Common Grackle, a Pest in Decline?

GrackleAtFeeder

Really National Audubon Society, are you fooling me here? 73 million strong and they are in decline? This is from a report on them statewide from 2007, yet they are still included in the top twenty common birds on decline.

As a fan of birds in general and sad for any bird in decline, I am betting this really did not disturb too many bird watchers.

GrackleSparrow

Grackles monopolize feeders.

After all, grackles are a menace to farm crops and other birds. It is funny, but I get a lot of views on my Grackles and Starling posts. Either a lot of folks are searching to get rid of the birds, or they are just fans of blackbirds.

Song birds are sometimes unable to raise their first broods because the grackles harass the parents and eat the eggs. The grackles kill the nestlings too, it has happened here with robin nestlings, so my guess, people want to rid them from their gardens and fields.

maleGracklelookOut

Honestly it is hard to find something good to say about Grackles. I can say, as they line up across the lawn pulling up grubs, I give them the high-five as the little army marches forward.

These are starlings hunting grubs in my front yard, but they often congregate in a mixed flock with Grackles.

These are starlings hunting grubs in my front yard, but they often congregate in a mixed flock with Grackles.

FemaleGrackle-1

When I went to the Audubon site and saw Grackles on the list after a 61 percent drop in their numbers, I thought who is going to sniffle in the hanky? There is still an estimated 73 million of them left, but 190 million existed 40 years ago. The percentage is what has nature lovers concerned, so maybe some are shedding a tear.

GrackleOnShovel

Like the House Sparrow that I featured here on GWGT, the Grackle is pretty much unloved but something is eating away at their numbers. My guess is that humans are wiping them out intentionally if not inadvertently by the use of treated seed and pesticide use.

MaleGrackle

If you Google Grackles + Damage, you get a litany of reasons why they are disliked, not to mention companies willing to dispense with your Grackle problem. This is worrisome, like the sparrows, Grackles have other species resembling them that get caught up in the human persecution of the birds. You can see other birds are not fond of them either.

BattleOfTheBlur

Battle of the Blur

It may also be causing comparable declines in blackbird species that are not considered a problem, putting them at risk being far less numerous to start. Grackles form huge roosting flocks, sometimes numbering in the millions, alongside Red-winged Blackbirds and other blackbird species.

GrackleFeeding

I see it a crime to interfere in thinning out and eliminating a “pest” species. The grackles feeding in these images are parents with young, and as much as they are maligned, I do not begrudge them the right to raise a family unmolested. Yes, they do on occasion cause harm to other birds, but that is nature.  Humans have disconnected themselves from the interconnectivity between the entities found in nature, so if society sees grackles as a menace, society says kill them.

GrackleOnPost

Companies come in and spray the birds with chemicals to strip the protective oils in the feathers causing them to die from exposure. Some net them. Also, lawn care companies cause the Grackles health problems by spraying lawns with grub control. This can kill them or prevent them from reproducing. The House Sparrow is in decline in many places around the world, and it appears so is the Common Grackle. So what does that mean for other birds? I am betting the same fate.

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About Garden Walk Garden Talk

I love to photograph, paint, draw, design, garden, travel the world, and pass on a few tips and ideas that I learned through experience as a Master Gardener and architect. I am highly trained in my field and enjoy my work each and every day. I garden in Niagara Falls, NY in zone 6-B. Find me at: http://gardenwalkgardentalk.com
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18 Responses to Common Grackle, a Pest in Decline?

  1. Oh, no… poor Grackles! I didn’t know this. How come our interference is bound to end up to one word: kill. I sincerely hope that one day reason will prevail.

  2. I didn’t know that their numbers had declined so drastically. While I’m not a fan of the grackles by any means, I’d still never poison or kill them. I even wait until about now before I do any hedge trimming to make sure that their young are all fledged and out of the nest. I may not like grackles, but I’m not going to cut down a grackle nest full of chicks.

