There’s a Red-Winged Blackbird who hangs out in Daley Bicentennial Plaza…but I suspect he’s nesting in Millennium Park with the rest of the blackbird crowd. I must know him from previous years, because he expects a loud whistle will get him a custom-shelled peanut. But that sort of special service started long before I had a dozen juvenile crows following me around. The crows aren’t cool yet, so they announce my arrival to each other just like they did all winter when they had me all to themselves. Of course all the park regulars are hip to that: squirrels, pigeons, house sparrows, add visiting Common Grackles, and this particular Red-Winged Blackbird.
A couple weeks ago I went down to the park on my lunch hour carrying the usual Crow Tax (peanuts in the shell) and some of the too many shelled peanuts I bought at the Audubon birdseed sale. But instead of showering food on the birds immediately, I was looking for migrants, making the freeloaders wait. Guess who lost his cool and could not handle it? The blackbird I have come to call Peanut Face. He flew from behind and started pecking at my neck, to get my attention.
And he did it again. And again. I went back to work a bit flustered and pondered this. I’d heard stories about Red-Winged Blackbirds attacking people if they got too close to their nests, but this was crazy – he wasn’t hurting me, but it was a heck of a lousy way to ingratiate himself. The crows are smarter. They just follow me around and get closer and closer, because they know I like the intimacy. But they don’t attack me. Thank heavens for that!
I decided Peanut Face needed talking to the next time he tried pecking me. And of course he tried it again. I called him a coward and left for the other side of the park, for about 20 minutes. That seemed to make an impression on him. He hasn’t attacked me from behind since. But he whistles, and dances, and he flies around in front of me now, flashing his red epaulets. And of course the pigeons and house sparrows think this is just grand, they have a ringleader.
He is an attractive little cuss and he knows it. I guess we have a dialogue.