As I was making my morning tea I heard the loud, agitated calls from the family of sparrows that nest in a window box near my feeders. I went to investigate the cause for their concern, only to discover a Common Grackle eating some seed. Normally grazing the lawn for bugs, this grackle came up to investigate the feeders after finding slim pickings in the grass.
The loud, raucous harassment by the sparrows moved the grackle along. The sparrows usually leave the other feeder birds alone but they saw a threat with the grackle. Although there was no threat to me this time, it pays to listen to nature. If something is out of place, wild birds will let you know with their frantic calls of “danger, danger, danger!”
Common Grackle Quiscalus quiscula
Order: PASSERIFORMES Family: Blackbirds and Orioles (Icteridae)
Medium-sized blackbird with metallic purple sheen on back, head, neck, and breast. Eyes are bright yellow! Female is smaller and duller. Juvenile is dark brown with dark eyes.
You might see a Common Grackle rolling on an ant hill. This behavior is called anting, and grackles as well as many other bird species roll on ants to coat their feathers in the formic acid the ants secrete and rid themselves of parasites. In addition to ants, grackles have been seen using walnut juice, lemons and limes, marigold blossoms, chokecherries, and mothballs in a similar fashion.
Grackles forage primarily on the ground. During breeding season, their diets consist mainly of insects and other invertebrates. However the birds are opportunistic and can eat goldfish, minnows, crayfish, small frogs, salamanders, mice, and small bats. They are also known to eat other birds' eggs and nestlings, and occasionally kill and eat other adult birds, particularly adult house sparrows. During migration and winter, common grackles eat mostly grains from farm fields and seeds, particularly corn and acorns. They also eat some fruits.