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Dealing with Aggressive Blackbirds

By Brian Ramsey

 The Carib Grackle is a member of the Oriole family and is commonly known as simply a "Blackbird". It is also called the Lesser Antillean Grackle, while its Latin Name is Quiscalus lugubris. It is a glossy black bird with a long slender curved black bill. The iris of the eye is yellowish white and the tail is long and keel shaped ("V" shaped). Females are slightly larger and less glossy while juveniles are dull brown with dark brown eyes. The size of the adult is between 28-34 cm (11-13 in) and the weight is between 74-142 g (2.61-5.01 ounces). This grackle is found throughout the islands of the Lesser Antilles, Colombia, Venezuela, the Guianas and Brazil. It is closely related to, but smaller than, the Greater Antillean Grackle (Quiscalus niger) that is found on the islands of the Greater Antilles. It is similar in appearance to the male Shiny Cowbird with the difference being the shape of the bill and the colour of the iris.

The Carib Grackle is common resident of all the countries in its range and is generally observed in groups. It is a noisy bold bird that spends a large amount of time strutting on the ground with its head held high. It is almost omnivorous eating fruits, insects, seeds, frogs, lizards, snails and discarded human food such as bread, beans, french fries and meat. The combination of its boldness and eating habits has resulted in this bird being very common around human habitation and is seen in household gardens, parks, open-air restaurants, shopping mall parking lots etc.

This frequency around humans sometimes results in problems for people. These birds nest in trees, thick shrubbery such as ixora and ledges of houses and their nesting period is from May to November with the heaviest nesting in June and July. The Carib Grackle is a very aggressive bird when nesting and will attack anything, including humans that it believes is too near the nest. Groups of Grackles will band together to attack and fearlessly swoop at the head. They will repeatedly attack until they drive the intruder away and with each successive swoop will get closer and closer to the head. In attacking they use their claws and beak. In some cases they have literally prevented individuals from using their gardens during the nesting period or forced homeowners to run anytime that they venture out of their house.

The solution to the problem is the removal of the nest. Whenever a homeowner sees large quantities of these Grackles gathering in the vicinity of their home during the nesting period, they should immediately begin looking for the location of the nest(s). It should be removed before the birds have an opportunity to lay their eggs. If the nest is removed the birds will move to another location to lay their eggs (hopefully away from the home), eliminating the problem for the homeowner. It may be necessary to remove the nest a second time as they may immediately return to the same spot to rebuild the nest. Be forewarned that any attempt at nest removal will cause these birds to attack even harder. The homeowner should therefore wear head protection such as a construction hard hat, safety goggles for the eyes and long sleeved shirts.

 

About the Author

This article was provided by Brian Ramsey, who is an avid birdwatcher and amateur photographer and the author of the CD, Discovering the Birds of Trinidad and Tobago found at www.birdsoftt.com

 

All photographs (unless otherwise stated) are the property of Brian Ramsey. No portion of the material on this site, including the photographs, may be reproduced without the express written consent of Outdoor Business Group Limited and Brian Ramsey. The permission of the other owners of the photographs must also be obtained for use.   

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Last modified: November 19, 2005