Tuesday, December 24, 2013
The enigma of winter Boat-tailed Grackles
Today at the Wal Mart parking lot in Harahan, I found myself parking at the way on the edge of the parking area, beneath a row of small live oaks bordering Jefferson Highway.
The trees were filled with male Boat-tailed Grackles, loudly issuing their rasping and chanting calls. There were eleven in the trees in the space of the five parking slots surrounding my car, and more down the way.
They do this every winter. They abandon the parking area in spring and summer when they nest, and return in flocks in winter, mixed males and females- sometimes 70 or more at this particular parking lot. They hang out until near sundown, and then fly off to roost at some unknown location.
The question is, why are they advertising themselves, and why so vigorously?
Generally, this sort of loud posturing is associated with one (or both) of two purposes: attracting a mate, and advertising a territory.
They are not close enough to nesting season to be attracting mates, at least so I would think.
They are not defending any territories in the parking lot- all the birds appear to mill and mix freely among the cars as they search for food.
So what could possibly make it worth their while to expend so much time and energy advertising themselves? Surely there must also be some risk involved, not just wasted energy- plenty of Cooper's Hawks in the area.
Such a familiar site- at Wal Mart every time I go- yet so puzzling.
For a copy of Birding Made Easy-New Orleans, email me at firstname.lastname@example.org, or look for it at area book stores. It is now available at
Uptown: Garden District Book Shop, Maple Street Book Shop, Octavia Books
French Quarter and Marigny: Peach Records, Fauborg Marigny Art Books Music, Librairie Book Shop, Beckham's Bookshop, Arcadian Books and Prints, the Crabnet
Mid City: City Park Botanical Garden, Community Book Center