Birds have been swooping out of trees on the Texas Tech University campus and startling students and staff members. The first time I heard about incidents like this was at the beginning of June, when a few friends of mine started telling me about their encounters with some aggressive grackles.
Jared Castellano, the College of Media and Communication (CoMC) Equipment Room Manager, was the first of my friends to report this happening.
"I was walking from Stangle Murdough to MCOM on June 1st and this bird flew over my left shoulder," Castellano explained. "It kept doing this thorough the summer one semester."
Castellano said that the most he was attacked in one day was three times. He never provoked the bird; he was simply walking near by some trees in order to stay in the shade on his way to and from his car.
The next person to share his experience with me was Ryan Moscati, a student at Texas Tech. He had been parking in the same lot as Castellano and walked along the same path to the CoMC when he had an encounter with one of the birds. Moscati said that he was "walking past the Stangle dorm and many birds kept swooping down past me. I've never seen so many grackles get so close in my four years at the university."
Moscati had a similar experience to Castellano in that he wasn’t hurt and was mostly just startled by the birds.
Lastly, Nick Tauschek, another student at Texas Tech, was attacked near the leisure pool in Urbanovsky Park. Tauschek is also the only one to report having a bird make physical contact rather than just swooping. He said the bird "love-tapped my shoulder then flew to the pool house roof and kept staring as I walked away."
These are the only reports I'm currently aware of, but I'm curious to know if others are experiencing the same things in these two areas. I was also curious as to why the birds might be acting like this in the first place. I assumed the birds were protecting their nests since it's the right time of year for that. I reached out to Dr. Clint Boal, a professor in the Natural Resource Management program at Texas Tech, to get some more information.
Dr. Boal said that "grackles swooping at people is not a new thing; it has always happened on campus, it just isn’t done by very many individuals and the locations it happens will change from year to year." He further explained that the birds are in fact protecting their nests. They're simply trying to tell people that they think they are too close to their vulnerable young and want you to back off.
Dr. Boal made it clear that the birds cannot really cause any harm, but it can still be fairly alarming for those the birds swoop at.