Ow! Beware of nesting ching chings

Unsuspecting locals and tourists
are once again being harassed by those annoying ching chings as they walk by
their nesting zones.

But what do we really know about
these birds?

“The name ching ching is the local
name for a bird referred to as the Greater Antillean grackle,” said Stuart
Mailer, a field officer with the National Trust for the Cayman Islands. “They
often breed in pairs, small groups and large colonies.

“There are seven subspecies, each
restricted to one island or island group,” he said. “They differ in size, bill
size, and colour tone.

And perhaps the piece de
resistance:

“Grand Cayman has its own endemic
subspecies found naturally nowhere else in the world.”

Mr. Mailer said a different endemic
subspecies lives on Little Cayman and used to also be found on Cayman Brac, but
it has become locally extinct.

The species also occur in Cuba,
Hispaniola and Jamaica (where it is called a cling cling) and Puerto Rico, Mr.
Mailer said.

Birds of the Cayman Islands by
author Patricia Bradley states that the grackles breed from March to July after
prolonged nest building

“Once a nest is in place and in
use, it is too late to do anything until the young have left the nest, as they
have legal protection in Cayman,” said Mr. Mailer. “Many birds (and many other
wild animals) are aggressive in defending their offspring from perceived
threats. It is an instinctive behaviour that increases the chance of survival
of the young.”

‘Entirely Caymanian’

He said that the birds are entirely
Caymanian and that they “do not migrate from anywhere; they live, breed and die
here.”

“The only way to avoid getting
attacked by the grackle,” Mr. Mailer said, “is to keep a distance from the
nest.

“I think it is wise to wear
protection,” he added, such as a hard hat, safety goggles, gloves and
long-sleeve shirts when crossing a nest.

“Not only do they attack people,”
he said, “but also dogs and cats, and other birds that they think are too close
to the nest…”

LOCALChingchingsSTORY

A ching ching dive bombs an unsuspecting pedistrian.
Photo: Jewel Levy
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