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Grackles and mothballs

We have been told that by placing mothballs in the flower beds they will deter neighborhood cats from using them like litter boxes. Here is the problem: grackles come into the yard and pick up the mothballs and rub them all over their bodies. This odd behavior started with one bird and it seems to have told its friends. Mothballs are manmade and not natural. Why would they do this and is it harmful to them?

Birding Expert - George H. Harrison

It is not unusual for birds, such as common grackles, to roll in mothballs, or to rub mothballs on their feathers. They are doing it for the health of their feathers and to rid themselves of paracites. It apparently is not harmful, and probably helpful to the bird's overall well being. I do not know if the moth balls will help keep cats away.

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Common Grackle
Quiscalus quiscula

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