Nankin mentioned in a comment yesterday that grackles congregate around her area. Well, Victoria has them also. Big time!
Wait — do my friends and faithful readers from farther north (not to mention other continents) know about grackles? Also known as “glossy grackles,” these black birds are bigger than blackbirds (like the four-and-twenty baked in the nursery rhyme pie) but smaller than crows (as in “quoth the raven, ‘Nevermore’.”) The males are solid black and shiny, hence the “glossy” part of the name. The females are a dull brown and black mix.
I don’t know this, but I’d assume the “grackle” part of the name comes from the sound they make. It varies between a whistle and a cackle. A bunch of them together sounds like really rusty door hinges squealing, followed by crunching up Doritos in a plastic sack. And loud? You can be driving down the street with your air conditioner on high, windows closed and the radio up, and you'll still hear them. It’s the God-awfullest racket you ever heard out of a flock of birds.
In the winter months thousands of grackles gather around Victoria’s one shopping mall. During the day you’ll see some there, but most are out foraging for food (bugs, seeds, food scraps on the parking lot at WalMart, whatever.) But at dusk they gather at the mall. Every overhead power line and telephone line for about a mile is packed with them. Every tree is filled with them. They cover the roofs of buildings in the area. And then from dark to dawn they do nothing but squawk, whistle, and poop.
All the sidewalks around the mall are covered with white guano. The area under every tree is solid with it as well. The city has tried noisemakers and flashing lights to scare them away, with no effect. People tried putting out poison, but poison is non-selective and might kill other species. So the birds and the people have reached an uneasy truce. They squawk and poop. We avoid the guano.
That brings me to geese.
Several years ago my wife Carol and our daughter Amy drove to Vancouver, BC. Why they went is a long story. While they were there they hired a horse-drawn tourist tour-cart and rode around listening to a tour guide tell them about the city and especially one huge park.
This was in the summer, and the park was full of Canada geese.
The tour guide pointed them out, and asked if they weren’t, indeed, beautiful stately birds. Yes, they were.
Then he said in disgust that everybody there hated them, but since they were their national bird nobody could do anything about them. His comment to Carol and Amy was, “All they do is eat and shit.”
I guess if I were on the receiving end of a deposit of bird guano, I’d prefer a grackle to a goose. I base that strictly on volume. And I assure you, I’d do my best to avoid either one.
But at least the geese didn’t roost overhead in a populated area of town and squawk and cackle, whistle and shriek, while they bombed the passers by.
All in all, I think I’d prefer the geese. They’re prettier to look at and much easier on the ears.