Too Many Birds
Too Many Birds
Boids. We got boids. Jesus, we got boids. Many, many boids. Just like the movie "The Birds." Trees *full* of birds at sunset. Remember the jungle gym filled with crows? That's what I mean by full. Hundreds swoop down and land in a single tree, the next flock chooses another tree. Hundreds at a time will change trees, a writhing gray cloud against the sunset sky rises from one tree as though it has suddenly caught fire, sweeps around two or three circles, takes seconds to decide somehow, settles into a another tree across the street. The top of the tree, every branch in the crown, sags under the weight of the four or five hundred birds that just settled down.
And the noise.
The grackle's voice is less than mellow,
His heart is black, his eye is yellow,
He bullies more attractive birds
With hoodlum deeds and vulgar words,
And should a human interfere,
Attacks that human in the rear.
I cannot help but deem the grackle
An ornithological debacle.
Ogden Nash, 1942
At a corner near our house, there is a parking lot surrounded by eight or ten trees favored by the grackles. The din is amazing. You cannot stand in the parking lot anywhere and have a normal conversation. Either you yell or you get into your car and close the windows. The total effect of the sound isn't unpleasant; it's just loader than hell. Grackles don't all sing the same tune, they have a number of different calls, and even individually their voices are nowhere near so bad as crows.
The first time we saw and heard these beasties was the weekend that Ms. T. and I came to look over Austin as a possible place to live. We stayed at the Hyatt just across the river from downtown. Nice location. The parking lot was filled with medium size live oak and other trees, and in the evening, the trees were about 30% solid bird. At the time, who knew that they were dangerous. The next morning we saw The Problem. A car near us was accidentally parked directly under a tree. The front top surface of the car was maybe a quarter inch deep in grackle poop. Could not see through the windshield at all. One wonders how the driver cleaned it off, and whether the hotel helped. And one wonders how the paint job fared. Did Avis have to replace the hood? Yuck.
A couple hundred yards (or meters or metres for you trendy Euroguys) on the other side of the street is the headquarters building of the newspaper. That building has large speakers along the roofline that emit an odd BZZzzz BZZzzz BZZzzz Tick Tick Tick sound all the time. I asked a local person what the noise was all about, expecting that it would be part of an alarm system or some such. No, the answer was, "Oh, that's 'anti-grackle' noise. Keeps 'em away." Apparently it is very effective. All the birds have migrated to the Hyatt where they can't hear their anti-noise.
Copyright (C) 2000,2001, 2002, Richard Ball Landau. All rights reserved.