I find it hard to identify some birds when you don’t see them all that often. Grackles and starlings show up in Spring to get their fill on the lawn grubs. Lucky for my roses I might add. So they fly in flocks, gobble up as much as possible, then off they go, not to be seen the rest of the season. Unless of course you grow a large evergreen to their liking and have tasty suet out for dinner for the woodpeckers.
Apparently my Spartan Juniper proved a great place to raise a family for one of them. No photos of the little darlings in the nest as the juniper is over twenty feet tall and of course the top is where the babies reside, safely hidden inside. This is the hole they made in my juniper to access the nest, which is completely camouflaged.
But mom and dad were great parents as far as their species dictates. Run off anything that moves and render sightless those that do not heed the warning. Grackle mom and dad perch and watch over the nest in the juniper, ready for the attack, yellow eyes fixated both north and south.
Gilbert and friends no longer visit my yard, at least until the interlopers move on. I counted four babies for the busy mom below. I believe this is a Starling, because of the yellow beak, speckles and short body. They are cavity nesters and I have no idea where the nest was located. Hopefully not my dryer vent or chimney flue.
The babies are bigger than the mom. It is almost like she is the one that got duped with little imposters. This is something these birds are notorious for, pushing out babies of songbirds and dropping in an egg of their own, or just commandeer the nest of a woodpecker for themselves.
So let’s look at why they are in my yard and not out hunting grubs. My guess is my yard is grub free because of them never leaving. They do have it made with a nice bird bath at the base of the juniper. Here the wet bird is eating shucked sunflower and safflower seed out of a clay saucer. Only the best seed for the growing family… actually the bluejay, woodpecker and cardinal families.
A Grackle is a common blackbird that has a glossy iridescent, long, slender body. They do a lot of walking on long legs in search of insects and just about anything they can find including garbage.
Starlings are chunkier birds and have long slender yellow beaks and black eyes. Some, depending on breeding, age and the season have black beaks. Summertime is yellow beak time but they may still retain their lightly spotted look. They also have short tails. No where could I find where a Grackle’s beak changes from black to yellow. There are yellow beaked blackbirds, but I could not find one with spots. So my ID conundrum.
Grackles gather in high evergreens and I have arborvitae and a concolor which seems to attract them also. Grackles have a bill longer than most blackbirds and their head is flat. They are very smart and often very malicious to other young birds, killing them for sport. And if you want to know what they actually do, gruesome as it is, go to this site for a chilling description. Made me think twice on them in my yard, although I have only seen them attack the squirrels. They have that golden eye which really gives them a menacing look and if one wants you away, the evil eye zeros in.
I have had a brown headed cow bird, red-winged blackbirds, crows and a Brewer’s Blackbird here too. Considering that the Grackles and Starlings are running off mammals, they don’t seem to be chasing off the birds.
Both blackbirds have been feeding right alongside sparrows and finches. They let the blue jays and cardinals ground feed and visit the bird bath. Here is a young jay, reared in the Mulberry behind my house, is having a drink.
These grackles are noisy with that raucous chatter. The starlings are quite boisterous and loud. Starlings travel with blackbirds and Grackles in groups, so the groups chatter is really annoying because they all have different calls. Kinda like a loud, intense argument at the UN.