Wednesday, April 22, 2015

A plague of grackels

The names for groups of birds are so romantic and unique, sometimes so much so as to seem to have been made up by bored children. Is it not logical that a group of birds should be called a flock, just like a group of cows is a herd; straightforward and simple. But no, the animal kingdom is full of specialized names. A male duck is a drake,a baby swan is a cygnet, a young cow a heifer, and so it goes.
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.

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