The Official Bird of Downtown Austin

The Official Bird of Downtown Austin

The Official Bird of Downtown Austin

Grackle: The Official Bird of Downtown Austin

On the morning of January 8th, 2007 something strange happened on Congress Ave. Birds fell out of the sky. Literally. I remember hearing this news and thinking to myself “is this how it’s going to end?” According to Texas A&M these birds fell victim to parasites and a sudden drop in temperature.

The good news is the world did not end. The bad news is that mother nature only claimed a handful of these birds – Grackles.  They’re loud, aggressive, and poo everywhere.  If you’ve ever been to Whole Foods and decided to enjoy your meal al fresco, a Grackle likely pulled up a chair at your table, looked you dead in the eye, and told you who’s in charge without every saying another word but ‘caw caw’.

Big Bird After 6th Street

Big Bird After 6th Street

I live on the 4th floor of my condo, so my windows meet the tree tops.  It’s a stunning view, really.   To be downtown with a verdant view is a luxury.  Until, this past September when the Grackles took over my tree tops.  They must number in the thousands with a communal biological clock which you could set your watch to.  These birds became my alarm clock… at 5:30am.  My business is real estate and I have no good reason to be up at 5:30.  I decided to take action.

At a recent DANA board meeting I learned that Grackles don’t like lasers.  Apparently, if you shine a laser light into the tree tops it irritates them so much that the Grackles move elsewhere.  The University of Texas used to have a problem with grackles.  Their solution was to fire shotgun blanks.  It worked, but I don’t think my neighbors would think well of me it I took that route.  Light seemed like a harmless way to deal with the problem.  I don’t have any lasers, and I’m not sure where to get them, but I do have a powerful Mag-Lite.

I placed the Mag-Lite next to my bed and, like clockwork, at 5:30am thousands of birds erupted in cacophony of noise.  I jumped out of bed, grabbed my Mag-Lite and proceeded to illuminate the trees, shaking and directing the light beam over several tree tops next to my building and across the street. (This must have looked very strange to those heading to work in the morning.)  Amber thought I was nuts.  It didn’t take more than a second for thousands of birds to migrate to another spot a few blocks away.  I did this for two weeks and the Grackles are gone and no longer wake me up at 5:30.  Instead, they’ve gone to the other side of my building.  So, neighbors if you are reading this, get your self a Mag-Lite and get back to bed.

There is a lively discussion about Grackles on yelp

About Jude Galligan

Jude Galligan, REALTOR, Principal of TOWERS Realty and publisher of Downtown Austin Blog (aka. "DAB"), spends his time matching remarkable people with remarkable properties in Austin’s urban core. A resident owner in downtown Austin, Jude has served on the Board of the Downtown Austin Alliance (DAA) and the City of Austin Downtown Commission. Contact Jude.


  1. Joyce Green says

    Grackles are wonderful and they cheer me up while I visited Austin and everything was cancelled. Beautiful birds.

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