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3 Easy Ways to Deal with Great-tailed Grackles in Costa Rica

The birdlife in Costa Rica is prolific. Of the 900 bird species that have been found within the borders of this beautiful country, many are hummingbirds with sparkling plumage, tanagers in shades of blue, red, and yellow, and toucans and other species with a flair for the exotic. However, we don’t always see the pretty birds; many of the common ones are plumaged in shades of brown, gray, and black including one of the most frequently seen species in the country, the Great-tailed Grackle.

Locally known as the “Zanate” (Zah-NAH-tay), this big, bold blackbird species occurs in just about every open and edge habitat in the country. To the chagrin of some people, this also includes city streets and other urban situations. Since the Zanate has become so adapted to living near people, its populations are much higher than they would normally be and this is where problems can arise for people and other bird species.

Great-tailed Grackles cause issues because they leave large amounts of bird droppings below communal roosts in parks or along city streets. Nor do these natural scavengers win fans when they peck open garbage bags or kill and eat baby doves and other birds. That said, they are still a species native to Costa Rica and play an important natural role in the coastal and wetland habitats where they have lived long before the arrival of humans. Being a native species, it’s also best to assume that grackles are protected under the strict wildlife management laws of this country. With that in mind, these are a few recommendations for dealing with Great-tailed Grackles on your property:

  • Reduce their habitat: One of the best ways to keep any animal away from a hotel or house is by removing what the animals require for survival. In the case of grackles and other scavengers, that means keeping the grounds clean and free of garbage and being careful about garbage disposal.
  • Host livestock elsewhere: Grackles are also attracted to livestock of all types. Keeping horses, cows and any other animals far away from habitations will also keep the grackles away.
  • Scare tactics: Putting up a statue of an owl or two might limit visits by grackles but mostly if the owl statues are moved from time to time.

Great-tailed Grackles might not be the best part of Costa Rica’s rich avian scene but we still need to live with them. Believe it or not, while waiting for other birds to show, the males can also act as good subjects for bird photography!

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