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  • Writer's pictureCheryl English

Spring Is on Its Way - I Promise

Honest. It really is. You know why? The Boat-Tailed Grackles are back!

I finally managed to get out for a morning walk in my neighborhood for the first time in over a month; between inclement (read "Polar Vortex") weather and events out of town, getting a walk in wasn't an option. Today, with the temperature near 50°F, a walk was essential, just to get out of my head. I had heard sounds I usually associate with the Boat-Tailed Grackles (Quiscalus major) - a passerine (migratory) bird that overwinters in the southern US - for a few days but couldn't make visual confirmation. (I'm hesitant to get hopeful without it, as our resident population of exotic invasive European Starlings are excellent mimics) but today I saw a flock of these beautiful birds moving through the trees as they harassed and were harassed by a crow.

How to tell a Boat-tailed Grackle? They are somewhat larger than the Starlings, who have yellow bills to our Grackles' black bills. Males are sooty black, mature males possessing iridescent highlights, most noticeably on their heads. The females are tawny brown, providing better coverage during nesting. Both have longer tails than the Starlings, with the males' being longer than the females'. And, their tails are not flat, but dip down in the middle, somewhat like the hull of a boat; hence, their common name.

Grackles are not part of the corvid family - they are not related to crows, ravens or jays, belonging rather to the Icteridae family, along with numerous other medium-sized, often brightly colored (although often sporting black plumage as well) birds, including Red-Winged Blackbirds (Agelaius phoeniceus), whose call is similar but not identical.

So, yes: Spring is on its way!

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