A Few of my Favorite Birds (12): Grackles: The Neighbor Hoods

Grackles in a tree“Birds of a feather flock together.” Grackle on branch Okay, so today I promised to tell you about Grackles, the hoods of our backyard bird population, but it occurred to me that the meaning of the slang term “hood” may have changed somewhat in the 40 years. Grackles look mean! 5.14.14 When I was a girl, the term “hood” was slang for “hoodlum” and roughly synonymous with “ghetto dweller”…the big bullies who were on their way to becoming “gangstas” or “thugs” unless something redirected their path away from poverty and crime to a more life of more virtuous industry. Grackle singing 5.14.14 If any of you saw “General Knowledge” at Disney…hoods were the guys who threatened the new girl until a geeky little boy interceded with: Grackle in Cherry tree “You should think about the negative ramifications of your anti-social behavior” (which, of course, just started a junior-high cafeteria food fight)! Grackle. Common 4.22.13 Those were the days, but better than the gangs and guns with which this generation has to contend! Grackle copy So, why am I so hard on grackles? Grackle handsome bird! They are big, black (with a bluish sheen to their head) and beautiful, but they’re unmannerly and can be downright mean. Grackle. 5.12.14 The females look very similar, only a bit smaller, duller, and with shorter tail feathers. Grackle. 4.29.12 Grackles like to nest in pine trees near water, but they’re very adaptable. Grackle They sometimes congregate in vast numbers, even in cities, such as Little Rock, Arkansas, where an estimated 15 million gathered during the Christmas of 1979. Grackle fighting for food They adapt well to urbanization and are unafraid of people, waiting for food to drop and chasing away feathered competitors. Grackle in tree Grackles are omnivorous, and in some areas they’re a severe threat to farmers because they love grain. Grackles in tree They tend to form gangs and are known to rob other birds rather than searching for food themselves. Birds at our feeder They love bird feeders but frighten off the other birds. Grackles driving off blackbirds I’ve read reports of grackles killing sparrows apparently for the sheer fun of it, but they’ve also been observed eating small birds and mice, as well as following robins around, stealing the worms the robins dig up. Grackle+ 20 5.13.14 So, what can we learn from the grackles? Grackle scaring birds 5.13.14 For one thing, grackles were born the way they are; they’re unlikely to change, so the rest of us birds have to learn how to negotiate their presence and coexist as peacefully as possible. Grackle. Male + Female look the same At church last week, our pastor asked a group of about 50 young children what they could do at school to live godly lives. Grackle Batman One little fellow piped up, “Try to be kind to the bullies.” Bravo, young man! Grackle. The neighbor "hood" Any bullies in your life? Doubtless! Like the grackles, they’re everywhere. Grackle 3 I’ve heard you can discourage grackles by taking away your bird feeder, but that’s hard on all the birds. Grackles returning Better to be kind to every bird, the way God is, and hope that kindness will lead them to the Kind One. Grackle 5.5.14 He alone is the miracle worker who can change hearts and renew lives! Grackle 5.14.14 “Can the Ethiopian change his skin or the leopard his spots? Then also you can do good who are accustomed to do evil.” (Jeremiah 13:23) Grackle in a tree “Do you presume on the riches of his kindness and forbearance and patience, not knowing that God’s kindness is meant to lead you to repentance?” (Romans 2:4) Grackle singing“You have heard that it was said, You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy. But I say to you, Love your enemies and pray for them who persecute you, so that you may be sons of your Father who is in heaven. For he makes his sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust.” (Matthew 5:43-45) Loving KindnessOh that we could love broken hearts into the Kingdom…

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