Portraits of Wildflowers

Perspectives on Nature Photography

Grackle on one leg

with 53 comments

Grackle Standing on One Leg 8308

Click for better clarity.

While there was still a little daylight left on December 15th, 2013, I drove over to the Fiesta supermarket on Interstate 35, where I’d recently noticed that quantities of grackles, Quiscalus mexicanus, were gathering each evening and spending the night perched in trees in the parking lot.

Most of the birds weren’t in the trees yet, and some were scavenging on the pavement in the parking lot for food that a few shoppers inevitably drop. Why this grackle was standing on one leg, I don’t know. I did see it put the other one down when it walked short distances, but then it went back to balancing on this single leg again. About six weeks later, in the parking lot of a supermarket in a different part of town, I saw another grackle standing like this. I wonder what’s up (in addition to the other leg).

© 2014 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

February 6, 2014 at 6:01 AM

53 Responses

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  1. Nice. Your snap of the grackle really pops!

    Mike Powell

    February 6, 2014 at 6:07 AM

    • We’re both photographers, so it’s good to have a kellogg of mine appreciate this crispy photo. Cheerio.

      Steve Schwartzman

      February 6, 2014 at 7:12 AM

  2. I’m not sure what a Grackle is, and was wondering what the UK equivalent would be?

    Amanda J

    February 6, 2014 at 6:13 AM

  3. Grackles have to be Kroger and Fiesta’s mascots. There’s always a nest nestled in Kroger’s “o”.


    February 6, 2014 at 6:21 AM

    • It’s good of you to conceive them as mascots. I’m not sure the store owners would be so sympathetic.

      We don’t have any Kroger supermarkets in Austin, but I’ve occasionally noticed a bird’s nest inside a letter in a sign on the front of other supermarkets. I’ve seen plenty of Grackles hanging out in the parking lot at Whole Foods (downtown and in my neighborhood) and at Central Market (in north-central Austin and in Fort Worth).

      Steve Schwartzman

      February 6, 2014 at 7:21 AM

  4. Wish I had balance like that :).


    February 6, 2014 at 6:32 AM

  5. And it sort of looks like one eye! Thanks for visiting my bayou blog and leaving a comment AND reading the Bald Cypress piece. Appreciate you!

    Bayou Woman

    February 6, 2014 at 6:49 AM

  6. Terrific capture–maybe it’s confused or ready to take action.


    February 6, 2014 at 7:10 AM

    • I’m just glad I was ready to take action with my camera and longest lens. As for confusion, this grackle didn’t seem more confused than any of the others nearby, but I’m no psychologist of birds.

      Steve Schwartzman

      February 6, 2014 at 7:49 AM

  7. My assumption is the grackle’s doing what herons and egrets often do – pull one leg up into those lovely feathers for warmth. There’s a heron that shelters on a boat swim platform next to where I’m working these days. He’ll stand on one leg for an hour, then put it down, shake his feathers and stretch his neck, and then tuck the other leg up.

    Grackles always look so alert and attentive. You’ve captured it well.


    February 6, 2014 at 7:22 AM

    • I thought about the keeping-warm explanation, and I’ve seen that behavior with long-legged birds like flamingos and the heron you mention. On the other hand (other leg?), December 15th wasn’t a cold day, and none of the other grackles were behaving that way. Another explanation that came to mind was that the raised leg might be injured, although I did see the grackle put it down at times. Whatever the explanation, I’m happy to have gotten a picture of that pose.

      Steve Schwartzman

      February 6, 2014 at 7:58 AM

  8. Fwd from my neighbor who blogs everyday. Check out his other articles and pictures. Steve Schwartzman posted:
    “While there was still a little daylight left on December 15th, 2013, I drove over to the Fiesta supermarket on Interstate 35, where I’d recently noticed that quantities of grackles, Quiscalus quiscula, were gathering each evening and spending the night….”

    Wanda Hill

    February 6, 2014 at 7:31 AM

  9. Robins are usually only present here in the warmer months. Yesterday, while we enjoyed 15˚F temps, a flock of nearly 20 showed up in front of the house. They sat for a long time in a crabapple in the circle of the cul-de-sac eating frozen fruit. Their dark poop droppings were all over the snow piled there.

    Goofy birds. I don’t know what possessed them to show up. No warm weather has been here for weeks. They are back today as I type.

    Jim in IA

    February 6, 2014 at 7:58 AM

    • Maybe the robins stopped by because they knew you’d find their antics entertaining, which you did.

      It’s a coincidence that you mentioned a crabapple because tomorrow I’ve scheduled my first-ever post dealing with that kind of tree. The cold’s enough to make us crabby.

      Steve Schwartzman

      February 6, 2014 at 9:56 AM

  10. Just practising yoga, of course 😀


    February 6, 2014 at 12:51 PM

  11. I love the photo. I have never heard of this bird but I love the colours of its feathers. 😀

    Raewyn's Photos

    February 6, 2014 at 1:03 PM

    • We live on opposite sides of the globe, so I’m not surprised that you haven’t heard of grackles, just as I wouldn’t recognize most of the flora and fauna in New Zealand. In any case, happy grackle to you.

      Steve Schwartzman

      February 6, 2014 at 2:29 PM

  12. wonderful photo.
    i like the stare.


