Portraits of Wildflowers

Perspectives on Nature Photography

Deck the lines with flocks of grackles

with 40 comments

It’s been almost two years since the last post about the grackles (Quiscalus mexicanus) that sometimes swarm near sundown at the intersection of US 183 and Braker Lane. Late in the afternoon on November 19th I went there with my camera and a long lens because the previous Sunday I’d noticed the return of the grackles. The picture above gives you an idea of how densely the birds line up on the wires in some places. The second picture shows the way the grackles tend to take off in large groups when something startles them.

And here’s a closer look at a grackle that seems browner than normal
due to the flash I had to use once night had mostly replaced day:

© 2019 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

December 25, 2019 at 4:46 AM

Posted in nature photography

Tagged with , , ,

40 Responses

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  1. wow, that is an amazing spectacle –

    beth

    December 25, 2019 at 5:19 AM

  2. Very seasonal – the grackles have turned the wires into tinsel.

    susurrus

    December 25, 2019 at 5:35 AM

  3. Thanks for the close up of the grackle, I don’t know if I ever met the interesting bird. Awesome how they flock together, like starlings.

    Dina

    December 25, 2019 at 6:50 AM

    • Mary and I often call them “HEB birds”, because they appear in such masses at our local HEB supermarket.

      Pit

      December 25, 2019 at 9:01 AM

      • I had no idea… Thank you so much, dear Pit 🙏🏻🤗🎅🏻🤶🏻🎄

        Dina

        December 25, 2019 at 4:52 PM

        • 🙂 You’re welcome! Actually, Mary and I started to call them by that name because at that time we didn’t know their real name! 😉

          Pit

          December 26, 2019 at 8:57 AM

      • I often see grackles in H.E.B. parking lots, too. The grackles in this post were within sight of our neighborhood H.E.B.

        Steve Schwartzman

        December 25, 2019 at 9:52 PM

        • Talking of grackles and the HEB: I’m sure they would be found at our local Walmart in these numbers, too, but we don’t go there very often. The HEB is more convenient for us,

          Pit

          December 26, 2019 at 8:53 AM

          • I’ve seen grackles at other kinds of supermarkets, too, including Whole Foods and Fiesta. As with you, the most convenient place I’ve seen them in large numbers happens to be the H.E.B. in my neighborhood.

            Steve Schwartzman

            December 26, 2019 at 9:00 PM

    • As common as starlings are in some places, that’s how common grackles are in Austin. You often find a few in parking lots looking for bits of food that people have dropped.

      Steve Schwartzman

      December 25, 2019 at 6:22 PM

  4. Wonderful images! A whole new perspective on the Grackle. This is just about the time of year we see murmuration’s of grackles and their friends at sunset.

    Birder's Journey

    December 25, 2019 at 7:08 AM

    • Thanks. I appreciate it, coming from someone who knows so much about birds. Only rarely have I seen a “classic” murmuration of grackles.

      Steve Schwartzman

      December 25, 2019 at 6:27 PM

  5. It is hard to believe it has been 2 years since your last grackle post~I remember it vividly. I don’t know about your grackles, but the ones we have here are aggressive and so to see so many makes the hair on my neck stand up. If ever a bird suggested the movie, for me it is the grackle. That said, I LOVE the first image. Way to lighten up the day!

    melissabluefineart

    December 25, 2019 at 8:55 AM

    • It has been a long time. I would’ve shown pictures last year, except I didn’t see any swarms of grackles then. I don’t consider the ones here aggressive, though some are bold. Glad you love the first image.

      Steve Schwartzman

      December 25, 2019 at 6:42 PM

      • On our trips to Texas many years ago I got the sense that your grackles are milder than ours. That is good. I don’t see the ones up here form such large flocks, which is reassuring.

        melissabluefineart

        December 26, 2019 at 9:11 AM

  6. The gradation in color in the first photo makes for a terrific and interesting background for the birds. In the second, the curve of the lines seems to emphasize the very slight curve in the flock as it takes off. I never can get enough of these grackle photos — they’re such fun to see.

    shoreacres

    December 25, 2019 at 11:38 AM

    • I agree: that pastel continuum made an excellent background for these dark birds.

      You did well to notice a parallel in the second picture between the curved wires and the arcs of birds. I may have picked up on it subconsciously but not consciously.

      For as long as I notice grackles congregating here, I’ll keep photographing them. As you say, they’re fun to watch.

      Steve Schwartzman

      December 26, 2019 at 8:55 PM

  7. I’ve seen a lot of birds lined up on power lines but that’smore than just a lot of grackles and immediately brought this to mind and, of course, the movie it was paying homage to. If those were starlings in the second shot you might have been treated to a murmuration.

    Steve Gingold

    December 25, 2019 at 3:31 PM

    • Grackles also do murmurations at times. I remember seeing one at this location a few years ago.

      Steve Schwartzman

      December 25, 2019 at 10:16 PM

  8. Quite a congregation of birds. I’ve seen starlings flock in long lines on wires in past years, but not this year for some reason. Nice closeup of the grackle.

    tomwhelan

    December 25, 2019 at 5:53 PM

    • Yes, an avian congregation. Starlings can flock in larger numbers but masses of grackles are still impressive.

      Steve Schwartzman

      December 25, 2019 at 6:16 PM

  9. We usually get flocks of starlings here, but this year they have been noticeably MIA. Possibly too wet and windy!

    Heyjude

    December 25, 2019 at 7:21 PM

  10. We also have impressive phlox here in the spring.

    Steve Schwartzman

    December 25, 2019 at 9:42 PM

  11. A gracktacular gathering and capture, Steve.

    tanjabrittonwriter

    December 27, 2019 at 9:01 AM

  12. Wonderful, Steve! We saw this today too, but our resident winter blackbird flocks aren’t as elegant-looking – they’re mainly starlings, RW Blackbirds, and Brewer’s blackbirds (shorter tails). Still, it’s a great sight any way you slice it. I hope you had a great Christmas. 🙂

    bluebrightly

    December 28, 2019 at 8:11 PM

    • Inspired by flying, I can claim that December 25ths of a feather flock together because I had two of them this year: we left the Philippines on December 25th, flew eastward through the night into a second December 25th, and got back to Austin half an hour before December 26th began.

      Steve Schwartzman

      December 28, 2019 at 8:29 PM

  13. That’s some get-together! Super shots Steve … Happy New Year!

    Julie@frogpondfarm

    December 30, 2019 at 2:07 PM

  14. Excellent! I’ve tried photographing birds on a wire but they usually fly away by the time I can get it together. You got lots of them in this shot!

    denisebushphoto

    January 2, 2020 at 1:41 PM

    • Lots of grackles indeed. These birds are rather used to humans, and when the grackles are high enough above people, as they are on power lines, they’re not afraid at all unless a loud sound or a bright flash of light startles them.

      Steve Schwartzman

      January 2, 2020 at 2:49 PM


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