Wait! Is he looking at Me?

Grackle Confrontation

In 2002 I was in San Antonio on vacation. It’s a beautiful town with lots of great food and an abundance of atmosphere. One evening as we walked along a main boulevard dotted with trees, there was an explosion of bird noise. It was more intense than even the sound of screaming blue jays or red-winged blackbirds. Turns out that it was grackles. I was not familiar with them, and they didn’t seem to be in the mid-Atlantic area, or (more likely) I just hadn’t noticed them. With that said, once you’ve heard them, there’s no forgetting them.


The noise they make is completely over the top and they hunt in large, screaching packs. Their feathers are an iridescent blue/black, so visually they stand out from the crowd as well. They are as confrontational as crows can be, and though not as big as either crows or hawks, they make up for their lack of size with a fearless abandon. I have seen them calling out both hawks and owls, birds of prey that are much bigger. A red tail hawk can be 18″ or more, owls sometimes way bigger. These grackles are maybe 8″ tall at best. But enough of them together will chase away a bigger competitor. You have to like that. They have discovered that their advantage is in numbers and they’ve utilized it. Smart guys!


Finally there’s that look. It certainly scared me away. His beak looks positively metallic!


7 thoughts on “Wait! Is he looking at Me?

  1. San Antonio was where I first met boat-tailed grackles. I wished I had been able to photograph them, but ’twas not to be. They like to live near salt water. We probably have them on the eastern shore. Common grackles are common around here but I think we might just call them blackbirds.

    1. Really? Because they’re not really black. I guess I thought that blackbirds were some variation of crow. They could very well be a different grackle. Whatever they were, they made a tremendous impression on us.

  2. In Austin, they are cocky little beasts. When we dine outside at Chuy’s, they swoop down all devil may care and snatch tortilla chips from the basket, as well as pink sweet n lows in their talons. They have no shame. I’m surprised they can fly w/ such big cajones.

    1. Kerbey, That is too funny! They are amazingly confrontational. Can’t wait to visit Austin as everything I’ve heard has been good. My neighbors went to UT and named their first son Austin. Thanks so much for commenting.

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