Wednesday, November 25, 2009

The Birds!

With the onset of fall, the common grackles (Quiscalus quiscula) are flocking in the hundreds and its a pretty astounding sight. This past week, their collective din has been so loud it drowns out the drone of local and highway traffic, heavy machinery, and any other outdoor sounds in our neighborhood. They were out traveling en masse in the mid-morning when I took this photo. First they gathered together in trees on the edge of the street, then some impetus made them fly and land in our back yard.

They pecked around in a frenzy, staying for only a couple of minutes before some other impulse made them take off for the woods. When they gather in the trees, they squeak and squawk, but when they fly off there's an eerie quiet and a sudden whoosh of wings in flight. You can hear the sudden hush in the video below.

Some flocks grow to enormous proportions, numbering over a million birds.  This 2007 article from The Boston Globe highlights such a flock which frequents an area off I-93 in Methuen.  The birds gather before migration, although not all head south.   Grackles eat just about anything and can become a problem when congregating in such large groups.  Flocks cause damage to buildings with their feces and ravage agricultural crops, especially corn.

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