  3. supernova1c says:

    Yes, looks like a member/close relative of the crow family? I agree that whatever is causing bird species to decline, will most probably be connected to human behaviour. I can understand peoples concern (mine too) as those declining figures are very alarming, that’s 117 million out of 190 million birds have died in 40 years!
    They seem to be very enterprising birds, a bit like our magpie’s! It would be interesting to know if this is a steady decline or has it speeded up or slowed down in the last 10 years? Mmmm, a lot of questions are posed here and we need more defined data i.e. numbers killed by netting, spraying, pesticides, habitat loss etc and this work needs to be done for declining species in general.
    Have a nice weekend Donna. James 😉

  4. Indie says:

    I really don’t mind Grackles nearly as much as the Starlings, since they are at least native birds. It really scares me when I see so many lawns around with little signs saying that kids and pets should keep off the lawn due to chemical applications. If it’s not good for kids and pets, I can’t imagine what all these chemicals are doing for the (usually smaller in size) wildlife!

  5. Pat says:

    But they are handsome birds – very photogenic. I don’t mind when one or two drop by.

  6. We have lots of Grackles and Red Wing Blackbirds. Very few crows and bluejays, though. I love that picture of the bluejay and grackle. Bluejays don’t take any stuff off of nobody.

  7. I have seen a few here at my home in NH not many but tons of songbirds I had Starlings just for a few days after I spread some bacon grease on a wire basket with suet A whole flock swooped in 🙂

  8. janechese says:

    I like the irridescent black and your third composition though agree they are pests. I hardly have seen starlings or grackles this year.

  9. Raven Simons says:

    Thank you for another great post highlighting what is actually happening to the birds (as well as bees and other creatures). With the neonictinoid poisons that are effecting the pollinators (and highly toxic in the food chain), I’m afraid we are only going to see continued decline in the creatures that share our planet, even the types people consider to be pests, especially when so much profit is being made by those who manufacture the poisons while trying to gain control of the world’s seed supply. While many people don’t care too much about sparrows and grackles and might not hear about what is happening to the honeybees, I wonder how long it will take for humans to make the connection of increasing health problems in people and all the poisons applied to gardens, lawns, homes, and food? I also wonder if many people in the USA think about what happens when all these various chemicals combine? I always enjoy reading your blog and like how you have championed the dandelion and other under appreciated life in the garden 🙂

  10. He does have an evil bully boy look about him, takes a good picture though. They tell us over here that the common house sparrow is in decline, which seems to be true as we rarely see them these days.

  11. Who are we to decide which birds should stay and which should go? I find that whenever man gets involved in changing what nature has planned (be it introducing a alien species or killing one off) we disturb the balance. I am horrified to read that there are companies that spray the birds! Makes my heart heavy!

  12. I think all the sparrows of the world are now living in my garden ! When I open my back door, at least 100 fly away ! They often work on my nerves as they make such a lot of noice !!!! But I feed them every day and they take a bath in our pond and so are other birds ofcourse, not only the sparrows.

  13. Phil Lanoue says:

    Terrific photos but they certainly are not in decline by us. We put out nuts for the red headed woodpeckers and get grackles. 😦

  14. Any decline in a species is troublesome and I fear you are correct. Yes they ate all the suet but the birds didn’t need the suet now…They seem to have moved on and there are not as many as in other years.

  15. Debra says:

    Oh, I just love grackles — especially the lovely boat tailed grackles here in Austin. They can be loud — like airplane engine loud — when they congregate in the evening but during the day they are most welcome. There is a little posse of grackles, cardinals, a squirrel and assorted small brown birds that visit my lawn every morning to eat grubs. When they finish here they move on to the next yard. I think of them as the neighborhood grub patrol. The males can be a bit obnoxious but when they stretch out and strike their beefcake pose I think they look really elegant. Grackles are are as clever as crows and have a lot of personality. It is true that they bother some nesting birds but as the local posse shows they also work cooperatively with other species. Some of the press grackles get is really unfair. I read a study that looked at what they actually consume when they visit farm fields and it is mostly insects and not grain as suspected. Grackles: pest control on the wing.

  16. That is so interesting that the grackle is considered in decline. Here in Austin, TX they live in mass quantities. Here they live not only in the country and the suburbs but in the very urban areas as well. You go downtown Austin at sunset and it looks like a scene out of Hitchcock’s movie The Birds. They line the buildings and the telephone wires and it is quite a sight to see. Personally I can’t stand them since they bully the other birds that frequent our yard here in the county. But that being said, I would never have some sort of pest control eliminate them. That’s just wrong on so many levels. I actually had never even heard of that happening. Because they are so prevalent here, people just seem to deal with them. (There is even a bar named ‘The Grackle’)
    Kenley

  17. Even if they are pesky and destructive birds, they are still quite striking with their irridescent blue heads. Great captures!

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