Bird Watcher's General Store

Too Many Grackles - 09/29/00


Dear Bird Folks,

I have hundreds of these big black crackles cleaning all the food out of my bird feeders. Why do I suddenly have so many and when are they going to leave me and bother somebody else?"
- John, Chatham

Dear John,

You have been eating too many Rice Krispies. The birds that you have are not "crackles" but a less grainy relative called "grackles."

The common grackle appears black, but when the sun hits it, a brilliant iridescent bluish purple can be seen. Many folks confuse this bird with the much larger American crow. Although crows are common, they aren't nearly as common as the grackles. And crows are more wary of people and rarely ravage our bird feeders the way some grackles do.

The common grackle is with us more than half the year and can be seen chowing at our feeders anytime between March and October. But like many migrating birds, grackles flock up in the fall and can move like waves through our yards and neighborhoods. And yes, grackles can empty a bird feeder more quickly than a teenager can eat a pizza, but it should also be noted they eat huge amounts of harmful insects (I'm talking about the grackles here, not teenagers). Tons of beetles and insect larva that eat our fancy plants are eaten by the omnivorous grackles.

So don't sweat it John, the grackles are on their way south and in a few weeks they will indeed be gone from your yard and will be bothering someone else. Unless, of course, you also are heading south for the winter, in which case they'll be waiting for you when you get there and we'll be up here enjoying the irony of it all.



Artwork by Catherine Clark


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