Grackles Leave Their Mark on North Texas - NBC 5 Dallas-Fort Worth

Grackles Leave Their Mark on North Texas



    Grackles Leave Their Mark on North Texas

    Swarms of grackles have returned to North Texas. People have strong opinions regarding whether the birds are a help, or a hindrance. (Published Wednesday, Nov. 7, 2018)

    If you're from here, then you are well aware. But if you're new to North Texas, you might look on in wonder – why swarms of birds seemingly take over store parking lots and other places.

    With each sunset, comes a symphony of cackling and screeching.

    “It's a pretty eerie sound,” said David Mosher, who lives in British Columbia, but comes to Denton for work. “Especially right around dusk."

    As eerie as it may sound, swarms of grackles can look like something from out of this world. Thousands of birds, in trees and on power lines, and lined up on poles and stoplights at intersections near the Kroger on Loop 288.

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    “Pretty gross,” said Christina Weddle of Denton. “I mean it's cool there are so many here.”

    Not cool, is how the birds sit on top of cars, even while shoppers come and go.

    “They have no fear,” she said. “They're just like, 'whatever.'"

    “It's very interesting,” said Michael Robertson, of Chico. “I'm having fun watching everybody come out of Kroger, and looking up."

    North Texans have come to expect the large flocks each fall. The birds migrate south for the fall and winter. Still, many don’t know what the birds are called.

    “'Grackle?' That's a weird name,” said Randy Wallick, of Denton. “Sounds like something you'd see in a scary movie.”

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    They look like they could be straight out of a Hitchcock movie. Shoppers to and from their cars. Others stopped and took pictures.

    “I think the interest in grackles comes from the extreme numbers we see here in the winter time,” said Dr. Ken Steigman, a wildlife scientist at UNT who is also director of the Lewisville Lake Environmental Learning Area.

    Steigman says grackles have become urban birds for good reason. Because of development and landscaping trends, their natural habitat is disappearing. So they land in urban and suburban areas.

    “Well, there's a food source there,” he said.

    The birds eat several species of insects, and tend to gather near fast food restaurants, munching on whatever food patrons drop on the ground. That is helpful, he says, though farmers consider them pests because of their appetite for grain.

    “Human perception of that they are and what value they have varies,” he said.

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    Grackles leave their mark in other ways. They leave their droppings on sidewalks and vehicles.

    “I generally try to avoid the trees, for sure,” said Mosher, regarding where he parks his car.

    Grackles are a federally-protected bird, covered by the Migratory Bird Treaty Act of 1918. Killing them is illegal, though they can be moved if they because a nuisance, or pose a public health threat. About a decade ago, the city of Denton attempted to shoo the birds by using loud noises from propane cannons – an effort which was unsuccessful.

    Like them or not, two things are unavoidable. The sight of grackles – and the unmistakable sound.

    "It's not a melodic sound,” laughed Mosher. “It's not pleasant certainly. And there's thousands of them here right now."

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