The Suitcase Lady


April 3, 2012, 10:27 pm

The “most beautiful bird in the world” was under our feeders the other morning. I put down my cereal spoon, picked up the binoculars and zoomed in for a closer look at this jewel-toned bird. Soon he was joined by eight friends all shimmering in the morning sunlight.

I have appreciated these stunning creatures for over forty years. That was when our young son called to me, “Mommy, mommy, come quick, the most beautiful bird in the world is outside the window!” I flew to the window expecting to see something on the par with a quetzal bird or at least a Baltimore oriole. What I saw was a grackle.

Fortunately, I was taken aback for only a second. My little boy was seeing the world with fresh eyes, the eyes Picasso always said that he longed for. I learned my lesson, and, as a consequence, am thrilled every time Common Grackles pay us a visit.

I love the Cornell Lab of Ornithology’s description of the bird: “Common Grackles are blackbirds that look like they’ve been stretched”. Their head and bodies shimmer with iridescent colors like a fine Raku pot that has just come out of the fire. Their heads are a magnificent melding of turquoise, royal blue and black. Amber tones gleam on the upper back and are followed by magenta and brown hues on the back half of the body. The tail is long and black, and the eyes are bright gold.

The Common Grackles’ voice would not be referred to as lovely. In fact, their name derives from the Latin word “graculus” meaning “to cough”, an accurate description of their loud, raspy call.

These big, noisy birds often flock with other blackbirds. Several weeks ago we heard a huge cacophony in our pine grove. The trees were dotted with grackles but also red winged blackbirds scouting out their territories.

Grackles are opportunistic eaters. They eat primarily seeds, but almost anything else as well including fruit, fish, frogs, mice, spiders, grasshoppers and garbage. Corn sprouts and ripening corn are their favorite treats, a fact that does not endear them to farmers.

But grackles are always welcome in the Tooley Cafe. They make us muse on how many natural wonders our jaded adult eyes may be missing. Quite a few, I suspect.

1 Comment for this entry

  • evie

    When I was a child, our family used to do something like that, too. We’d call out to other family members in a soft voice: “Come look.” Then we’d watch the robin or oriole or whatever until it flew away. I remember feeling very special in those moments, feeling that very few families took the time for that quiet sharing. Thanks for the reminder.