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Don't let their Hitchcockian manner scare you, grackles are just here to roost

By Angeli Wright
Nov. 1, 2012 at 6:01 a.m.

A flock of birds searches for a place to roost for the night along North Navarro Street near the Victoria Mall.

Black-winged figures cross the sky as the sun begins to set over Victoria, signifying the end of another Texas October day.

Near the Victoria Mall the birds, most of them boat-tailed or great-tailed grackles, flock to the area until the power lines along the street are crowded with the chirping creatures silhouetted against the sun.

As traffic continues to rumble down North Navarro Street the noise of the cars is almost drowned out by calls from the densely populated highway above it.

Victoria is on the edge of the largest migratory path, called the Central Flyway in the United States. Amanda Rocha, executive director of the Texas Zoo, described the flyways as "super highways in the sky."

The Central Flyway, one of four flyways in the country, runs from Alaska to Central America, bringing more than 400 species of migratory birds through the Crossroads.

Rocha said birds migrate for one of three reasons - weather, food or breeding. The great journey for many birds starts near the end of September for the winter migration. The birds turn around to go back in a spring migration around March.

The grackles, however, don't have to travel too far. They come from only a little farther north than Oklahoma and as far south as Central America. And although most of the birds Victoria sees are migrating, there is also a year-round population in the area.

As though they had just detoured to take in the sunset, the birds begin to disperse from the lines as the sun got lower in the sky.

While the roosting grackles present a problem to motorists because of their droppings, the birds are safe. They are protected by the Migratory Bird Treaty Act of 1918.

In a Hitchcockian manner, the flocks take to the air in search of a tree that will make a better roost for the night.

Rocha said she believes the grackles pick the lines for warmth and a safer place to roost in an environment without a natural forested habitat.

"It's about wildlife in general learning to live in a more urban area," Rocha said.

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