Thursday, January 24, 2008

Like a Bird on a Wire

Do you have a Hitchcock moment when you see large groups of grackles or other birds gathering in the trees? The majority opinion seems to be that they are a nuisance, owing to the "paint job" they leave where they roost.
Odd as it may seem, I enjoy them. Yes, I find it mildly irritating to have to clean grackle spackle off the rocks around the pond. But I've found a well placed rubber snake is effective crowd control.
When pairs of the sleek black males preen and strut and screech with their beaks straight up to the sky, how can you not laugh?
And, have you ever noticed that they appear to maintain fairly consistent "personal space" between each individual but still seem to prefer belonging to a larger group? Hmmm....makes me think we might not be so different in some ways. Here's another reason:

Years ago, I was the chef at a downtown hotel. One day I realized I had been hearing an odd noise repeating for some time and went to investigate. A female grackle was standing at the glass entry door of the restaurant screeching for attention and occasionally pecking the glass. I gently opened the door and talked to her. She cocked her head sideways but stood her ground. I could see that she had some type of tumor or growth on the side of her head, but she didn't appear ill. Wanting to be a good host, I did what chefs do - I went inside and found food and drink to offer her (a lid from a jar filled with water, some crushed sunflower seeds, and some chopped up bacon. I mean, really, we weren't exactly prepared for this particular guest.) By this time, the staff and customers were all watching, but she ate and drank as if she'd ordered from the menu. When she was through, she flew off.

Grack returned every day, and we all began to watch for her. We learned that she would approach other adult grackles then flutter and beg like a baby bird. The other adults would then feed her.

As time went on, she seemed to become a bit unsteady but still showed up for her meals. One day, the entire staff of the restaurant watched as she flew up to the door but could not stand or remain upright. All of us, and I mean all of us, were crying when she died.

What a gift that goofy bird was ...

4 comments:

Pam/Digging said...

A sweet grackle story. How unusual. I often appreciate grackles too, though not in a tree over my car or patio. Their glossy blue feathers are pretty in the light, and they are very bold and intelligent looking. Plus they're good garbage cleaners.

Stuart said...

You were a chef as well (still are?)! Join the club. I think chefs have an added advantage when it comes to gardening - especially vegetable gardening.

I loved the Hitchcock theme. My only concern would be where does all their poop end up?

Pam/Digging said...

I kind of like grackles too, though not over my car or patio. Their deep-blue feathers are somewhat pretty, and they seem like intelligent birds. Plus they're good at cleaning up garbage.

mss @ Zanthan Gardens said...

The grackles around the park and post office at 5th and Guadalupe always remind me of Hitchcock. I have never seen as many there as I've seen this winter...or anywhere. It's amazing at dusk. I never go near that intersection with the top down on my Miata.