Coyote Mercury

words, birds and whatever else by James Brush

Project FeederWatch Week 17 (and 16)

A Common Grackle looks around the yard

A Common Grackle looks around the yard

On Sunday morning, I became the only person in Austin, TX to become excited about seeing grackles. That’s because 8 Common Grackles showed up, and while they’re as common as air around here, they rarely come to my yard, and this is the first time they’ve come since I started doing Project FeederWatch.

As if that wasn’t enough. 3 European Starlings, another common local bird but a rarity in my yard, stopped by for a round of vigorous splashing in the backyard birdbath.

This is a happy discovery I’ve made about listing: even if a newly listed bird is extremely common and I’ve seen it a million times in every parking lot in town, getting to add it to my list makes the bird new.

I watched the grackles for a long time, marveling at the dark sheen of their iridescent feathers, their bright laser-intense eyes and their long sharp bills. They are wonderful birds to watch and those shadow-colored birds look so great among all the other avian colors. A backyard needs some black (even if it’s really dark purplish) around the feeders.

A grackle considering his options

A grackle prepares to do his grackle display

Common Grackle doing the grackle display

Common Grackle doing the grackle display

Despite a name that’s fun to say, the grackle gets a bad rap around here. Of, course it’s easy to appreciate them when you don’t have a flock of thousands roosting in your trees, and so, I’m glad they came by, but I hope they don’t bring too many more friends, unless they show up with their Great-tailed kin so I can add another bird to my count.

Last summer, a pair nested in the neighbor’s tree and they brought their fledglings around to our feeders where I got some nice shots of junior begging for and getting a peanut from one of his parents. They also made sure their young knew where to find the birdbaths. Their bathing habits surprised me: they are probably the most frequent bathers of all my backyard birds. Not bad for a bird that many consider filthy.

Other than the grackles and starlings, all of the usual suspects made an appearance. Some quick observations:

  • House Sparrows seem to be coming around a bit more.
  • A wren built a nest in my neighbor’s plant.
  • White-wing Doves are increasing as the weather warms.
  • For the second week in a row, I only saw one each of the American and Lesser Goldfinches, and no goldfinches on Sunday. I wonder if the warm weather and weeds that are sprouting have inspired them to seek wild food, or in the case of the American Goldfinches, head north. I hope not, as I was hoping to see them in their breeding plumage.
  • Still no hummingbirds yet. Probably next weekend.

The Week 17 Count, which has the greatest number of species seen, thus far:

  1. White-winged Dove (12)
  2. Mourning Dove (2)
  3. Blue Jay (2)
  4. Carolina Chickadee (1)
  5. Black-crested Titmouse (2)
  6. Carolina Wren (2)
  7. Bewick’s Wren (2)
  8. American Robin (1)
  9. Northern Mockingbird (1)
  10. European Starling (3)
  11. Orange-crowned Warbler (1)
  12. Chipping Sparrow (8)
  13. Northern Cardinal (2)
  14. Common Grackle (8)
  15. House Finch (2)
  16. Lesser Goldfinch (1)
  17. American Goldfinch (1)
  18. House Sparrow (17)

My count for last weekend was sparse. We were in Houston, and so I only counted for a couple of minutes on Saturday morning and Sunday evening, but here is what I got for Week 16:

  1. White-winged Dove (5)
  2. Mourning Dove (1)
  3. Blue Jay (1)
  4. Carolina Chickadee (2)
  5. Black-crested Titmouse (2)
  6. Carolina Wren (1)
  7. Bewick’s Wren (2)
  8. American Robin  (1)
  9. Orange-crowned Warbler (1)
  10. Chipping Sparrow   (5)
  11. Northern Cardinal (2)
  12. House Finch (1)
  13. Lesser Goldfinch (1)
  14. American Goldfinch (1)
  15. House Sparrow (7)

Grackle on the Feeder 2

If you’ve never watched a grackle through a good pair of binoculars, give it a go. They’re really quite exquisite birds.

Mike at 10000 Birds has a nice post celebrating grackles today. It seems that this weekend he also saw his first Common Grackles for the year.

For more on the Common Grackle, have a look at Common Grackle: The Overlooked Blackbird at Tails of Birding and, of course, the Cornell Lab of Ornithology’s All About Birds: The Common Grackle.

Or, better yet, go out and find one to study. They’re everywhere.


  1. I really love the first photo! There’s some quality about it that makes it look like a painting. The grackle is indeed an interesting bird. I had one come to my feeders for the first time a few weeks back, too! It only stayed for a few minutes, and hasn’t been back since. You think you might have hummingbirds soon? That’s so cool! I think it will be several more weeks before they start to appear in Ohio.

  2. The first black-chinned hummers showed up at my feeders on 3/17 in 2007 and 3/16 in 2008 so I expect them any day now. It would be nice to see one today since it’s a count day.

    Thanks for your comments on the photo too.

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