Recently, I purchased a laminated bird identification chart for my five-year-old son to take on walks with us. When he sees a new bird, we find it on the chart and then he can make a tick mark next to the picture with a Sharpie marker (the only time I ever give a young child access to permanent markers.)
One of our recent discoveries was the presence of grackles in the world. I never noticed these mockingbird shaped black birds with iridescent feathers before. They are bigger then a blue jay but smaller and slimmer then a crow. I guess I just assumed that they were starlings before, since they hang out in groups. They are in fact also considered a pest bird by farmers, but I love to see them hoping about in the yard, doing whatever it is that grackles do. Especially on a gray day, drizzle falling thick from the sky, the air and sky mixed together in a blanket of grey moisture. I was telling my son, "Look there is a flock of grackles in the yard," when I rethought my words. That was too boring. I hoped there was a more picturesque name for the birds converging in small numbers in the backyard. If the Internet be trusted (and I hope my sources weren't just pulling my leg), a group of grackles in called a plaque or an annoyance. I chose plague. If the worst plague I encounter is this group of birds, then I am a fortunate women indeed.
They don't seem all that annoying, much less a plague, but then I am not growing anything in this backyard. If I have my own berry bushes one day, maybe they will decimate my harvest. Hopefully they like grain. I will probably never grow grain in my backyard. Grackles would continue to be a pleasant presence for me then, and the group name just quaint trivia, like a parliament of owls or a murder of crows. A murder? Weird, but wonderful.
One cat should be called a murder, all by himself. Notice how there are no birds at the feeder? Not even a single grackle.