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!