One of the things travel offers is the opportunity to observe nature. It’s especially enjoyable to see the various types of wildlife in their natural habitat. Take the grackles we saw not far from Santa Fe. Their natural habitat, apparently, is a paved parking lot.
We had stopped at a large tourist store/travel stop along Interstate 40. As we walked from our car to the building, we noticed several birds on the ground in the parking lot. Grackles are medium-sized birds, larger than robins but smaller than the crows they somewhat resemble. These weren’t exactly the grandest of grackles, being somewhat anxious-looking and a bit bedraggled about the tail feathers, possibly from close encounters with car doors. Still, they skipped busily back and forth among the vehicles as if they had some reason for being there.
When we came out of the store and headed back to the car, we discovered what that reason was. One of the grackles was hopping along the front of a small car, its neck stretched tall and its eyes on the bumper. Every few steps it would jump straight up and grab one of the bug bodies squashed onto the bumper. It was enjoying the afternoon bug buffet, an ample and presumably appetizing spread of ready-mashed assorted insects.
We watched the bird for a while as it pecked industriously back and forth along the bumper. If visitors stayed in the store long enough, browsing through the moccasins, straw hats, plastic cacti, tee-shirts, and other souvenirs of New Mexico, they would have clean cars by the time they came out.
At least some visitors would. Our vehicle, an SUV designed for rough terrain, was unfortunately too tall to be a good candidate for grackle grooming. We might have to wait till the birds evolve, as they surely will over time, into a new sub-species—the parking lot grackle. These will no doubt have longer legs and longer necks to allow them to reach the really juicy morsels higher up. With any luck, they’ll also have improved peripheral vision to help them watch for closing car doors.