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Blackbirds of Miami
by Jeff Jenkins (April 14, 2003)

In Miami, where I used to live for many years, we had
many birds which, I was TOLD, were called Blackbirds.
I would see them all over yards and in trees. They
would be especially numerous in a yard, right after the
grass was cut. You could see them walking all over the
freshly-mowed lawn, obviously looking for insects which
had either been disturbed, or which had now lost their
hiding place, thanks to the lawn-mower.

But now, to my utter dismay and shock, I find that all those
years I was deceived! I found out that those hoardes of black,
crow-like birds were NOT Blackbirds at all! Rather, they are
actually called "Boat-Tailed Grackles."
No, really! I'm not kidding! That's their real name!

Now, maybe it was just ignorance of the different types of
birds (after all, most people in Miami can hardly even speak
English, let alone be expected to be educated on the various
species of birds of North America), or maybe everyone was simply
too embarrassed to admit to such an odd-sounding name for a bird
that was common to their area. Still, I feel that I should
have been told the truth.

To make matters worse, I had always imagined that these
so-called "Blackbirds" fed on small insects and maybe some
kind of berries or something. But to my horror, I now find
out that these gregarious carnivores not only eat the normal
fruit, berries, grain and seeds, but they steal food from
other birds, plus they eat small fish, frogs, snails, shrimp,
small reptiles, eggs and nestlings of other birds, and they
even eat....other birds! Yes, it's true! Sick as it may be,
it's a fact. I even read it in a Smithsonian Handbook
about birds. Now you KNOW they don't lie in those Smithsonian

A couple days after making this disheartening discovery, I saw
on the news where in a certain part of Texas, flocks of these
Boat-Tailed Grackles have become a huge problem. Not only
are they dangerous at airports (you might think that it's because
they fly into the plane's engines and endanger the plane;
but you would be wrong---rather it's because of their constant
protest rallies and all the offensive signs they hold up,
which discourages patrons from flying), but they have become
a menace in other ways as well. The t.v. showed a parking meter
that looked like a gallon of white paint had been poured over it.
You might suppose that this was the result of many, many birds
flying over or roosting on that parking meter, and dropping their, uh...
'effects' on it. But in fact, it really WAS white paint! You see, those
Grackles thought it would be really funny to paint over all the parking
meters so that the Meter Maids could not tell how much time was left,
or what amount of money, if any, was deposited into the meters.

Now all this makes me think: if I have been lied to about THIS,
what OTHER things were told me that are actually not true? I mean,
are my parents now going to tell me that I was adopted? Or that
they (my parents) are actually Democrats? Or maybe even that---
Heaven forbid!---there really is no Santa Claus? Oh, let it not
be so!

For now, I will be content to believe what I believe. And if I
find out that any of my other pre-supposed ideas are in fact not
true, then I will accept the new-found facts, no matter how disconcerting.
But in the meantime, I will continue on my merry way, happy
that I no longer have to deal with...ugh!..."Boat-Tailed Grackles."

Jeff Jenkins