Working at Wild Birds Unlimited in East Lansing I hear complaints all the time about “those horrible black birds.” Sometimes it frustrates me that all birds aren’t appreciated individually for their magnificence. It also made me wonder why birds with black plumage are the subject of so many unpleasant stories and superstitions all over the world. Why is their black color so associated with evil and ill omens?
I finally came to the conclusion that it’s because a lot of these black colored birds can out smart people. Crows, Grackles, and Starlings are very clever birds and tend to work together in family groups to get what they want. And what they want is generally a lot of food. Sometimes baby birds, or small rodents and sometimes birdseed we’ve delegated for the Cardinals only. They can empty a feeder in a day and a suet feeder in minutes. But that doesn’t mean they are any less deserving.
I wonder if they were brilliant red or indigo blue if they would be more loved or excused of their “bad habits.” Most of the black colored birds aren’t beautiful songster either but they can learn to imitate human speech. They scavenge and clean up many road kills or garbage littering the roads. In the fall you can watch them gather in large roosts. This sometimes includes millions of birds that blanket groups of trees or else they fly in intricate patterns across the sky.
Now that Halloween has passed lets look again at our black feathered friends and see if we can find something nice to say about the poor maligned black birds.