First off let’s all give Ron a big Happy Birthday! I have no idea why he is aging so fast while I, the baby of the family, remain frozen it time in my late 20’s. Quite amazing really and owe it all to the miracle of running. Ron on the other hand sports the 0.0 magnet on the back of his vehicle and can tell you all about the pterodactyls he used to photograph on his birding outings hehehehe. Let it be known one of the best things about being the baby of the family … you ALWAYS get to make fun of your older brothers on their birthdays without repercussions. I imagine Ron reading this post and looking like this…
Wait, this isn’t what Ron is looking like, rather EVERY bird he comes into contact when we are out birding together. It is well documented that birds typically hate him for some unknown reason. My theory is he is a CAT person. Natural born killers I say. Maybe I should put together a post of birds attacking him – I think you would get a kick out of it
Hit the jump to see a few more pictures of this real life angry bird.
Meanwhile I should probably get focused back on the post at hand. For the last post of September and an official check of the self-imposed monthly post quota, I bring you one highly disgruntled bird. I have a lot of pictures of the Great-Tailed Grackle from our multiple trips down the Texas Gulf Coast. This specific series of shots were taken at Laguna Atascosa National Wildlife Refuge. Out of all of them, I do not think there is a single shot where it doesn’t look totally pissed off. Maybe it is the overall black coloring and the piercing yellow eyes or more likely having to put up with all the Green Jays (link here) emitting such a constant racket that drives them nuts.
They really do not have much to complain about when it comes to vocalizations. These Great-Tails have a piercing call themselves. Even Cornell refers to it as a “shrieking high-pitched whistle”. Best comparison I have is someone slowly letting the air out of a balloon. Spend too much time around these Grackles and you will be reaching for your own bottle of Tylenol. Kudos to the rangers at the Laguna visitor center. They have an area just off the left side with halved oranges and seeds where these Great-Tails congregate along with the raucous Jays. In case you were wondering how these birds were named check out the train on these birds.
Relatively huge compared to the normally tailed Common Grackle we see around here. The tails on the Great-Tailed variety have deep V’s built into their length where the Common keep theirs in a flat profile. Don’t worry though, you even though size characteristics are usually only useful when compared side by side, the difference from the Great-Tailed to the Common is so dramatic you will have no problem distinguishing even if the others are not around. The Great-Tailed has a more restrictive region which covers all of Central America and then up into the southwest of the US. Outside of that area and Florida you are probably stuck with the Common variety.
Per the Florida comment earlier, there is one species of the Grackle that you can confuse the Great-Tailed with. Covering most of Florida and along the southeastern coastline is where the Boat-Tailed Grackle hangs out. As you can probably guess, the Boat-Tailed possesses a similarly large tail with a V shape as well. Admittedly, it would be difficult to tell them apart beyond the regional separations if it wasn’t for one very distinguishable characteristic if you can catch them in enough light.
The Boat-Tailed Grackles have a dark eye that can be difficult to discern from the rest of the dark feathering on the head. Contrast that with the bright yellow eyes of the Great-Tailed. Always good when there is a field discernible distinction between two similar birds. If only the brown Sparrows were each given a unique eye coloring.
I assume you were able to tell the difference between the males and the females above. Didn’t have a shot of both of them together in this series, but if I did you would be able to tell the females are about half the size of males. By the way, noticed on Cornell’s interesting facts page, the Great-Tails can form flocks up to half a million along the Rio Grande Valley. Holy Crap! – hey Ron, you might want to stay away from that area, that might turn deadly if they spot you ha!.
Take it easy everyone, see you again on the other side of the calendar page.
7 thoughts on “Get that Bird Some Happy Pills”
Ron, HAPPY BIRTHDAY!!!! Being the oldest in my family I wouldn’t stand for all the birthday jests from your younger brother. I am sure you see right through that smoke screen to his actual age. 😂
Please don’t head to the migration area of those angry birds as other birders would not find it as entertaining as your brother you getting ripped to shreds.
I have had a few birds that eye balled me here in GA but luckily no attacks. My trip should be over so I can get back to writing as entertaining pieces as you. Haha.
Beautiful shots, always good to read your blog with my morning coffee on either side of the pond.
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Luckily Ron (my middle brother) doesn’t work at the same company as I do – my oldest brother did (now retired) and I used to introduce him as my father to his coworkers – trust me, good to be the youngest. Something tells me the other birders would be very happy to have someone else identified as the victim – my guess there would be plenty of fodder for America’s Funniest Video. Hope the trip to GA is going well – did you step on any Alligators?
Best wishes for a safe and non-eventful trip back across the pond – hoping you have lots of pictures to share on the blog! Thanks again for checking in over your morning coffee.
Funny! The video could make us all (I want in on this!) Uber rich. Although getting pecked to death by birds is not something I would want happening to myself.
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B- have you or your brother ever been to Clarence Canon Wildlife Refuge?
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Well, thank you very much for the birthday wishes, Brian and Paula!! 🙂 Last year I forgot something I was going to say when I was talking with Brian on the phone, and he told me that forgetting things is a sign of old age. I said yes, and it started 10 years ago. Knowing Brian, that has him really worried…
No videos of birds attacking me, please!! However, and I’m really excited to report this if he hasn’t, Brian was attacked by a Red-Winged Blackbird this summer! On his head! I haven’t been attacked at all this year, but I haven’t been able to go birding as much this year. BTW, I’ve also been stung between my fingers by a wasp while birding, which really hurt .
I haven’t been to the Clarence Cannon Wildlife Refuge, and I don’t believe Brian has. I see it’s on the Missouri side of the Mississippi River about halfway between Alton, IL, where I know Brian has birded, and Hannibal, MO, where our aunt lives. I read that it covers 3,750 acres of Mississippi River floodplain, and is a refuge for migrating birds. If I’m in that area I will certainly go there and let you know how it goes–thanks for the information!
I can’t catch a break–I’m writing this while Planet Earth is on TV, and they just started showing gorgeous videos of Snowy Owls. “Oooh, look how beautiful they are…” By god, this winter I’m going to get a picture of a Snowy Owl!
Thanks again for the birthday shout-out! As for the birthday number, I tell people there must have been an arithmetic error somewhere.
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Ron who? hehehehe. Sorry your birthday ended up being eclipsed by the sad news – forgot I had posted this earlier that day. That wildlife refuge looks pretty nice – will have to check it out the next time we are down in Alton. There is a large network of migrating bird refuges all along the Mississippi and keep finding new ones every time we head down there. Will put this one on the list (thanks Paula!). I completely forgot I was attacked by that damn bird – walking by, minding my own business and that bastard swooped in from behind and pecked me hard right on the staples I had received from my running “incident”. From that point on I kept an eye on that bird and quickly learned it will not come at you unless your back is too it – what a gutless bird. By the way, Snow Owls are gorgeous – would you like me to send you one of my pictures of one? (Although for the record, I did send you a Snowy last year). Thanks for dropping by Ron… wait, who is Ron?