Tristram’s Grackle

A number of Tristram’s grackles live in the area. They have black plumage with orange patches on the outer wing. They fly over the monastery, filling the air with their cries.

Tristram’s grackles (Onychognathus tristramii) are named after Henry Baker Tristram, an English clergyman and ornithologist, who travelled throughout the Sahara, Palestine, and Lebanon. In 1873, he became a canon of Durham Cathedral. In 1885, he published The Survey of Western Palestine: The Fauna and Flora of Palestine, in which he wrote,

Tristram’s Grakle. The discovery of this bird in the desolate ravines opening on the Dead Sea is one of especial interest, as it belongs to a group exclusively Ethiopian. This Grakle, known to the visitors to Mar Saba as the Orange-winged Blackbird, appears to be confined to the immediate neighbourhood of the Dead Sea, where it resides throughout the year in small bands, feeding at dawn and sunset. It has no varied notes, but a rich musical roll of two or three notes of amazing power and sweetness, which makes the cliffs ring again with its music. The Grakles are the wildest and shyest of the denizens of these desolate gorges, yet the monks of Mar Saba have succeeded in bringing them into a state of semi-domestication, while enjoying unrestrained liberty. I have never seen this bird elsewhere than round the Dead Sea. In the ravines of the Arnon and Callirrhoë it is more numerous than elsewhere.

5 comments to Tristram’s Grackle

  • Maria

    So cute! beautiful bird thanks Father for all the Divine beauty at Sinai you show us

  • Anna

    Thank you for the little lesson on these birds. I saw some when I was at Masada many years ago but did not know what they were. I used to see “red-winged blackbirds” here in Southern California when I was a child. They lived among the reeds in the lagoons. The markings are different from these Tristram’s Grackle.

  • Caroline Lees

    We used to see these birds high in the Assir in Saudi Arabia. Quite a bit south of you. But it was considered quite a rare delight to do so.

  • Matushka Evgenia

    Love seeing the birds. We have red-winged blackbirds here. (We’re close to a river, lots of marshes.) Wonder if they’re related? Thanks.

  • Andreas

    Beautiful !! Thank you Fr.Justin.

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