Wednesday, July 14, 2010

I Have a Peanut

10071301grackle

This is the image I tried but failed to find for “Funeral for a Grackle”. It showed up this weekend, go figure. I did it last year and never got around to posting it. It’s 4x6 sketch pad paper and coloured pencil, inspired by my observations of the common grackle (Quiscalus quiscula)..

Grackles, I confess, are far from my favourite bird. They are numerous, ravenous, and crowd out other birds at the feeder. While in sunlight, there is something of beauty in their oil-slick colours (blue-black heads, and bronze black bodies) compared to orioles, gold finches and blue jays they are downright dull. And while they are a native species, their appearance at the feeder is a sure sign that you live in a degraded neighbourhood that lacks the cover of the original pre-settlement Carolingian forest.

But, all of that out of the way, there is much to admire about this bird, not the least of which is intelligence and adaptability (and those two often do go together). And while their sheer numbers annoy me, when they do take over the bird feeders, they are fascinating to watch.

They are highly social birds, and spend much of their time in communication. Far beyond their squawking (which I confess not to understand) the strut, prance, preen and fluff. The latter is what I call the ‘exploding bird’, where they squawk , crouch, and !POW! expand to twice their size by fluffing their feathers. It’s quite impressive, and obviously it’s meant to be as they direct this behaviour to one another. The other form of ‘one-up-man-ship’ is the “I have a peanut” where they find a large choice morsel (in this case a peanut half) and parade about ensure that everyone about can see what a fine catch he has.

When large flocks come calling all the other birds stay away, giving me plenty of time to observe these grackle conferences, and once in a while I can’t help but draw these sleek flying machines.

Just because a species is numerous and common, don’t dismiss them as uninteresting, think of homo-sapiens, for instance…

4 comments:

Jenny said...

I like your point about "unpopular" birds--crows are another example of a bird that's kind of hard to feel warm and fuzzy about, but they're VERY smart! Sometimes I could swear they are saying something important to us that we just can't understand.

kaslkaos said...

Thanks Jenny. Funny thing about crows though, I just never get to see them except at a distance, so I never get to observe them either, and the only sound I hear is `caw`; being corvids I`m pretty sure they have more to say than that. That said, yes, I do think crows a pretty cool too.

Chrissy said...

Magpies equally fit this description but you don't seem to get many at one. The ones that you do get loads descend at once are starlings. They arrive on mass and quickly demolish a table but they are seriously on th decline now...!

kaslkaos said...

Chrissy, I would love to see a magpie. We don't have them here. Starlings, alas, were introduced by some fool who thought all of Shakespeares birds belonged here. Oddly, they are not in decline in North America, quite at home by now. They are ravenous, and great mimics in song. So good, in fact, it took me years to realize they were responsible for a portion of 'birdsong' in the area.

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