Continuing on with my Austin themed posts this week, here's one on the grackle, which is a bird I was unfamiliar with before my trip down. Before reading this post, you might want to check out the video below to get a better understanding of just how unusual these things are.
Some of the grackles have an almost taser-like song. Listen to this guy!
Besides its unusual "song" which you hear in the video (though to me it sounds more like a powerdrill on steroids), the grackle also practices what's known as "anting." While not the only bird to rub ants on its feathers, which secrete liquids containing chemicals that can act as an insecticide or bactericide (or to make them edible by removing the distasteful acid), the grackles I've seen around my hotel seem to be having a 24/7 anting contest. Take a look at the grackle in the next two videos anting with first a lemon, and then a pickle slice. Now imagine that with hundreds of grackles and you begin to get the idea of what's going on here.
And finally, here are some interesting facts about the grackle's nesting habits, culled from this site: Grackles defend their nests fiercely by mobbing, chasing or diving at predators including humans. In winter, they join large flocks of mixed species such as European Starlings and Red-winged Blackbirds. These flocks can exceed one million birds. Lastly, and most strangely, grackles have a unique habit of taking hardened pieces of bread or dog food and dipping them in water and eating them after they have softened. Um, yum???