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.


  1. That's interesting. I didn't know there were Grackles in Barbados. I obvioulsy weren't interested in birds at my tender age of 17 when I lived there ;)

  2. " cops at Dunkin' Donuts...." Enough with the gratuitous stereotyping. Cops more likely to be at Starbucks and eating bagels rather then the popular myth. Humph.

  3. If Evanston cops go to Starbucks, there is something very wrong with them. Starbucks coffee is simply slightly cut crankcase oil, while Dunkin' Donuts coffee is quite tasty.

    On the other hand, bagels ARE better for you than donuts, but not by much. (I believe Dunkin' Donuts also sells bagels.)

  4. Since I don't drink coffee, I will leave the taste argument to the zealots (however, who knows? Maybe EPD runs on cut crankcase oil?). I have never seen a cop dunk either his donut or bagel, usually because they had frosting or topping. I did see a cop dunk his Oreo cookie in milk.... but that is another story.

  5. "Dunkerque"? Henry, even for you, that is despicable.

  6. Very interesting. Thanks for the photo and for the grackle information as well.

  7. I have grackles come to my birdbath with fecal material in their mouth, and drop it into the birdbath, and then fly away. Are they bringing this from the nest to get rid of it? Why leave it in the birdbath. I keep cleaning it out, but as soon as I do, they come back with more. Very odd behavior. Laura S Columbus, Ohio

  8. Fecal material? That was news to me, so I Googled grackle habits and discovered that they are known to remove the fecal sacs of their young and scrape them off their beaks on hard surfaces like concrete. Yuck! Another strike against those critters.

  9. Thanks for researching this. My bird bath is made out of concrete no less. They are interesting birds, but wish they would go to someone else's birdbath.
    L. Southern