Panegyric to recalcitrance

2006 February 16
by David J. Ringer

THE METROPLEX, TEXAS — For a moment I thought the garrulous House Sparrows sounded different, but then I realized it was just the way I felt. I’d just left the office for the last time, and I wasn’t going back to the apartment for the night. Another little phase of life is over now, and my stomach sort of churned.

By the time I reached I-20 and Matlock, the grackles had begun to swarm. I rolled down the window to listen to them, and the air outside was warm.

I love to hear their cacophony: slide whistles and rapid-fire exclamations that made me think of Wuvulu’s kingfishers. Everything about the birds is outlandish.

I’ve never shared a home with Great-tailed Grackles before, only with their less dramatic cousins. There’s hardly been a day on which they haven’t demanded I take notice, swooping over a parking lot with wings spread and tails unfurled or hollering from the tops of distant trees.

It’s a bit of a hazard on the road, if a shiny male catches my eye as he struts, glinting blue and exuding confidence with his tilted bill and little golden eye. I have to remember where I am and where I’m supposed to be looking.

And there’s something else about them too: They’re scrappy enough to play our games. Sure I love elusive birds who are barely hanging on today. Who doesn’t dream of a Golden-fronted Bowerbird?

But the grackles thrive in our most miserable places, warily edging around pedestrians to pick at grimy bits of starch that somebody ground into the pavement. They seem right at home on our power lines and highway signs, and they treat light poles as stages built just for them. At night, they gather in hundreds or thousands, blackening trees and creating a din.

And does anyone appreciate them for it? Hardly! Just look at the papers for a hint at the malice they incur. I wouldn’t like to be the shopkeeper whose sidewalk gets defiled, but I’m secretly rooting for the grackles.

They’re tough, they’re loud, and they’re gorgeous. Humans resort to absurdities in attempts to drive them off. But the grackles are thriving in the world that we’ve created.

Rock on, great-tails. Give ‘em … well ….

Anyway, I’m going to miss the grackles.

Related posts:

  1. Winged distractions
  2. A day for knights and gypsies
  3. Signs in the heavens
  4. Even in a place like this

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