Boat-tailed Grackles spend much of their non-breeding season in same-sex flocks which roost together in the wetlands as well as suburban parks and back yards. Males continuously compete for dominance which intensifies later in the winter as breeding season approaches.
The top alpha male will reign over a harem of a dozen or more females. They engage in displays which are mostly bluffing and bullying but may become violent. Older males usually are the ones challenging each other, while those younger than two years of age often gather around the competitors. Older adult males have iridescent plumage while younger birds may be dull black or even a bit brownish.
This past week I watched flocks fly in from the Everglades preserve. Many gathered along the shore of the lake in our local wetlands patch. Two groups of 8-10 formed on rock islands in the lake as the alpha males asserted their dominance:
Two rival males pointed their bills skyward while less aggressive adults and younger birds looked on::
The alpha male fluffed his feathers after his rival flew off:
Long legs are an adaptation to the grackle's feeding style, as it often wades in the shallow water along the shore, probing the vegetation as it searches for invertebrates or anything edible:
Non-alpha males seem to get along with each other:
During breeding season the subservient males will gather around the periphery of the breeding colony which is guarded by one (or sometimes two or three) dominant males. They will follow females who leave the perimeter and often successfully mate with them if not detected by the harem master.
More lakeside confrontations, between two adults...
...and sometimes just to assert dominance over an immature male:
The Moon is backdrop for a singing male:
Female Boat-tailed Grackles are brown and smaller, looking almost like a different species:
This female has closed her nictitating membrane, or "third eyelid:"
We have had some beautiful sunrises. Our only open view is to the west, over the wetlands lake, so we see the play of light on the opposite horizon. This is the pine bank about 10 minutes before sunrise:
To the north, a Great Egret is foraging:
A closeup of the egret in poor light:
As we entered in darkness, a Tropical Orb Weaver was tending her web, illuminated by my flashlight:
Closeups with my pocket camera (Canon PowerShot SX700 HS with 30x Optical Zoom hand-held, which I also use for my landscape and habitat photos):
This spider is nocturnal and it takes down its web before sunrise. I was amazed to see how quickly it gathered large sections of the web, winding the silken threads into a tight ball which it promptly ate. The web disappeared in less than one minute. Only the main supporting cable remained. It led from the ground up to a tree branch where the spider stores the prey it catches during the night. This practice conserves food and provides energy for the next night's work.
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