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Parking Lot Birds

Bird watching is not typically the goal in the parking lot of your favorite store or restaurant. And yet, birds are a common sight in parking lots, and can be fun to watch.

Boat-tailed Grackles are one of the most common parking lot birds. First you hear them, then you see them. Their calls are a mixture of rapidly repeated “jeebs”, mixed with guttural sounds that is often described as gurgling. They weave between and under vehicles looking for anything that remotely looks like food.

They behave like a mob, running or flying after each other, especially if one of them finds a treasure. I had a fine time recently, watching a half-dozen of these birds chase the one that had found a “cheese puff” left behind by someone.

This bird was quite the hopper and flyer, evading each attempt at theft of his prize, only to do little more than study his puff when he had a moment to himself. I gave up waiting for him to actually eat the thing! You could almost hear him say “Mine, Mine” It was his, and that was that!

If you are as lucky as my friend Brian Johnston, you might even witness the drama of a Cooper’s Hawk grabbing a grackle for lunch.

Aside from the grackles, there is almost always at least one Northern Mockingbird that busies himself trying to get the other birds to stay out of his part of the lot. They do this elsewhere, but it is a bit more comical in a parking lot, where the other birds usually pay it little mind.

The loudest and the boldest of them all are the Laughing Gulls, who will descend upon you like a scene from “The Birds” if you even look like you have a French fry or Cheeto in your hand. My favorite nicknames for these birds are “Cheeto Hawks” and “French-Fry Gulls”.

Parking lots are, therefore, far from a respite from bird watching. The antics of the birds found there can make you chuckle. You may even see the leucistic (partial loss of pigment) Boat-tailed Grackle that Lucy Jacobson recently photographed. But please do not feed them! Their cholesterol is high enough 😊


Written by Mark W. LaSalle, Ph.D.

Mark is a naturalist and wetland ecologist, providing expertise on wetlands, water quality and environmental impacts of humans. He has also developed and conducted a number of environmental education programs and workshops for youth, teachers, realtors, and the general public on a variety of subjects including wetlands, natural history, and environmental landscaping. Mark is a graduate of the University of Southwestern Louisiana (B.S. and M.S. degrees) and Mississippi State University (Ph.D.). Mark is the recipient of the Chevron Conservation Award, the Mississippi Wildlife Federation Conservation Educator Award, the Gulf Guardian Award, and the Boy Scouts of America Silver Beaver Award.


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