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Grackle: Key Facts

Did you know that grackles are native to the Western Hemisphere? Or that some migrate for the winter while others don’t? Keep reading to learn more about these and other grackle key facts.

Quick Facts About Grackles

Scientific Name:Quiscalus
Number of Species:10
Physical Description:Iridescent medium-sized black songbird with blue, violet, bronze, or yellow overtones on their head, chest, and back. Males usually have brighter colorings than females. Grackles have black beaks and yellow eyes. 
Distribution:Widely distributed throughout North, Central, and South America
Habitat:Varies widely; potential habitats include meadows, woodlands, marshes, agricultural fields, and suburban areas.
Migratory?Those living in colder regions migrate; those living in warmer regions do not.
Average Size:– 10-15 inches long
– 2.5-5 ounces in weight
Average Lifespan:17-22 years
Number of Eggs:1-7 per nesting season
Diet:Omnivorous and opportunistic; common foods include:
– Insects
– Seeds
– Grains
– Berries
– Minnows
– Frogs
– Bird eggs
– Small birds

What Are Grackles?

Grackles are medium sized songbirds, black with shimmery color on their head, chest, and back. Their exact coloring varies by species, but they frequently have overtones of blue, purple, bronze, yellow, and even green. 

Grackles eat anything and everything, including uneaten bits of human food they find in trash cans or near picnic tables. They aren’t shy around humans and are often found congregating in store and restaurant parking lots, looking for an easy meal. 

Grackles are known for creating flocks. They tend to gather in especially large flocks during winter; sometimes a single flock will contain up to a million birds. 

Grackles are semi-migratory, meaning that some of them migrate during the winter while others do not. Generally, grackles living further north migrate south in flocks, while grackles already living in the south stay put year round. 

Check out the following video to learn more about the common grackle, one of the most widespread species in the United States.

Where Do Grackles Live?

Grackles are native to the Western Hemisphere and are found throughout North, Central, and South America. In North America, they are found mostly east of the Rocky Mountains.

There are three species of grackle currently found in North America: the common grackle, the great tailed-grackle, and the boat-tailed grackle. Depending on species, these birds can be found from areas of southern Canada down into Mexico, while still other species are found in South America.

Grackles can live in a variety of habitats; even though they migrate, they often stay in areas that are fairly cold and receive moderate amounts of snow in the winter. They tend to stay in urban and suburban regions, apparently preferring to stay close to human populations. This is our article how to protect your bird feeders from grackles.

Interesting Facts About Grackles

  • Like some other bird species, grackles take part in a practice called “anting:” they will lay on the ground with their wings spread out, allowing ants to crawl over their body. The scent from the ants acts as a natural repellent against lice and mites.
  • In order to establish dominance, male grackles will engage in a sort of non-violent competition known as bill tilt. The birds will stick their beaks in the air and compete to see who can maintain this posture the longest, with the last bird to drop out being the winner and gaining the respect of the others.
  • As noted above, grackles are highly social, often grouping together in flocks. Sometimes, they even nest together, with up to 200 grackle pairs creating giant nesting colonies in a single area.
  • Female grackles typically do all the nest building themselves, and it isn’t uncommon for them to build their nest only to change their mind and decide to build another nest in a different location. Nest building can take up to six weeks.
  • According to All About Birds, grackles don’t just flock with other grackles; sometimes they also flock with blackbirds, starlings, and cowbirds.

Conclusion

Grackles are shimmery black songbirds, reasonably smart, that often gather together in large flocks with other blackbirds. They will eat just about anything, from insects and seeds to fish and frogs to discarded bits of human food. 

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