Friday, December 16, 2005

Grackles vs. Geese

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.


kenju said...

Several years ago, we had a contingent of Canada geese who took up residence in a lake adjacent to a shopping mall and medical plaza. The people there had to quit walking in the grass on their lunch hours due to the goose poop that accumulated at a very fast rate. They couldn't wait for the geese to leave and go home.

Anonymous said...

I have lived in Victoria, TX and have witnessed the grackle thing. It's really creepy how fast they accumulate and how much noise they make. Kind of reminds me of a movie...

just don't park under anything a bird could roost on!

Hale McKay said...

Canada Geese are nice to look at, yes. But the fertilizer they leave behind and the god-awful racket they make, fall short of endearing these birds to those who are unfortunate enough to live in those areas where they migrate to mate.
Three surrounding towns had to close several ponds to swimming due to excessive levels of guano. One town even had their drinking water tainted - they had to boil first any water they were going to ingest.
People around here welcome crows and grackles and starlings and even bluejays - because they attack the goslings.

Jodi said...

Not too familiar with grackles, but geese? Annoy me.

My parents used to live on a street a little bit adjacent to an apartment complex. Next to the complex was a pond. In the pond, geese. In the Springtime, their grass was infested with guano.

And now? a few days, one of the main streets I drive down every morning would come to a complete stop. The first time, I couldn't understand why since there was hardly any traffic. But as I was able to start driving again, I realized the invisible traffic light was for a flock of geese that decided to cross the road.

Nankin said...

I understand that Fort Worth has started licensing citizens with sound cannon and rifles to get rid of the grackles, They really are nasty.

As a side note, never park under a peppercorn tree. I did once and had solid bird shit from bumper to bumper. I literally had to wash my windshield so I could drive home. And I wondered why nobody had parked in such a great spot.

Candace said...

I remember back when grackles hadn't made it as far north as Dallas. It was wonderful, clean, and QUIET. The experts tell us that we will never be rid of them now, no matter what we do. WE ARE DOOMED.

Karyn Lyndon said...

Sounds like another conspiracy...

Anonymous said...

In Africa guano would not be seen as a problem. There would be men and woman scooping the stuff up, shoving it into plastic bags and then pushing it off in the supermarket trolly which they had stolen. Next they would be selling it some guy who turns it into fertlizer. But ... google Boulders Beach or Simonstown and check out the African penguins who live on the beach (now a protected colony). The penguins roam into peoples gardens, swim in their pools, walk into the town and they too leave their poop all over the place.

Canada Geese Removal NJ said...

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