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Common Grackle may no longer be common


 Photo by Phil Hauck.

Photo by Phil Hauck.

Prior to European settlement the Common Grackle was likely not common. It wasn’t until settlers started clearing land for agricultural uses that the species start expanding, and rapidly. By 1974, the species global population had reached 190 million individuals (National Audubon).

The Common Grackle is part of the blackbird family and if you live in an urban area chances are you have seen one or an entire flock. This grackle looks black from a distance but up close they display a glossy purple head, a bronzy-iridescent body and bright golden eyes. In Michigan, they prefer larger cities including Detroit, Lansing, Jackson, Grand Rapids, Gaylord, Clare and Sault Ste. Marie. The species is most often found in open to partially open areas with scattered trees, usually along forest edges. The Common Grackle particularly prefers human-altered habitats.

Although once widespread, the species has witnessed a 61 percent decline in population numbers since 1974, making the current global population roughly 73 million individuals (National Audubon). In Michigan, the decline is not as drastic, with a 2.5 percent decrease annually from 1988 to 2008 (Michigan Breeding Bird Atlas I & II). Partners in Flight estimates that in the state the Common Grackle population is around 1.6 million individuals, making it one of the more common birds in Michigan.

Its commonality along with its current population decline has landed the Common Grackle on National Audubon’s list of “Top 20 Common Birds in Decline”. The species decline is due to two different elements.

Common Grackles often roost in large numbers around agricultural food sources such as corn, soybeans and cherries, which has caused the species to be considered an agricultural pest allowing it to be legal to eliminate the bird in some areas. According to the Michigan Breeding Bird Atlas the depredation order, “allows the control of Common Grackles in agricultural situations when found committing or about to commit depredations upon ornamental or shade trees, agricultural crops, livestock, or wildlife, or when concentrated in such numbers and manner as to constitute a health hazard or other nuisance.” (Depredation 2008). When grackles roost at the same site for several consecutive years the site has a chance of harboring the fungus, Histoplasma capsulatum, which can be fatal in humans because it causes histoplasmosis, an infection of the lungs.

The second reason for the population decline is due to the bird’s shrinking habitat. In the late 1800’s and into the 1900’s land was being cleared at an astonishing pace, opening up an abundance of habitat for the grackle. Now with reforestation in full swing, the Common Grackle is witnessing a large, quick habitat loss.

To help the Common Grackle improve its population numbers check into the federal, state and local regulations on agricultural pests. If you live in an area with large numbers of blackbirds investigate what the protocol is regarding blackbird control and then contact the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service or your state wildlife office; if permits have been issued report the information to the stateofthebirds@audubon.org.

Additionally, participating in bird surveys such as the Christmas Bird Count, Great Backyard Bird Count and the North American Breeding Bird Survey will help scientist get a better idea of the species overall population. Lastly, if you submit checklists to Cornell Lab of Ornithology’s citizen scientist project eBird, make sure to include all birds you observe, even the species you think are common, you never know when they will be in decline.

 

 

 

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Donna Claire Cornell


29C-OBIT-CornellMrs. Donna Claire Cornell, age 69, passed away peacefully on Thursday July 11, 2013, following a long battle with cancer. Surviving is her husband of 48 years, John; three children, Charlene (David) Yonker, Janet Cornell, and Jay Cornell; 1 sister, Colleen (David) Webber; 6 grandchildren, Colin (Luisa), Justin, Jason, Chloe, John, and Sarah; 3 great grandchildren; and many nieces and nephews. She was preceded in death by her parents, Frank and Louise Freel; sisters, Berna Zimba and Kathleen Morris; brothers, James Freel and Robert Freel. She was a 1962 graduate of Catholic Central High School, attended Grand Rapids Community College, and was self educated on many subjects. She assisted her husband in his accounting practice. In retirement, she and her husband were enthusiastic bikers and travelled extensively throughout the United States, Alaska and Canada on their BMW motorcycle. Donna’s family feels blessed that she was a part of their life, and she will be greatly missed by all who knew her and loved her. The Mass of Christian Burial for Donna was offered on Wednesday at 11:00 a.m. at Assumption BVM Catholic Church, Belmont, with The Rev. Peter Vu presiding. Interment in Solon Township Cemetery. The Rosary will be prayed at the funeral home on Tuesday evening at 8 p.m. Those planning an expression of sympathy are asked to consider the Educational Endowment Fund at Assumption BVM School, 6393 Belmont Ave., Belmont, MI 49306 or God’s Kitchen, 303 S. Division St., Grand Rapids, MI 49503. Relatives and friends met with the family at the Pederson Funeral Home on Tuesday from 2 to 4 and 6 to 8 p.m. and prior to the Mass at the church on Wednesday. Arrangements by The Pederson Funeral Home, Rockford www.pedersonfuneralhome.com

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