Oct 09 2009

Grackles on the move

Published by at 7:12 am under Migration,Schenley Park

Flock of Brown-headed Cowbirds (photo by Chuck Tague)
This year is different.

We usually don’t see huge flocks of grackles in Pittsburgh until late October but this year they showed up in the third week of September. I first noticed them in large groups in Schenley Park, gathering in the treetops at dusk.  Since then they’re most noticable on rainy days when they graze on neighborhood lawns and fly low over the road.

Common grackles are diurnal migrants who tend to move in mixed flocks with blackbirds and starlings.  Within the flocks you can pick out the grackles because they have long tails and make a low “chuck” sound as they fly.  Though I’ve looked for other birds among them, the recent flocks are nearly 100% grackles.  When they gather at dusk their “rusty gate” voices are very loud.  Then they take off in unison – an impressive sight.

I wonder why the grackles are early this year.  Is there less food up north than usual?  Is winter coming early?  Do they know something we don’t know?  Probably.

(photo of a flock of brown-headed cowbirds by Chuck Tague.  Are there any grackles mixed in?  Look at their tails.)

One response so far

One Response to “Grackles on the move”

  1. Anne Curtison 12 Oct 2009 at 12:36 am

    I think I saw my first “swift-dive” this evening! Coming home from the Strip after the Steelers’ win (YAY!)–at Bigelow and Baum–there was a huge circus of birds circling closer and closer and tighter and tighter, then disappearing while we waited at the very short stop light! My husband said he saw something very similar outside our window off Beeler at about the same time of day yesterday.

    Grackles? Swifts? Marvelous!

    Anne

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