Grackles take over powerlines and sky

Hundreds of grackles fly in and gather on the power lines near the intersection of Dessert Willow and South Clear Creek Road on Friday evening in Killeen.

Great-tailed grackles can now be found in at least 23 states, including Texas, and some studies indicate they are spreading at least 4 percent every year.

As the birds descend on Central Texas, here are some things to do if you encounter a grackle problem on your property.

Things to do

  • Use bird feeders with short perches and wire cages, which discourage the large grackles.
  • Buy safflower or sunflower seeds rather than mixed grain feeds.
  • Watch for incoming grackles and clap or make loud noises frequently to scare them away.
  • Bring in your feeders when grackles come around; when they leave, try putting them back out for your song birds.
  • Keep garbage cans closed.

Things to NOT do

  • Never put feed on the ground because it attracts grackles.
  • Never throw out bread and scraps for the same reason.
  • Never shoot them without checking with city officials.

As I mentioned last week, grackles are invasive and there’s really nothing out there to stop them.

They can spread diseases in their droppings that can lead to respiratory issues.

They can damage sprouting corn crops and the paint on cars with their droppings.

They can contaminate feed lots, which supply food for cattle, and just be an overall nuisance with their aggressive behavior and noise levels.

An article I read stated although the Migratory Bird Treaty Act of 1918 protects birds, there could be a special provision for destroying grackles that are nuisances.

According to the Texas Department of Parks & Wildlife, “A permit is not required to control grackles … when these birds are considered a nuisance or causing a public health hazard.

“No birds may be controlled by any means considered illegal by local city or county ordinance.”

So again, it’s always best to check this out with local authorities before taking any action beyond what I mentioned above.

It’s frustrating when you realize these invasive birds are more than likely here to stay and that “shooing them off” not only scares off the native birds we enjoy feeding and watching, but also is just a temporary fix to a permanent problem.

Darla Horner Menking is a Texas Master Gardener and Master Naturalist. Contact her at

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