Saturday, November 12, 2005

One way of looking at a grackle

I do not know which to prefer,
The beauty of inflections
Or the beauty of innuendoes,
The blackbird whistling
Or just after.

--Wallace Stevens, the fifth of 13 ways of looking at a blackbird

The poet was perhaps thinking of the quiet inflections of a few redwings in a Connecticut marsh. Austin blackbirds score low in the innuendo department. Our main blackbird is the grackle.

Grackle, feeding. (Click for larger image.)

What! Are you lookin' at me?

Well, it doesn't bother me, pal.

These are photos of the great tailed grackle, Quiscalus mexicanus, taken in my back yard. These grackles, maybe the most spectacular of American blackbirds, make themselves quite at home wherever they go, regarding humans perhaps as a necessary nuisance in the conduct of their busy and noisy lifestyle, little knowing that we have actually provided them with the noise and chaos they enjoy so much. They prosper with urbanism and are supremely adapted to Austin's worst drabscapes where they congregate, excited and raucous, in enormous roosts in the evening in trees in the dreary stripmalls beside I-35, on poles and in trees over all-nite gas stations, and (in this case considered a nuisance) in the trees of the University of Texas. They like crowds and clamor, wherever they find it, whether produced by the traffic on I-35, or by 48,000 university students on a busy campus.

During the day they disperse to forage, and frequently land in my yard. Every once in a while, they'll decide to roost in trees in my neighborhood, but you can tell their hearts aren't really in it. Too rural. Plus, people will get out and throw rocks at them, to keep the birds from shitting all over their cars, and eventually the grackles will say, collectively, it's too quiet and the monkeys are throwing rocks at us, and they lift off all together at once with a huge fluttery low-frequency rumble, in the direction of the freeway.

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