Sunday, May 3, 2009
This is for the bird brains who flock to this blog:
The last few days I've been watching the grackles in our back yard dip their food in the birdbath like cops at Dunkin' Donuts. That's an odd behavior, I thought, so I went onto the Internet to research it.
Seems that Carib grackles on Barbados do that, too, and the phenomenon has been extensively studied.
The reason for that, the aforementioned study says, is to soften hard, dry food. But the Midwestern grackle in the above photo was dunking a sunflower seed. It's doubtful that dunking softens sunflower seeds, at least immediately. Maybe the grackle didn't know that, or maybe it was just swallowing the seed with water, like a pill.
The grackles also land on the bird bath with dry leaves in their beaks, dip them, then fly away with the sodden mess -- perhaps as wetted material for their nests. They leave a lot behind, however, and by the end of the day the bird bath looks like a swimming pool left open to the elements all summer without cleaning.
This is not all that grackles do. They also congregate in fields and stare at the sky, as if watching for space aliens, and rub ants on their feathers.
Grackles are at once annoying and beautiful -- and a bit weird.