    February 6, 2014 at 7:00 PM

  13. That grackle was clearly practicing a yoga pose to improve balance.

    • You’re the second person to suggest yoga, something that hadn’t occurred to me. This grackle seemed to know its asanas.

      Steve Schwartzman

      February 6, 2014 at 8:23 PM

  14. I’ve seen birds do this before and it’s really amazing that they can stand like that for a long period of time!

    Michael Glover

    February 6, 2014 at 9:42 PM

  15. Bird yoga! In the world of parrots if your bird does not rest/sleep on one leg it could be a sign that something is wrong. I don’t know if it’s the same for other birds but it is a symbol of comfort in parrots.

    Anywho, I REALLY love this photo. I love the detail of the feathers you were able to capture. Its eye is pretty creepy I must say, made me think of a dark wizard. Maybe its other leg is busy mixing up a potion under its feathers!

    Great shot!



    February 6, 2014 at 10:26 PM

    • It’s good to see your enthusiasm for this grackle (and the implied bird yoga). I was pleased with the feather details, too, especially because until a person gets rather close these birds often appear mostly black. Unlike a few of the rest of you, though, I wasn’t creeped out by the grackle’s eye.

      Steve Schwartzman

      February 6, 2014 at 10:37 PM

      • Creepy here being more of an expressive description than a feeling! No doubt it adds even more to the photo.

        Funny because Grackles aren’t exactly favored birds but I do love the iridescence of their feathers, well at least of the males. I noticed you can kind of see it in the breast feathers of your subject but I’ve noticed it the most on their back and wings.

        Take care,


        February 6, 2014 at 11:10 PM

      • Let me try that again, you definitely can see its iridescence in your photo. You’re right they have a lot more colors than black and you show this well.



        February 6, 2014 at 11:12 PM

        • You’re right that grackles are hardly favored birds, primarily for the mess that ends up beneath them wherever they congregate, and also because of the noise large numbers of them create.

          Steve Schwartzman

          February 7, 2014 at 7:04 AM

          • I think they’re less hated then Starlings though! 😉


            February 11, 2014 at 3:34 PM

            • I guess you could take an opinion poll among people who have lived in proximity to both kinds of birds. Call it an anti-popularity contest.

              Steve Schwartzman

              February 11, 2014 at 3:43 PM

              • Lol. As it stands, I’m voting for the Starlings to win “most unpopular”! They get into everything around here and pick on most of the native birds.


                February 17, 2014 at 12:08 PM

  16. I think its toesies were cold.


    February 7, 2014 at 3:33 PM

    • Possibly, but the weather wasn’t particularly cold, and none of the other grackles that were there behaved this way.

      Steve Schwartzman

      February 7, 2014 at 4:14 PM

  17. I know grackles are terribly common (and considered problematic in the farming areas)… But their coloring is just gorgeous. The blues are shimmering through here in your image, in this lovely, personable capture!!


    February 9, 2014 at 9:57 PM

    • It’s not just farming areas where they’re considered a nuisance. They were a problem for years at the main campus of the University of Texas in Austin because of all their droppings. Still, they can be sleek birds, with that tinge of blue shimmering through that you talked about. I’m glad this image strikes you as personable, an adjective that no one but you has ever used in a comment here.

      Steve Schwartzman

      February 9, 2014 at 10:35 PM

  18. I assumed the cold/warmth reason for his pose, too, but then perhaps this grackle simply finds it comfortable to stand balanced that way. Every species needs its outliers, even in matters of style! I’m a big fan of grackles despite their ill repute: for their antic behaviors, great variety of calls and imitative sounds, occasionally luminous iridescence and (to me) humorously gawky, gangly shapes, I enjoy them immensely—just as I’ve long been a fan of ravens, crows and what are to me the northwest equivalent of the grackle, starlings, for the same set of reasons. None of those NW natives is nearly as scrawny and often disheveled looking as grackles tend to be, and only the starling has nearly as many vocalization skills, but each bird has its appeals.

    I suspect part of the reason grackles (and starlings) are so often considered pests is that their behaviors seem to put them quite naturally in more constant proximity to humans in public places, as they’re scavengers and love nothing more than some handy trash to pick through for potential snacks. As a result, I’ve never seen either kind of bird frequenting bird feeders anywhere, despite their clearly sizable appetites. Ironic, when you think of it, that many people seem to find squirrels such an adorable rodent despite the predatory and greedy attitude they take toward feeder offerings and leaving shelled seed and their own scat strewn around in their wake, but some of the same people will scapegoat some of the birds that *don’t* tend to frequent those same feeders as dirty louts. Everything is a matter of taste, I guess. 😉


    February 10, 2014 at 5:53 PM

    • What a thoughtful comparison of grackles and starlings to squirrels. So many human attitudes are inconsistent or downright illogical, but that’s the way we sometimes are.

      Your early comment may well explain what this picture shows: “perhaps this grackle simply finds it comfortable to stand balanced that way.” I can sympathize, because all my life I’ve found it natural to sit in what’s called a half-lotus position, which many people have trouble getting into and most find uncomfortable if they do manage to get it into.

      Steve Schwartzman

      February 10, 2014 at 9:10 PM

  19. ‘Grackle’ is an excellent word and, for me, somewhat onomatopoeic in terms of this bird’s appearance.

    The World Is My Cuttlefish

    February 14, 2014 at 10:57 AM

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