Wednesday, February 24, 2010

The Grackles of Austin: More Than You May Want to Know

"Murder Most Fowl?"
Health & Science, Time magazine (January 25, 2007)

"It's not nice to mess with Mother Nature — especially in Austin, Texas, where there is a record of an actual citywide tree hug taking place in 1989. So when five dozen birds fell from the sky earlier this month talk shows and chatrooms were ablaze with theories and outrage over what killed Austin's grackles.

"While bird lovers admire grackles for their iridescent feathers and canny ability to mimic human voices, for others they're a nuisance — dirty, noisy and a plague that has prompted cities and institutions across the country to declare war on the black clouds that roost...."

And, although grackles aren't anywhere near as borderline-indestructible as cockroaches and ticks, they're not pushovers, either.

Which is why Austin's civic authorities got so interested when grackles started showing up on the streets: dead, without a mark on them.

The article (a little over three years old, now) isn't quite 'news' any more: but it's a good backgrounder on grackles, and reveals what was killing the grackles of Austin.

Some of them, anyway.

By the way: I'd heard of canaries in mines, but not grackles.

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