Daily Archives: September 22, 2019

Green River grackle-watching

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We call this place Green River. It’s a series of retention ponds on the west side of Green River Parkway in Jensen Beach, just before Martin County turns into St. Lucie County. On the other side of the road is the quieter southern part of Savannas Preserve State Park.

It’s a great spot to walk the dog… now that he is trained enough not to take himself swimming with the alligators.

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Autumn color! The cypress trees are turning.

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Near the trees I spotted a grackle among the lily pads.

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A bird so shiny in the morning sun.

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I watched this bird for a little while. It’s a male Boat-tailed Grackle, confirmed on Facebook’s What’s This Bird. I don’t feel 100% confident on the difference between BTGs and Common Grackles so I doublechecked my guess.

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This fine shiny fellow was walking across the lily pads, sometimes turning them over to look underneath.

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Another grackle nearby was also inspecting the bounty of potential nourishment to be found in these freshwater wetlands.

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Read up: On the Origin of Really Shiny Species, at Nat Geo.

Shinier means healthier. This bird is eating well, I’d say.

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Read up some more: eBird Grackles – are you getting them right?

The most range-restricted of the three, Boat-tailed Grackles are very much linked to tidewater, spending their lives near coastal salt marshes; they rarely occur more than a few hundred meters from water across much of their range. The exception to this rule is Florida, where the species occurs inland throughout the peninsula, essentially side-by-side with Common Grackle in many places.

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Let’s see what’s under here.

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Cornell Lab of Ornithology…

Boat-tailed Grackles are large, lanky songbirds with rounded crowns, long legs, and fairly long, pointed bills. Males have very long tails that make up almost half their body length and that they typically hold folded in a V-shape, like the keel of a boat.

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Boat-tailed Grackles eat arthropods, crustaceans, mollusks, frogs, turtles, lizards, grain, seeds, fruit, and tubers. Inveterate scavengers and pirates, they also take food from humans, domestic animals, and other birds. They usually forage out in the open, in a wide variety of habitats that include floating mats, mudflats, beaches, roadsides, parking lots, dumps, cultivated fields, and cattle feedlots. They walk slowly over the ground or in shallow water, pecking or probing at soil, litter, or low vegetation. They often overturn debris, stones, and shells with their bills. In aquatic habitats they stand still and cock their heads to watch the water with one eye, then plunge their heads below the surface. They can pry open mussel shells and eat snails by forcing an opening between the tissue and the shell. Boat-tailed Grackles often dunk foods like bread, rice, and dog food in water before eating them.

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Audubon…

Forages mostly near water, by walking on shore or in shallow water, catching items with rapid thrusts of its bill. Sometimes steals food from larger birds. Will enter heron colonies to feed on unguarded eggs.

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The Boat-tailed Grackle is Quiscalus major.

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The avian genus Quiscalus contains six of the ten species of grackle, gregarious passerine birds in the icterid family. They are native to North and South America.

The genus was introduced by the French ornithologist Louis Jean Pierre Vieillot in 1816. The type species was subsequently designated as the common grackle (Quiscalus quiscula) by the English zoologist George Robert Gray in 1840. The genus name comes from the specific name Gracula quiscula coined by the Swedish naturalist Carl Linnaeus for the common grackle. From where Linnaeus obtained the word is uncertain but it may come from the Carib word Quisqueya meaning “mother of all lands”, for the island of Hispaniola.

(Incidentally, here are 12 English words derived from the Carib language, including cay, hammock, hurricane and savannah.)

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They are members of the Icterid or blackbird family, in the order Passeriformes or perching birds.

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He really manages to keep his big tail from dragging in the water.

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This active, searching bird, so bright in the morning sunlight, was a joy to watch.

Blue house, blue jays

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Back to the bird blog! I haven’t posted in a while; I’ve missed bird watching.

We’ve been busy remodeling a vintage 1987 house – new windows, siding, kitchen, bathrooms, floors, doors, trim, interior layout, pool, patios, landscape, paint – but now we’ve finished and moved in. (The house color is Sherwin-Williams “Cay.”)

It’s just half a mile from our old house (now sold) in the lovely peninsular town of Sewall’s Point, but bigger, on slightly larger property, and with a pool (ah!)

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Most notable bird life at our new house, at least at this time of year: Blue Jays. There seems to be an extended family in the neighborhood. They spend a lot of time in the laurel oaks in our front and side yards. I am finding half eaten acorns on the front pathway and driveway.

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They come around and watch us when we are outside, especially when I’m watering the new landscape plants in the front yard.

We planted wildlife-friendly natives on a berm under the oak trees, including wax myrtle, firebush, fakahatchee grass and one of my favorite Florida plants, saw palmetto. The backyard needs some more plants along the fence, for privacy and wildlife.

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The jays are curious about us, and like to hang around nearby, though it’s not always that easy to get a picture of them. I get the sense they are smart enough to know how visible they are to us.