We don't have Common Grackles where I live, but I saw many many of them the last time I was in the United States. I wrote my poem from that perspective, but in my research I also learned something fascinating, as I was trying to find out where the scientific name, Quiscalus quiscula, came from. Apparently Linnaeus invented the genus name Quiscalus, and it's not clear where he got it, but one theory is that it comes from the word Quisqueya. This is the original name of the island of Hispaniola, frequently used in Haiti and the Dominican Republic alike. Wikipedia, quoting The Helm Dictionary of Scientific Bird Names, translates it "mother of all lands." Here in Haiti I have heard the translation "cradle of life."
So how about that? There is a Haitian connection to the Common Grackle.
My friend Joanie Engeman Tomlin gave me permission to use her gorgeous photo of two Common Grackles for this post. Thank you, Joanie!
Sometimes pulling up plants,
Sometimes eating another bird,
With a voice like a creaky gate
And a penchant for letting ants
Tend to their personal hygiene.
A flock of them is called
A plague of grackles.
They’re everywhere as the sun comes up,
So many you stop adding them to your checklist,
Groaning, “Not another grackle!”
But look again:
What a beautiful bird!
Social, caring for each other’s fledglings
Common, yet priceless
Drab, yet burnished with iridescent color
Shining in the morning sun.
©Ruth Bowen Hersey