his lady. The female is kind of dull brown with gray mixed in and smaller than the male. But, he has been known to do his mating dance to his own reflection for hours on end. Now if he can’t tell the difference between his own black reflection and the dull colors of the female, he has got to be some dumb bird. It’s a wonder there are still grackles around.

That mating dance is really something to see. He extends his wings out until they almost touch the ground. Then he points his beak at the sky, cocks the fold in his tail deeply and struts in a small circle. He will occasionally bob his head and give out with a raucous squawk. He has been observed dancing in front of his reflection in hub caps, mirrored glass, rain puddles and occasionally even the female of his type.

Grackles can be seen all over Austin. They haunt the parking lots of all the drive in restaurants and fight with the sparrows for dropped food. In the parks you can see large flock of them around the trash can in the summer, collecting the remains of summer picnics.

They are noisy, funny birds but they do eat insects as well as trash so I guess they earn their keep. We haven’t seen the grackle here on Sulfur Creek but we have seen his cousin, the cowbird, the cowbird has a song like a rusty hinge, but that’s another story.

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