Post and photo by Kathy Whaley
Recently witnessing something I had never before seen, I have to stop and wonder if birds are truly getting smarter, or just lazier.
Most of us have probably noticed that insects have been very prolific this spring. Butterflies, beetles, moths, flies, and dragonflies are in our yards, in our homes and offices, and especially hanging around highways where the front of my car manages to find dozens of them daily. This is where the interesting part comes in.
Last weekend I was sitting in a car in Sam’s Club parking lot and kept seeing a bird scurrying around between and amongst the vehicles. Finally, it came to the row just in front of me and I had a bird’s eye view of just what it was up to. A male grackle stopped in front of a vehicle, quickly surveyed the bumper and grille, and proceeded to jump straight up and pick a particular bug from the grille. The bird repeated this about three or four times per car, then moved on to the next one in the row.
It was interesting to see which bugs were taken and which were left. The hefty gray moth? Gulped. The wide-bodied dragonfly? Down the hatch. But, the yellow sulfur butterfly did not even get a second look and remained untouched. I suppose like humans, birds develop an affinity for certain tastes, and not others. The grackle must have envisioned the butterfly the same way I view celery – no way.
I began to wonder if this is one of the ways grackles are “adapting” to co-exist with humans. Or, is it just a quick way to get an easy meal that doesn’t have to be chased and captured? Either way, it made for an interesting few minutes in a parking lot.
ED: Just in case you prefer to do your bird watching at Hagerman NWR, the Refuge is open daily from sunrise to sunset, and on May 12 the Friends will offer a program on wildlife habitat maintenance, Prescribed Burns on National Wildlife Refuges, with speaker Richard Baker of the Wichita Mountain WR Firefighting Team.