Sunday, February 23, 2014

Great-tailed Grackle

Great-tailed Grackle
Great-tailed Grackle. Lindo Lake, California. February 9, 2014. Greg Gillson.
Marlene and I lived for 4 years in Ventura, California 30 years ago. One of the typical birds seen near ponds and river bottoms was Tricolored Blackbird. It's like a Red-winged Blackbird in appearance but with a white, rather than yellow, border below the red. The voice is unmusical. Tricolored Blackbirds are also more colonial, living in dense flocks all year, whereas Red-winged Blackbirds break up into pairs for the breeding season.

I saw a few Tricolored Blackbirds at Lindo Lake when I visited two weeks ago. But in many areas where they used to be common in southern California, they are now gone. The reason? Apparently Great-tailed Grackles out-compete them.

Noisy and brash, Great-tailed Grackles were primarily found in Mexico and Central America with populations in the US only in Texas and an outlying population in Arizona up to the 1960's. Due to agricultural irrigation, starting in the 1970's, the population of these large grackles expanded. Today they reach from Louisiana to California and are regular vagrants from Minnesota to Oregon.