Along with tender green leaves on recently bare deciduous trees, missing birds are returning to the neighborhood. Others that have been here are getting more vocal in celebration of spring and all it brings with it. Here in HOA condo-land, there are many mild-mannered feathered friends who keep it down and just sort of blend in as if attempting to follow association codes and CC&R’s. Mourning Doves, Sparrows, Western Mockingbirds, and even the Black Phoebes tend to blend in with the muted color palettes and hum of suburbia.
Hummingbirds with their giant bumble bee wing sound and high-pitched chirp that announces them before they are seen are a notable exception – as are the comedic and raucous ravens and crows. Another notable exception is the Grackle. Not sure which of the over 1,000 varieties of Grackle the locals are, but I relish hearing their piercing whistle-y and staccato calls. The following is not exactly the typical call here but gives some idea of what it sounds like if you’re not familiar with the iridescent black males of the species:
Significantly more loud in person. The video doesn’t do the volume justice. The photo above was taken a year or two ago. So far this year, when I hear them singing they are doing it under cover in the higher branches of the trees. And, they seem to favor the largest trees alongside Carmelita’s Mexican restaurant and the back patio with its flamboyant music.
That combination takes me back to past missions trips to beloved Chiapas, Mexico. The place where we stayed had a courtyard that was loaded with a larger but definitely related cousin of the locals. Whenever I inquired of locals the best identification I could get was “black birds.” Nothing more exact but there are definitely in the Grackle clan. Not only were these birds the loudest I have ever heard in my life, they liked to start singing before the sun came up and did so en masse like an avian Mormon Tabernacle Choir. It was crazy! And absolutely beautiful. Exponentially more loud, and exponentially more varied in the variety and duration of their songs and vocalizations than their California cousins. At various times during the day, there was also loud piped or live music accompanying them making hearing the Carmelita’s birds even more deja vu.
While the leaf-veiled Grackle was screeching his clucks and songs today, a brilliant gold Oriole flew into some nearby bushes to hide. A few days earlier, had the privilege of seeing a rather uncommon blue bird. I think I find bird sightings so exciting because they show the depth of God’s creativity in the seemingly limitless varieties. Not just in species, but in gender and seasonal plumage, nests, eggs, diets, habitats, behaviors, and last but not least: sounds and songs. Yes, the Grackles have sung. And they will continue to sing – and so will all the other birds.
“Are not two sparrows sold for a cent? And yet not one of them will fall to the ground apart from your Father. But the very hairs of your head are all numbered. So do not fear; you are more valuable than many sparrows.” – Matthew 10:29-31