The fact is that I tend to see the world differently than many others and here is a case where I seem to differ with many people, even my trusted Sibley’s guide to birds. This oft hated birds is the great-tailed grackle. I suspect its commonness has something to do with its perceived value. It seems that parking lots are great habitat for these birds and you can also find them in almost any fast food place, waiting to pick up anything that is dropped. Just last week I received a call from someone wanting to know if they could “get rid” of their grackles legally. In this case, they were nesting in their back yard in good numbers causing a mess. I would enjoy having them in my back yard and they are common visitors but do not nest.
The female of the species is a fairly drab brown but the male is an iridescent black-purple, depending on the light, with a long tail that they hold in an exaggerated V shape during flight. They put on a remarkable display, raising their head and neck straight up and sticking their fanned tail out behind them. Their displays also include holding their heads low and fluttering their partially outstretched wings. However, my favorite thing about great-tailed grackles is their song. To me it sound like a noise made by a toy laser weapon that you would never buy for your own children because it would be too loud and therefore, best given to grand children, nieces, nephews, etc. Sibley’s disappointingly describes their song as “a series of loud, rather unpleasant noises: mechanical rattles kikikiki or ke ke ke ke ke teep; sliding, tinny whistles whoit whoit….; harsh, rustling sounds like thrashing branches or flushing toilet [who ever wrote this really didn’t like great-tailed grackles]; loud hard keek keek…or kidi kidi”. Disregard all the implied, heck, blatant disrespect for this bird. I love their displays and their calls! Again, they suffer the misfortune of being too common and therefore pedestrian. These birds are also smart. I have commonly observed them carrying dog or cat food to my bird bath, where they soak the hard food to make it easier to eat. This is a common behavior and can be observed where ever you have water and dog and cat food in close proximity. I have even seen a small group mess with a dog, distracting it while others raided its food bowl.
I predict that if great-tailed grackles were rare, isolated far from humans in some tropical area, birders (bird watchers) would consider it a great find and work hard to observe the bird and hear its song. I get to appreciate the bird every day!