I recently heard a news story on a nearby city trying to get rid of their grackle problem. I did a little research and found that grackles are a widespread problem in many areas of the country.
So why are there so many grackles, and what can we do to reduce their numbers?
The species we have the most trouble with are the great-tailed grackles, which originated in Central America. By definition, they are an invasive species in the United States, and only began to overpopulate in the last several decades.
As do most invasives, these grackles have adapted rather easily from their original desert habitat to our open fields, irrigated farmland, neighborhoods and shopping center parking lots. They love grains but will feed on just about anything dropped on the ground, including fast-food remains and trash, as well as insects that are attracted to the lights in parking lots. And they need trees, so wherever they can find trees is where they’ll roost.
Roosting is where a lot of the problems arise.
They roost in large flocks from dusk to dawn. They are loud almost to the point of deafening, and they leave lots of droppings, which are unsanitary, can spread disease and can coat any surface within a short period of time. Cars, grass, parking lots, light posts, benches — you name it, they’ll poop on it.
They also are a problem to farmers since they damage citrus crops by poking holes in the fruit. They can cover a field and fill up on the grains grown there.
Grackles are very difficult to scare off and can almost seem aggressive at times. I read that businesses are trying a variety of methods to scare them away.
Cannons, firecrackers, clapping, ultrasonic devices, plastic owls, grapeseed extract, lasers, bringing in birds of prey, and even cutting down trees have been used as a way to get rid of them.
But that’s the problem, we can’t really get rid of them. They simply fly a little farther down the road to a newer location to bother the next neighborhood or parking lot.
Next week, I’ll list a few things individuals can do at home to discourage grackles.
Darla Horner Menking is a Texas Master Gardener and Master Naturalist. Contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org