Skip to main content

The Verge Review of Animals: the great-tailed grackle

The Verge Review of Animals: the great-tailed grackle

Share this story

David McNew/Getty Images

I am familiar with worthy urban devil birds and the people they live to cause grief. For the past decade, I've been on the receiving end of New Yorkers' gripes about the common pigeon (or the "rock dove" if the complainer felt poetic). "Rats are bad," a friend once told me, "but at least rats don't have wings." Pigeons are pesky and they smell; they sap morale, I've been told. I've admittedly filed my own share of grievances, also: too loud, too ugly, too quick to shit. They wear you down, day by day. In my decade in the city, I saw not one, not two, but no less than three fights instigated by some wise guy littering the street with shredded white bread, as if conceding the turf to the poo-leaking, dead-eyed bird.

So please trust me when I say that if the pigeon is Coldplay, then the great-tailed grackle is U2. It's louder, smarter, and will totally crap all over your iPhone whether you want it or not. And like the great Bono himself, the grackle measures its legitimacy by its volume. You are unprepared to do battle with the great-tailed grackle, my friend. We, as a society, are unprepared.

This is the sound of the grackles currently perched in the tree outside my home, threatening to squeeze a few all over my lawn, driveway, and car should this review taint the proud bird's Yelp score. And yet it is my duty as a critic to be fearless, to be honest, and not to let a flock's collective and imminent bowel movement color my opinion: that the grackle is a great and beautiful bird with no discernible flaws, other than its eagerness to bring joy to the community.

If the pigeon is Coldplay, then the great-tailed grackle is U2

Gaze upon its majestic plumage. What some may see as "you know, that thing that looks like an underfed crow" is, upon further study, a blackbird splashed with the blues of the ocean and the violets of the fabric of royalty. Its melodious voice, according to one Mexican legend, ranges across seven notes representing the Seven Passions of Life. Love, hate, fear, courage, joy, sadness, and anger: the grackle knows them all, which makes it such an empathic bird.

Empathy is perhaps why the grackle feels the need to approach humans with the aggression of a petulant and hungry child. Every minute of every day, gathering in annoyances (that's really the name of a grackle congregation, I swear I'm not just name-calling) in the trees of grocery stories, they shriek at the humans who just need to grab a gallon of milk and oven-ready pizza for dinner after a really long work day; come on, let off you lousy birds!

Grackles have pooped on me thrice in one month. They have pooped on my wife five times, twice in one day. They have pooped on our car with such regularity and density that I decided one day to park across the street. Grackles are intelligent birds with great senses of humor. They formed an annoyance atop the displaced car and unloaded a real funny joke all over its roof.

Grackles are intelligent birds with great senses of humor

I would just like to formally thank the grackles for welcoming me to their city, because Austin is their city, as is Houston, as is Dallas, as is Santa Fe and Albuquerque, Phoenix and Tucson, and any other urban space south of Kansas and north of South America. Sooner than later this will be grackle country. There's an argument to be made that we already are one nation under grackle. In 2013, the birds made a play for nothing short of New York City. In mere months they usurped the pigeon's decades long legacy as most vilified bird. Like a true Manhattan bête noire, grackle got its own Gawker kill-piece.

Don't be misled by human protests. There was a war, and we already lost. Grackles have gone toe-to-talon with air cannons, lasers, and explosives, and they have not been stopped. "They're an unstoppable machine," Alan Clark, a bird biologist at Fordham University, said in an interview with USA Today. "They're really hard to scare, they're hard to kill, and they're in such huge groups that even poison isn't particularly effective."

Our future is decided.

And so I thank the grackle on this day for its benevolence in sparing the heads of myself and loved ones from its bottomless bottom. I believe truly in a future where human and bird may live piece. God bless the grackle. Now if you'll excuse me, I promised my wife I'd get the car washed.

The Great-Tailed Grackle

Verge Score: 7.2


Verge Score

Good Stuff

  • Doesn’t give a damn

  • Is called grackle

  • Roles "neutral chaos"

Bad Stuff

  • Once crapped in my beer

  • Won’t stop staring at me

  • Ruins grocery time

  • Intends to usurp humans as dominant species