Portraits of Wildflowers

Perspectives on Nature Photography

Other looks at the grackles

with 37 comments

As you heard last time, grackles (Quiscalus mexicanus) had returned en masse to the intersection of US 183 and Braker Lane in my part of Austin near dusk on January 28th. Here are a few more pictures of them.

The golden (actually yellow) arches of McDonald’s were not exempt.

One bird I saw early-on was so much more reddish-brown than the others that I felt compelled to photograph it. The almost-full moon came in handy.

The heavy traffic on US 183 doesn’t faze the grackles.

Not only doesn’t the traffic bother them, but they even settle into (non-native) trees that touch the expressway overpass. That’s where they spend the night.

By the time I took the last two pictures shown here, it had gotten so dark I had no choice but to use flash.

© 2018 Steven Schwartzman


Written by Steve Schwartzman

January 31, 2018 at 4:55 AM

37 Responses

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  1. That’s one iconic grackle in your second photo: St. Quiscalus of the Highlines, perhaps. The color suggests it’s a female; it’s neat that the colors of the bird and cable coordinate so nicely, and that you were able to capture even the texture of the cable.

    The last photo’s really something. It looks as though even in the trees they have themselves spaced out as uniformly as on the wires.


    January 31, 2018 at 7:28 AM

    • The texture of those cables caught my eye, too, when I looked at the photograph. I don’t believe I paid attention to it at the time I took the picture, as I was concentrating on the grackles. I’ll give credit to my 100–400mm lens. Like you, I take the reddish-brown grackle to be female.

      Maybe a graduate student in need of a project could study the spacing of grackles on wires and in trees.

      Steve Schwartzman

      January 31, 2018 at 7:52 AM

  2. Each of these shots is great!
    The McDonald’s “who you callin’ a chicken nugget?”
    The black suit and tails ensemble with the spotlight on the lead singer.
    The criss-cross power lines look like a complex 3-D graph, with the data points sorting themselves out according to some obscure logic.
    And the last shot makes a really elegant frieze.

    Robert Parker

    January 31, 2018 at 7:52 AM

    • Anthropomorphism lives in your first two observations. I didn’t notice any people at McDonald’s checking out the birds. Guess they were too busy with their nuggets. You saw the moon as a spotlight, I as a halo.

      The criss-crossing of all those wires appealed to me a lot. I photographed them in various compositions. I think the one shown here worked the best (though I wish the highway signs hadn’t reflected so much light from the flash). In the last picture, I managed to mostly freeze the bird’s motions while creating a frieze.

      Steve Schwartzman

      January 31, 2018 at 8:07 AM

      • I wonder if those wires have affected bird society and interactions in some way – – instead of helter-skelter in those outmoded trees, they’re now becoming more regimented and hierarchical.
        I felt a pun coming on, higher and higher arch-al, like the first photo, but I’ve sworn off such arch humor.

        Robert Parker

        January 31, 2018 at 8:16 AM

        • That’s an excellent hypothesis about human artifacts like power lines having brought about changes in bird societies. I’ve read and seen in television documentaries that some animal species have thrived in human environments, while others have not.

          Arch humor’s okay with me. People could say of you it’s one way he tackles the grackles.

          Steve Schwartzman

          January 31, 2018 at 9:23 AM

  3. Wow, what an incredible abundance of grackles! It’s a rare and fortunate sighting to see so many birds in one place like this. Nice to have the bright full moon in the background too.

    Jet Eliot

    January 31, 2018 at 9:18 AM

    • Yes, an abundance, even a superabundance. It was a frequent sight at this site some years ago. I was pleased to see the grackles back in force.

      Steve Schwartzman

      January 31, 2018 at 11:30 AM

  4. I love Grackles and think they are beautiful. That is an amazing sky with so many


    January 31, 2018 at 9:57 AM

    • Grackles are common here, individually and in swarms. I’ve seen them in various places around town. Fortunately this location is just a mile and half from my home.

      Steve Schwartzman

      January 31, 2018 at 11:34 AM

  5. What great pictures, you have an eye for incredible shots like these, congratulations.


    January 31, 2018 at 10:24 AM

    • Thanks, Cecila. As the grackles were often in motion, I ended up taking over 300 pictures to ensure that at least some came out well.

      Steve Schwartzman

      January 31, 2018 at 11:36 AM

  6. Heh. Love your moon ‘aura’ around the female. That’s a load of grackles. Must be their favorite roosting spot!


    January 31, 2018 at 12:20 PM

    • I repeatedly witnessed swarms at this place years ago, and once I also saw similar numbers at the Fiesta on I-35 at 38th St. I’ve heard there are other points of attraction as well.

      Yeah, that moon sure came in handy as a framing device.

      Steve Schwartzman

      January 31, 2018 at 12:30 PM

  7. Grackle invasion. I love it! 😊


    January 31, 2018 at 2:33 PM

    • Some business owners do feel like they’ve been invaded. The photographer in me welcomes the invasion.

      Steve Schwartzman

      January 31, 2018 at 4:39 PM

  8. Especially your picture of heavy traffic on US 183 is very impressive because of the contrast nature – technology and it has a perfect geometry!


    February 1, 2018 at 1:00 AM

    • The geometry of that bird-filled picture appeals to me, too. From my vantage point on the ground I could hear but not see all the cars swooshing by. The grackles, from their high perches, could both see and hear all the traffic. I wonder if there’s a place along the expressway where I can get up higher and see the phenomenon in a new way.

      Steve Schwartzman

      February 1, 2018 at 8:15 AM

  9. how very amazing.


    February 1, 2018 at 7:48 PM

  10. Wow these shots are fabulous Steve .. amazing that nothing seems to faze them.


    February 5, 2018 at 12:17 AM

  11. Fascinating Steve. Now I see there are even more varieties of Grackles than what I thought. Quiscalus quiscula (The Common Grackle), Quiscalus major (Boat-tailed Grackle), so Quiscalus mexicanus is the ‘Great-tailed Grackle’. The Greater Antillean grackle (Quiscalus niger) is the smaller one seen in P.R., and it’s easy to identify because it’s smaller. However, the American grackles mentioned above will require me to observe closer. In Florida the Quiscalus major (Boat-tailed Grackle) is more abundant. The third image is impressive with the criss-crossed pattern of the power lines, and proves to me how well adapted they are to urban dwellings.


    February 8, 2018 at 8:45 AM

  12. That’s pretty slick how you lined up the moon with the grackle you wanted to highlight!


    February 11, 2018 at 8:59 AM

  13. […] been almost two years since the last post about the grackles (Quiscalus mexicanus) that sometimes swarm near sundown at the intersection of […]

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