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Grackles: Power Animal - Amy Katz

Posted 3/2/2013 12:02:00 AM By Amy Katz
Amy Katz
Grackles: Power Animal By Amy Katz

Recently, while driving on a frigid, dark night through a small town outside of Roswell, New Mexico -- home of the infamous “Alien Space Ship” crash -- I heard a strange, tonal ruckus up in the sky, and caught a glimpse of hundreds of “UFO’s” whirling about overhead. Bewildered (and a little afraid), I circled around the block and came back to park in front of several trees that were full of creepy, fluttering shadows. Every branch was covered in large, screaming black birds! 


This was not a scene out of a Spielberg or Hitchcock movie.  Rather it was a flash mob of migrating grackles!.Grackles, which are 11 - 13 inches long, irredesent black/purple and brown and are similar at first sight to crows and ravens, are really part of the blackbird family, and their cachaphony of sounds are often indistinguishable from the mockingbird’s. They communicate with their ear piercing songs, sound imitations and by physical displays during mating season; thus, they are powerful totems for communicators, public speakers and lovers seeking attention. 


Grackles are as adept at survival as they are at showing off. They love to forage on the ground, in shrubs, in shallow ponds, at the feet of bird feeders and tables of outdoor shopping centers (they love Starbucks at Five Points in Santa Barbara! )They are ominvores, and enjoy every thing from plants to grubs to baby birds and french fries. They rub ants on their feathers to extract a smoothing ointment. They steal the food out of mouths of other birds. While they are typically known to be sweet towards humans, they’ll also “mob” people and violently dive bomb those who disturb their nests in order to protect their babies. While some cultures fear these great protectors as “Trickster” spirits, and some farmers would like to shoot them as “pests” grackles display enormous creativity, courage and resilience in the face of obstacles. Few power animals model such an ability to adapt to changing environments and come out ahead of the competetion. 

Grackles take what they need to survive, yet they are also very group-oriented: watching hundreds of them fly as one being in synchronized formations is breathtaking. The paradox of fierce independence and interdependent “one-ness” is a teaching gift the Grackle bestows on us all. 


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