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Thursday, March 21, 2013

And This is WHY . . .

Our bird feeders at The Frog & PenguINN are not filled as often as before — the very Unwelcome Visitors (UV) are back in town.

That’s because around this time of year there’s nothing in the surrounding fields to feed on, so backyard feeders become very attractive and attract large groups of UVs in the form of grackles, starlings and cowbirds.dropping inThe most dominant group are the Common Grackles, which  are blackbirds that look like they've been  stretched out. They're taller and longer tailed than a typical blackbird, with a longer, more tapered bill and glossy-iridescent bodies. Grackles walk around lawns and fields on long legs or gather in (extremely noisy groups high in trees, typically evergreens. feeding time2Common Grackles are resourceful foragers and will usually follow plows to catch anything churned up in the fields. While they eat many crops, grackles are the primary threat to corn fields; they eat ripening corn as well as corn sprouts, and their habit of foraging in big flocks means they have a multi-million dollar impact. feeding timeEven though they are way too oversized to fit into the tubular bird feeders, they grasp on the edges and shake out the seeds. As annoying and unattractive as these “takeovers”  can be, there  is always a show provided.

For example, grackles are always looking up, but not at other birds. Curious about this behavior, I checked online to learn that they tilt their heads back and bills up to show who's boss. It's a dominance display and ornithologists have given not one but three names to this trait: the Bill Tilt, Bill Up, and Head Held Up Threat.. looking up1Males typically tilt their bills up when another male approaches, and after one bird tilts the longest and highest, the other bird will either leave or back down. Grackles of the opposite sex will also give the display to each other early in the breeding season before they find a mate, but paired birds never perform the display to one another.

In 1963, Robert W. Ficken of the Cornell Lab of Ornithology described grackle behavior: “The Head Held Up threat, with its many variable components, presumably signals rather precisely the varying degrees of readiness to attack or escape," he wrote. "Such precision of expression would serve to reduce fighting, stress, and time wastage in a species where there is much close contact among individuals.”

Yesterday, this grackle seemed to be showing off his physique to a less than interested audience.IMG_8987Once the weather starts to warm up (there were snow flurries all day) and the fields begin to dry out and get turned, then these UV will (hopefully) move on.  And, if it wasn’t for the fact that we DO get a lot of VERY Welcome Visitors — cardinals, blue jays, sparrows, juncos, chickadees and other songbirds — the feeders would remain empty from about March to May.

hawk side (4)And, where is that Sharp-Shinned Hawk that was hanging around a few weeks ago? It seems that these UVs are unattractive to other UVs, including a predator cause it’s been nowhere in sight lately.
Now, about that neighborhood alley cat that was hanging around last week. “here kitty, kitty . . .”

13 comments:

Debby said...

I will trade you. We have a roost of around 200 buzzards, vultures some call them. They have been in our tall evergreen trees since November. This is about the fourth year. They usually stay three month. We are so sick of them. Someof the neighbors are shooting at them. We have called so many people and no one can help us. They have ridiculous ideas. We aren't allowed to shoot them. They are so messy. You should see our cars. Yours look beautiful compared to ours, hah.

Country Gal said...

The cow birds here will arrive in April but the others have been here all month now ! Our crow couple we have here George and Mildred keep the Grackles and Starlings at bay just by being around for most of the day ! All our other song birds seem to get plenty as I have 9 seed feeders and 3 suet's at any given time . I love spoiling my birdies ! I cant wait till the Hummers and Orioles return . Lovely photos . Have a good evening !

Montanagirl said...

We have the same UVs here. Seems the bad come along with the good. Nice photos!

DeniseinVA said...

We haven't seen any around here yet. Interesting post about their dominance stances.

Elaine said...

Quite nice posing for your camera! We don't get the grackles or starlings here, but the UV at my feeders has been a moose. So most of the feeders are down now. I posted photos of the visiting moose today.

Maple Lane said...

I really enjoyed your photos this morning. Hope you both have a good weekend.

Sandra said...

with the buffet open, i am surprised the hawk did not visit the birds at the buffet.

Anvilcloud said...

We once had a feeder, ut grackeles, starlings and cowbords put us out of business.

Out on the prairie said...

They can clean one out fast.I threw dog food out to them down the road in a pile one year hoping to draw them away.

possum said...

That's where they are. Thanks guys! Keep them down there... If I see the hawk, I will send him your way - but i think he is scared of the grackles!

grammie g said...

Hi B...I know just what you are saying ...same issue here grrrr!!
They are comical when they do the head tilt thing though : )!!
Grace

Daisy said...

Oh my, looks like you had more than your share of those unwelcome visitors. I hope they have moved on.

Pat transplanted to MN said...

The grackles are very troublesome here too when the weather warms they will abound. The only choice is to empty the birdfeeders. The grackles are hogs in disguise and leave not a seed for other birds. Fortunately they are not here to stay but very annoying when they arrive.

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