Shadowy Harem: Boat-tailed Grackles

By Henry H. Mitchell, January 22, 2009.

Boat-tailed Grackles in Myrtle Beach

Female Boat-tailed Grackles crowd into a van's shadow.

Odd Behavior

On this cold January morning in Myrtle Beach, with air temperature in the upper 30's, I was surprised to see groups of brown birds crowding into the cool shadows around the vehicles in the parking lot, rather than soaking up the sun's warm rays.

Boat-tailed Grackle (Quiscalus major) in Myrtle Beach

When approached, a grackle scurries away.

Big Family

On closer inspection, I discovered that the birds were all female (and also perhaps some adolescent) Boat-tailed Grackles (Quiscalus major), apparently from a single harem. A lone large blue-black male Boat-tailed Grackle was feeding in bright sunshine in the parking lot nearby. Apparently he was the king of this roost. I estimate that his harem totaled 150–200 in number, if the ladies of the parking lot shadows were indeed all of the same group.

Can't Explain It

I am unable to explain why the shadows were so strongly magnetic to these grackles.

See also a male Boat-tailed Grackle feeding in the surf.

This guide to Myrtle Beach is sponsored by Mitchells Publications.