Monday, May 18, 2015

Getting to know the grackles


I've been wanting to write a blog post showing the crows that I see all the time, but when it came down to photographing them, they never seemed to be flying by. I did find myself surrounded by a lot of other black birds this spring. I think they are grackles. While they're not crows, grackles can be plenty spooky. Especially when you close in on them with your camera lens! It's funny how when you start seeing the details of something close up it's like a whole new world.


I learned a lot about these birds and their lifestyle from photographing them. I watched them fly around, hunt for food, try to pick up other birds, look impressive, look scary (the same as looking impressive), and just hang out in the trees.



They fluff themselves out as much as possible to either look cool to attract a mate or look big and tough to ward off an enemy.


They have never been aggressive toward me, but I wouldn't want to be a worm in their vicinity! They take on a cold, calculating look while hunting for food.

On the hunt...


Success!


This one looks like he's eating a hot dog, but that's probably part of a worm.


I took a few photos of the birds hunting for worms together. They took advantage of the wet dirt. As you can maybe tell, it was raining when I took these.


That one was really digging in!

Some of the things I noticed from photographing the birds is the subtlety of their coloring. From a distance I thought they were entirely black. In the sun you can see that they have a bright blue tint to the feathers around their heads and an almost brown or maroon color on their tail feathers. I could also see their bright yellow eyes.



I also got a good view of those talons!


The birds are very flexible and I saw them contort themselves every which way in the trees.




Another interesting thing I noticed was how their eyes sometimes went cloudy. I wonder if the birds have a second eyelid? Does anyone know about that? You can see how the eye is kind of whitish and glossy. A second later it was back to its usual yellow with a pupil.
 

If you'd like to learn a little more about grackles and their habits, you might find this Audubon page interesting: