Aggressive grackles prompt campus warnings

Wesley Story

It’s not uncommon for UT students to have run-ins with the seemingly fearless wildlife on campus, but flyers posted Monday around the University offer clear warnings about the grackles in the area.

The signs, posted by UT’s Environmental Health and Safety office, warn community members of “aggressive birds nesting” in the area. The signs also advise pedestrians not to approach baby birds and to even consider using an alternate path of travel.  

Grackles are large, lanky black birds with long legs and tails and have become notorious on campus for their antagonistic character and for harassing students on their way to class.

Corporate communications senior Alyssa Hollander said she’s not surprised about the warnings from the University.

“I have heard numerous stories from my friends who have been attacked by the grackles,” Hollander said. “It seems like it happens to each of us at least once a year.”

Hollander said she’s witnessed the birds dive-bomb crowds and even saw a grackle get tangled up in the hair of a girl who was walking in front of her.

“During popular class transition times, I can see the birds diving down into the crowd of people walking,” Hollander said. “I’ve seen it happen to a girl walking right in front of me before. Now that was intense.”

In 2008, the city hired Texas Bird Services in an effort to rid the downtown area of grackles, according to reports from the Austin American-Statesman.

Public relations senior Katy Collett said she’s never had a run-in with the campus grackles, but she’s seen squirrels approach people sitting outside the Student Activity Center to beg for food. Collett said she respects the wildlife and thinks it’s best to find a way to coexist.

“I know the wildlife on campus can be scary, but we should try to find better ways to take care of the animals since they’re living creatures too,” Collett said.

Some students have given the birds nicknames such as “demon spawn,” “the Devil” and “Satan incarnate” because of the nature of the interactions students have had with
the grackles.

Communication and leadership sophomore Rebecca McCraney said she hates the birds and tries to avoid them at all costs.

“I lived in San Jac dorm my freshman year, so I ate at Cypress Bend all the time,” McCraney said. “There were always a ton of grackles over there, and one in particular was pretty aggressive and would fly up to your table and steal food right off of your plate.”

Grackles like areas where there’s trash for food and trees for perching, according to the Cornell Lab of Ornithology. For these reasons, they tend to congregate in large flocks at shopping centers and fast-food store parking lots. UT has become a popular location for the grackles for these same reasons.

McCraney said she appreciates the warnings from the University and feels like there’s not much else that can be done about the birds.

“The only thing the UT administration can do is inform students about the issue and warn us to avoid engaging with the birds,” McCraney said. “After all, the grounds are home to many animals and who are we to disturb nature?”

Representatives from UT’s EHS were not available for comment.