Common GrackleQuiscalus quiscula

adult male Coastal (Purple)
Johann Schumacher/VIREO
adult male interior (Bronzed)
Rob Curtis/VIREO
adult female Interior (Bronzed)
Rick and Nora Bowers/VIREO
juvenile
Rick and Nora Bowers/VIREO
juvenile
Brian Small/VIREO
Common Grackle

Description

12" (30 cm). Jay-sized. Long, wedge-shaped tail displaying a longitudinal ridge or keel when in flight. Appears all black at a distance but is actually highly iridescent, with colors varying from blue to purple to green to bronze, depending on the light. Bright yellow eyes. Female duller and somewhat smaller than male.

Voice

Clucks; high-pitched rising screech, like a rusty hinge.

Listen

Typical squeaky songs
Songs of small group
Songs of small group
Songs of small group
Chack calls
More calls & songs

Habitat

Lawns, parks, fields, open woodlands.

Range

Breeds from northern Alberta, central Ontario, and Newfoundland south to Gulf Coast states east of Rockies, but expanding into Idaho and Washington in Northwest. Winters north to Kansas, southern Great Lakes region, and New England.

Discussion

The Common Grackle is an opportunistic feeder, varying an insect and grain diet with crayfish, frogs, mice, and both the eggs and the young of small birds. During courtship, it jerks its body, lowers wing, tail, and head, and squeals. It also exhibits its long, conspicuous tail in display flight. In some northern areas it congregates by the thousands during migration as well as in winter roosts. This species is smaller and lacks the strong differences of the Great-tailed Grackle.

Nesting

5 pale blue eggs, with black scrawls, in a bulky stick nest lined with grass, placed anywhere from low in a bush to high in a tree. Nests partly in colonies, most often in tall evergreens.

Similar Species

adult

Gray Catbird

8-9 1/4" (20-23 cm). Smaller than a robin. A slender, long-tailed, dark gray bird with black cap and rusty undertail coverts.

adult, breeding

European Starling

7 1/2-8 1/2" (19-22 cm). Smaller than a robin. A short-tailed, chunky, iridescent black bird; long pointed bill, yellow in summer and dark in fall and early winter.

adult male

Red-winged Blackbird

7-9 1/2" (18-24 cm). Smaller than a robin. Male is black with bright red shoulder patches. Female and young are heavily streaked with dusky brown. See Tricolored Blackbird.

adult male

Tricolored Blackbird

7 1/2-9" (19-23 cm). Similar to Red-winged Blackbird. Male is black but with dark red "epaulets," very broadly margined with white.

adult male, breeding

Rusty Blackbird

9" (23 cm). In spring males are black, with a bluish and greenish iridescence; females are dark gray. In fall they are much more rust-brown, especially head, breast, and back.

adult male

Brewer's Blackbird

8-10" (20-25 cm). Robin-sized. Male is solid black with purplish-blue iridescent head and yellow eyes. Female is gray with dark eyes.

adult male, Eastern

Bronzed Cowbird

8 1/2" (22 cm). Male bronze-black with bluish-black wings and tail. Prominent red eye can be seen at close range. Female similar but duller.

adult male

Brown-headed Cowbird

6-8" (15-20 cm). Male black with glossy brown head; female plain gray-brown. Both have a finch-like bill.

adult male

Shiny Cowbird

7-8" (18-20 cm). Male purplish black glossed with blue above, shining purplish black below. Female grayish brown, paler below. Bill large, conical, and black. Eyes dark.

adult male

Boat-tailed Grackle

Males 16-17" (41-43 cm); females 12-13" (30-33 cm). Tail very long and keel-shaped. Male black, iridescent blue on back and breast; yellow or brown eyes. Female smaller, brown with paler breast.

adult male

Great-tailed Grackle

Male, 16-17" (41-43 cm); female, 12-13" (30-33 cm). Tail very long and keel-shaped. Male black, with iridescent purple on back and breast. Female smaller, brown with a pale breast.

adult male

Yellow-headed Blackbird

8-11" (20-28 cm). Robin-sized. Male much larger than female. Male is bright yellow on head, neck and upper breast, blackish elsewhere, with conspicuous white markings on wings.

adult

Smooth-billed Ani

14" (36 cm). Pigeon-sized. Black, with a very long tail half the length of the bird. Bill huge, with arched ridge and no grooves.

adult

Groove-billed Ani

12" (30 cm). Jay-sized. Black, with a very long tail half the length of the bird. Bill huge, with arched ridge and narrow grooves. Smooth-billed Ani lacks grooves on bill and does not occur in Texas.

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