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A few more Icteridae thoughts

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  • Rich712@...
    Chirp, Piqued and frustrated. I did a Google image search for Great-tailed Grackle. Wow, what a range of looks. I did find one female image that closely
    Message 1 of 1 , Jul 26, 2013

      Piqued and frustrated.

      I did a Google image search for Great-tailed Grackle. Wow, what a range of looks. I did find one female image that closely resembled my recollection from the lake but bumped a key and lost contact with G-world. Went back but was unsuccessful in finding that image. It then occurred to me that perhaps only three female images of the more than 50 were even remotely similar in bill and tail size as well as color. And only the one lost image depicted the very thin eyebrow I thought the Wenas bird hinted.

      I then picked up the third edition of the Nat Geo guide and found (for GTGR) that a unique Western race (nelsoni) is smaller overall with a smaller bill that is more consistent with my memory than the thicker based bills that the Google search turned up. Then I wonder about intergrades. The Western female race, to my eye, shows less of the distinct face pattern the species is supposed to sport.

      Then, as the size of the bird and bill is what initially caught my fancy as being larger than a run of the mill blackbird, I decided to review species accounts in Pete Dunne's Essential Field Guide Companion. Pete is recognized as a champion of an approach that gives equal or more weight to a bird's structure and shape and the observer's overall impression (often called GISS, for General Impression of Size and Shape) than to specific field marks.

      Pete writes: "Brewer's forages by walking a few steps and pausing to search for prey. Sometimes turns over stones or cattle droppings to inspect for prey. Seems very focused and preoccupied. With its distinctly erect and heads-up stance, regular and high-stepping gait, its head bobbing forward and backward as it walks, Brewer's gives a theatrical parade-ground performance. Red-winged Blackbird walks with a more rolling gait, keeps its head down, hops more, and flies frequently (eve seems disinclined to walk)."

      Common Grackle: "Stalks more than walks, and moves with a haughty demeanor."

      Great-tailed Grackle: "Birds are spaced (not packed like Common Grackles) and forage with a strutting walk."

      So to paraphrase an old saying, If it looks like a grackle, walks like a grackle, and quacks like a grackle, then it must be a grackle. Whoops, wait a minute. Did anyone get out there to hear this bird quack??

      Perhaps this weekend I will take a lawn chair over to Fisher Golf Course and watch blackbirds walk.

      If anyone ventures to Wenas Lake, see if you can glimpse a slow strutting blackbird. No head jerking back and forth, less focused with a haughty, strutting walk. Shadowed by the Lone Killdeer for size comparison.

      Finally, Andy thought the bird's messy plumage would be more indicative of a juvenile bird at this time of year. That is logical and most probably correct. But I am more in tune with the JEEZ method...as in jeez, why can't all birds be in distinctive male breeding plumage?

      Wenas Wanderer/Field Guide Scallywag

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