The Grackle

Observations, Reflections and Miscellany from the Wacoan

On Grackles

2 weeks ago

By Ashleigh Wright

The first thing many people learn about me is how much I love birds, and not just in a ‘wow that’s a cool bird’ kind of way. No, that’s not enough for me.

I want to know everything about the birds that inhabit my community. I want to know what they look like and why their plumes are certain hues. I want to recognize them just by the their lilting songs as they ravage my bird feeder each morning. If it’s a particularly melodic bird, I’ll attempt to imitate their calls by whistling (with mixed results according to my husband). I don’t just have a fondness for birds. I love birds.

Thankfully, Waco has always had a wide variety of species for me to observe.

Over the past five years I’ve began to associate certain species with certain chapters of my life here. I can’t see a red-breasted robin without recalling warm summer nights laughing with my husband on the swinging benches in front of Pat Neff Hall. Hummingbirds remind me of thought provoking mornings spent by the fountain in the Truett Courtyard, and how I contemplated my future as they drifted between the lovely red shrubs. Every day on my drive from McGregor to Waco, I count the hawks regally perched on telephone wires sharply watching the cars on their commute. All of these birds are lovely, and seeing them brings me many small joys each day.

Then we have the grackle. When I first came to Waco, I had never seen a grackle before. We pulled up to Rudy’s Bar-B-Q to grab a bite to eat, and I noticed what I thought to be crows in the trees. I knew they were smaller than the crows back in Louisiana, but didn’t think much of it.

Upon opening my car door, I was berated by the strange symphony of whistles, pops, cracks and other interesting sounds most Waco residents are accustomed to. I laughed, amused by their strange chatter and intrigued by the iridescent purplish-green sheen of their black plumage. My father-in-law informed me that they were called grackles, and I remember thinking to myself, “what a fitting name for such a quirky bird.” Throughout lunch I attempted to imitate them, but they were too unique. I was stumped! I still haven’t figured it out, but I’m sure my husband has given up being annoyed by my attempts.

I quickly learned that there were two main attitudes about the grackles. People either regarded them with intrigued tolerance or vague annoyance. As for me, they’ve become the soundtrack of home. When I’m away, I miss their cackles and the cacophony of their chatter in the trees. I admire the boldness with which they say what’s on their mind. They have no problem getting their point across. I’ve found inspiration in their quirkiness, and hope I can be as expressive myself.

Maybe grackles are loud and annoying, and it’s hard to ignore how badly they smell of wet dog when it rains. But grackles are also humorous, unique and intelligent. They may not be the most refined or beautiful birds, but then isn’t it said that beauty is in the eyes of the beholder? If that’s true, I hope that newcomers to Waco can see these extraordinary birds through mine.

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