Common Grackle

Quiscalus quiscula

Howard B. Eskin
  • ICTERIDAE
  • Blackbirds, Orioles, and allies
  • Passeriformes
  • Zanate norteño
  • Quiscale bronzé
Introduction

The Common Grackle is a dark bird longer than most blackbirds, slimmer than most crows, and very iridescent with long center-creased tail, found in a variety of open habitats with trees, including urban areas, parks, riparian areas, and a variety of woody wetlands in the United States and Canada.

Fun Fact

The Common Grackle engages in “anting” behavior, in which it covers itself with fluid secreted from ants, walnuts, lemons, limes, marigold blossoms, mothballs, or chokecherries, presumably to gain protection from parasites.

Bird Sounds
© Lang Elliot, Nature Sound Studio
Vocalization

The song is a grating "chuga-squeak," often repeated. Also in the repertoire is a loud single call note.

Appearance Description

Longer than most blackbirds, slimmer than most crows, Common Grackle males are very iridescent and have long tails with a distinct crease down the center. Females are not as iridescent or as colorful, and their tails are not as distinctive.

Range Map
Kenn Kaufman
Range Distribution
Habitat

Breeds in a variety of open habitats with trees, including urban areas, parks, riparian areas, and a variety of woody wetlands. In non-breeding season, roosts in large mixed-species flocks usually in dense groves of trees or dense marsh vegetation; feeds in non-breeding season in woodlots and a variety of agricultural settings.

Feeding

Opportunistic feeders, grackles eat a varied diet, often foraging in flocks. Feeds on insects and grain during the breeding season, and agricultural grains, tree seeds (especially acorns), and fruit during the winter and migration. Commonly plunders other nests for eggs and occasionally kills and consumes adult birds. Follows plowing farmers and eats uncovered larvae. Will soak stale pieces of bread in water to soften them before eating.

Reproduction

The extensive clearing of forests in the eastern United States in the 18th and 19th centuries created much nesting habitat for the Common Grackle. Nests are typically built between branches of a coniferous tree, although birdhouses, woodpecker cavities, buildings, and already occupied nests are also used. Usually only has one brood per season, laying from 1 to 7 eggs.

Migration
  • 73 million
  • 73 million
  • 73 million now, 190 million 40 years ago
  • 61 percent in 40 years
Population Status Trends
Conservation Issues
  • Threats: Common Grackles are sometimes persecuted by people because they roost during the non-breeding season in large flocks and forage on agricultural products.

  • Outlook: Common Grackles will probably always be with us, but their tendency to roost—and experience persecution from humans—alongside rarer declining birds such as the Rusty Blackbird is a major cause for concern.
What You Can Do
  • Protect the Boreal Forest
    Promote conservation of the Canadian Boreal Forest by supporting the Boreal Songbird Initiative that works to save Canadian boreal habitat for all birds, specifically by fighting inappropriate logging, mining, and drilling, and by promoting the designation of protected areas.

  • Investigate Blackbird Control
    If you live in an area where there are large blackbird roosts (especially in the range of Rusty or Tricolored Blackbirds), check with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Wildlife Services, or state wildlife offices to see if permits have been issued for blackbird control, and report this information to stateofthebirds@audubon.org
More Information
Natural History References
Conservation Status References

Kaufman, Kenn. Guía de campo a las aves de Norteamérica. New York: Houghton Mifflin Company, 2005.

Peer, B.D. and E.K. Bollinger (1997). Common Grackle (Quiscalus quiscala). The Birds of North America Online (A. Poole and F. Gill, Eds.). Philadelphia: The Academy of Natural Sciences and Washington, DC: The American Ornithologists’ Union. Retrieved from The Birds of North America Online database: http://bna.birds.cornell.edu/BNA/account/Common_Grackle/