The Common Grackle stalks across my lawn. That's how they move: stalking, in plagues—that's the technical term—always crossing by my window from the driveway side of the lawn towards the traffic side and out of my sight. They are the kind of birds that remind you birds were dinosaurs, not that dinosaurs necessarily had beady smart eyes and clawed feet lifted in purposeful steps, but something about the movement seems right. And they are all the more fearsome when they pant.
If you have never seen a bird pant, it perhaps has never occurred to you that (like dogs) they don't sweat, and the sun is hot on black feathers. The Grackles hold their beaks stiffly open, like chopsticks before the grasp, like cartoon birds looking for speech bubbles to title their chats. They don't seem distressed by the heat as they walk across the lawn with their beaks open. So naturally do they go about their business mouths agape that I wondered at first if this was part of their strategy, if they had learned one summer that worms despair in the heat and will, in suicidal ecstasy, fling themselves above the grass.