Boat Tailed Grackle
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Nature Animals

Boat-tailed Grackles Are More Interesting Than You Think

What may seem like just another blackbird is a beautiful bird with iridescent feathers and unique behavior.

Boat-tailed Grackle on Picnic Table
Corrinne Brubaker

Iridescent birds call to one another with harsh buzzing chirps. Their blue-purple feathers shimmer as they zoom past landing in the grass or a nearby branch where they sometimes fluff their feathers and march back and forth while calling to ward off other males and hopefully attract a female.

A brown slightly smaller bird skips through the shaded grass, jumping in the air to catch little moths and gnats that she has kicked up from the dirt. The male lands nearby and does a spectacular and possibly obnoxious display for the female, showing off his shimmering feathers. He throws his head back and sticks his beak in the air and calls while fanning his long black tail feathers. When she ignores him, continuing to feed, he creeps closer and adds loud buzzing calls to try to get her attention, but she has mastered the art of ignoring. When she continues to ignore him, he advances closer, this time showing off in her face and fluttering obnoxiously around her. That's when she has had enough and flies away to find a more peaceful feeding area. The defeated male returns to his branch defeated where he awaits another chance to impress a mate.

Males and females zoom past; their wings make a whooping sound as they flutter. Behind me, something rustles the palm branches. Sometimes squirrels climb through the palms, making a commotion, but so do female Boat-tailed Grackles. The brown bird jumps through the branches making a commotion. If you look closely, you can see she is catching little flying insects in her beak each time she jumps. She's an expert at spotting the little bugs, catching dozens of them with ease. She carefully straddles the palm leaves as she catches her prey.

Grackles are common near any lake in Florida and up and down the Gulf and Atlantic coasts. At first, one may think they are common and not worth noticing or writing about. They may seem just like any other grackle or blackbird. But when you take the time to watch them, you'll notice how interesting they are.

I continue to watch as they swoop past, landing in the grass where they forage for bugs. I'm grateful they help manage insects that would be even more numerous at the edge of this warm Florida lake if it weren't for them. Their beaks are slender and perfect for catching insects in thin air. Their eyes can see bugs that are nearly invisible to me and know just when to strike. They skip and jump in the grass and across branches, even dry shaky palm branches that move under their feet.

Maybe we underestimate the intelligence and ability of these birds and many other creatures to forage and hunt so well using only their own bodies and minds. I know I certainly couldn't catch insects with the precision they do even with tools, yet for them, it is everyday life, and they do with grace and ease. Boat-tailed Grackles are everything but simple or common.

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This article has not been reviewed by Odyssey HQ and solely reflects the ideas and opinions of the creator.

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