Grackle? Oh, snap

Once in a while — not too often — I’ll hear from someone who insists that the world would be a kinder, gentler place without us, that without all those pesky humans despoiling the premises, the forest creatures and the sea kittens and all would live together in peaceful harmony. Inevitably, this proves to be someone who grew up in a series of condominiums and believes that leprechauns eat breakfast cereal: the vast majority of us know better than that. Left to their own devices, nature’s preferred — that is to say, nonhuman — creatures will behave in remarkably human ways.

This morning, a solitary grackle, probably from three or four blocks over, popped into my back yard and poked around on the freshly-mowed (last night, anyway) grass for potential food sources. At first, things were quiet. Then ominous shadows appeared, from all four corners: the mockingbirds who control this zone had spotted the intruder. The grackle, up to that point relatively oblivious to what was going on, decided to look up, and evidently didn’t like what he saw. Exit, stage left. The mockingbird patrol did a couple more laps around the premises, then retreated to wherever it is they conceal themselves. (I’ve spotted, or I think I’ve spotted, two nests, neither actually in my yard. Birds in general, though, are indifferent to fencing.)

What’s remarkable about this, at least to me, is that the birds’ concept of zoning, at least in this part of town, is rather like City Hall’s: your big, burly birds tend to be located closer to the shopping centers, the smaller birds occupy smaller areas with more trees, and neither group has much use for the other, irrespective of what connections between them may exist behind the scenes. I hesitate, however, to stretch this comparison any further.


  1. fillyjonk »

    23 August 2009 · 1:01 pm

    FWIW, most larger birds will eat the young of other bird species (and sometimes even their own). Crows, as much as I find them interesting for their intelligence, do this a lot. It’s probably preferable to think of them as the descendants of the dinosaurs than as “little people with feathers” (as some bird lovers are known to do).

    I had to bite my tongue hard when a friend of my mother was talking about having seen a ground squirrel killed by the roadside. “It was so sad,” she said, “His brother had shown up and was saying goodbye to him.” Fortunately I managed to suppress my biologist’s reflex to say, “Well, actually, they will scavenge dead animals when they need protein” because that really wouldn’t have solved anything.

  2. CGHill »

    23 August 2009 · 2:04 pm

    I occasionally spot a dead wren at work, but it never stays there for long: some less-wee creature is doing the cleanup work. (I have long since learned never to suspect anyone on staff of doing so.) I’ve only seen one dead bird at the house, which I assumed was disposed of in a nonwasteful manner by a wandering neighborhood cat.

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