Tuesday, April 13, 2010

The Snottiest Grackle in the World

Boat-tailed Grackles are boringly common out here, so despite being big and noisy, they're easy to ignore when you're looking for more exotic birds.

But not this guy. He and his cohorts were strutting snootily around the Viera Wetlands last weekend as if they owned the place—which I supposed they do. I loved how he marched about with his shoulders pushed back and his chest pushed forward, with a nearly military bearing, all while puffing up the feathers on his head like some kind of tribal headpiece. He and the other male Boat-taileds seemed to be involved in an ongoing pissing match, with each noisily attempting to chase off the others.

I'm pretty sure this was all springtime hormones at work: While their men postured and posed, the duller female Boat-taileds darted through the reeds bearing nesting materials.

The guys take charge of the grand gestures, while the girls do all the heavy lifting. The lives of Boat-tailed Grackles look distressingly familiar.

The Boat-taileds weren't the only birds showing off at the wetlands. We travelled to Viera because one of Glenn's friends had told him that Limpkins were nesting here. But when we arrived, his friend had bad news: An alligator had paid a visit to the nest the night before.

The alligator had managed to take a nest full of eggs just days from hatching—but fortunately, he didn't get any of the adults. And the adult Limpkins we saw were bold and noisy; the unfortunate events of the preceding day didn't seem to slow them down. This Limpkin seemed to follow us from pond to pond, almost as though he wanted our attention. At times, he or she was almost too close to photograph:

The Limpkins were a treat since they don't occur (anymore) in Gainesville—at least not on a regular basis. We also had fun looking for the more elusive and sneaky birds, such as Marsh Wrens and Least Bitterns. We managed to find several Least Bitterns on their rare forays out into the open: our first sightings of this bird this year:

The wetlands looked and felt different—and the birds acted differently—than on our last visit, on New Year's Day. Then, it was foggy and quiet except for a few other hard-core birders determined to start their year lists with the visiting Masked Duck.

That's a cool thing about the best birding places: they're never really the same place twice.


Hilke Breder said...

Felicia, I love your post and photos! I think grackles are such neat and sleek birds, very intelligent too. I envy you for your encounter with a limpkin. I didn't see any when I was in FL.

Susan said...

That's one stunning grackle! and the Least Bittern shot is wonderful...you had a great day birding by the looks of it.

Felicia said...

Hilke and Susan, thanks for your kind words! Even common birds such as grackles can be very cool and fun to watch. Limpkins are pretty site-specific down here; we were lucky we had friends to tell us where to look!

dAwN said...

hee hee...Thats one kick butt Grackle!
Great photos...and wow..the Least Bittern!

Felicia said...

Hey Dawn,

Yup, the Boat-tailed Grackles have been copping crazy attitudes as of late, as you well know! And Least Bitterns are fantastically cute—when you can actually find them!