Many of you have seen it: the viral video showing an invasion of grackles. The video was taken by a store patron in a parking lot in the Meyerland neighborhood of Houston, Texas. The video depicts the flock of black birds, descending from the sky, sitting on cars and shopping carts, swirling in flurries of twittering fury, and making a tremendous amount of noise.
Other shoppers in the parking lot are seen running through the giant black swarm, ducking for cover and swatting at the birds. People who have seen the video are taking this as some kind of bad omen, or sign of impending doom. Though the scene may be a throwback to Hitchcock’s classic, The Birds, a general study of the presence of these birds will ease your troubled mind. Enter: The Common Grackle.
The crows, as many call them, are most likely the Common Grackle. These birds have a wide distribution across the state of Texas, with the highest population densities in the Northern and Eastern parts of the state.
Common Grackles are opportunists by nature. The birds are omnivorous and will feed on a wide variety of flora and fauna, including insects, the eggs of smaller birds, vegetable matter, and occasionally baby birds of different species.
Photo: @karenhartman via Twenty20
Two other types of Grackles make their homes in Texas. These other two are the Great-tailed Grackle and the Boat-tailed Grackle. While the Boat-tailed Grackle prefers the salt marshes of the southern coast, the Great-tailed Grackle prefers the plains and scrublands of south Texas. This could explain the vast flocks of Common Grackles as shown in the video.
Common Grackles are more likely to populate in large areas uninhabited by the other two species of Grackles. Being the smallest of the three types of birds in the family, the Common Grackle avoids its biological cousins so it doesn’t have to compete with the larger birds for food and roosting space.