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by Valerie

April, 2013

Great-tailed Grackle

great-tailed grackle

The great-tailed grackle (Quiscalus mexicanus) is hardly anybody's favorite bird. My guess is that their obnoxious sounding vocalizations, usually described as shrill, discordant, noisy, harsh and grating, are the main reason for this. It could also be that they are simply so common and gregarious, especially in parking lots and at outdoor tables near restaurants, that people tire of seeing them. Or it could be the fact that they are aggressive and will attack eggs and nestlings of other songbirds. When they molt, they usually look pretty bedraggled. However, the normally sleek look of these large birds, with their glossy black plumage, makes them at least as interesting as mockingbirds (okay, so there is absolutely NO comparison in the relative vocal abilities) and more so than white-winged doves, in my opinion. Even the smaller brown females have a certain elegance as they scavenge for garbage around buildings and vehicles. Watching them, I often get the impression of something more reptilian than avian, and the combined dinosaur/bird lineage comes to mind. One of my most startling encounters with a great-tailed grackle was early one morning as I was pumping gasoline into my car at a nearby service station. I heard a sort of choked screech behind me, turned, and saw a hawk standing on top of a thrashing male grackle. The hawk was perhaps startled to be eye to eye with a very close by human and, while it was distracted, the grackle managed to slip out of its grip. I couldn't help but note that, as the grackle flew past with its feathers stuck out at all angles, it looked like a very bad job of taxidermy.

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