Sunday, March 20, 2016

Great-tailed Grackles arrive at CSU Stanislaus

When some birds leave, other birds arrive. The Sandhill Cranes and Snow, Ross's, and Cackling Geese have left our region for their breeding grounds in the far north, but other species are arriving from the south. This week I saw that the Great-tailed Grackles (Quiscalus mexicanus) have arrived at the Outdoor Education pond at CSU Stanislaus (I wrote of their arrival last spring as well). The birds are native to Mexico and Southern California, but they have expanded their territory to the north. We are at close to the northern extreme of their range in California.They've done well with humans, thriving on agricultural food sources (and human garbage). In some quarters they are considered to be agricultural pests.
As is often the case with birds, the males are the showy ones. They are an iridescent black with a fabulously long tail (hence the name, of course), and a loud whistling cry ("piercing" is a good description).
The females lack the long tail and black color. They are more of a plain brown. Were it not for the yellow eyes and sharp beak, it would be hard to call them the same species.

The males were shouting for attention. Here's a short video of one of them calling out at the pond.

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