Our now-standard groups of hundreds of Grackles didn’t visit today. They left yesterday around brunch and only one returned today just before dinner. He sat on the pole that supports the wooden feeder. Perfectly posed, though it was late in the day. It was already after four with dusk halfway home.
I took quite a few pictures of this bird. Each picture shows him in a slightly different color. Say what you will about Grackles. In the right light, they are exceptionally beautiful.
I also noticed today that Grackles have “sunglasses” built in their eyes. When the sun gets really bright, their inner eyelid pulls across his eyes. The more I learn about Grackles, the more interesting I find them. They are also one of the few animals that is truly born to live in North American. Specifically, the eastern part of North American from about Washington DC north into Canada. They evolved in this region and this is their home. They have no other place to be.
Although they are not yet threatened, their numbers have diminished from around 190 million to around 73 million. That doesn’t sound like a big deal until you realize that mean 123 million Grackles died in the past few years. We keep reducing the available space for wild creatures. And while we may not realize it, we are simultaneously reducing our own living space, turning the comfort of greenery into asphalt and cement.
I try not to think about it because I find it so deeply troubling — and because I feel so helpless. I feed the birds. I sent $10 a month to support the birds, but there’s nothing more I’m able to do. Some other generation is going to have pick up those batons and start running like mad. Let’s hope they have fantastic legs, every last one of them.
It’s dangerous to fail to recognize what such a steep drop in the number of birds can potentially mean for a species, especially one like Grackles who move in big flocks. There are few places for them to live. The great woods are gone. All that are left are little patches, like the one in which we are living.
I really would love to give them more support. But our little 12X12 square foot deck is an unrealistic setting for a few hundred birds. We aren’t set up to take on hundreds of grackles and our budget isn’t big enough to buy enough food for so many birds. It’s hard to make decisions about whether to try to support a huge invasion like that. If we were rich, we could but if we were rich, we’d probably be unwilling to put up with the mess big masses of birds make.
In any case? We aren’t rich. Every time I have roust the Grackles, I wonder: “Where will they go? Where is there room for them? Where can they safely nest? Where can such a big group find food?”
Damned if you do, damned if you don’t. I can feed the smaller birds, but a few hundred Grackles is too much for us.
It still makes me feel bad. I really believe that everything and everyone — humans, birds, woodchucks, squirrels, birds (predators and prey) and more — all deserve a meal and a place to nest.