Common Grackle

Common Name:Aves

Passeriformes 

Icteridae

Quiscalus

Quiscalus quiscula

Photo: M. Noonan

 

TAXONOMY

The Common Grackle is a member of the Blackbird family, and is not related to the American Crow as many think. Common Grackles are dichromatic which means that males and females are have different colorations. The male common grackle is an iridescent black, with the upper chest and head glistening blueish or purplish in the sun. The female is slightly smaller and more brownish, less iridescent. The Common Grackle has a very long, dark gray beak. They are 28-34 cm (11-13 in) in size with a wingspan of 36-46 cm (14-18 in). Bobolinks weigh about 74-142 g (2.61-5.01 ounces).

 

HABITAT/DIET

 

The Common Grackle is a very widespread bird, residing all over North America east of the American Rockies. Their numbers may be upwards of 100 million in North America. This bird is known to migrate up to Canada for the summer and reside east of the Canadian Rocky Mountains. Common Grackles are found in open areas with scattered trees, particularly in suburban developments. They are not usually found in very wooded areas because they like to forage on open ground. Grackles will also forage in shallow water or in shrubs. The grackle has also been known to steal food from other birds. Grackles are omnivorous and will eat insects, minnows, frogs, eggs, berries, seeds and grain, even small birds.

Photo: Spanish

BEHAVIOR

 

Common Grackles are very social, and are commonly found around other grackles, Red-winged Blackbirds, and European Starlings. However, the Common Grackle becomes very territorial around its nest and will attack other birds, even humans. Common Grackles do not mate for life but they are monogamous. From pair formation through incubation, the male remains in close association with his mate by perching near her, following her, and engaging in ritual displays. This exhibition by the male probably functions to guard against extra-pair copulations. Once incubation has begun, his attentiveness decreases steadily. The Common Grackle's cup shaped nest is large and bulky, constructed of woody stems, leaves and fine grasses and lined with mud and usually fine grasses or horse hair. Eggs are a light blue or pearl gray, usually spotless. A Common Grackle's clutch size is about 4 to 6 eggs. One clutch a year is laid. The eggs are incubated by the female and hatch in 12-14 days. At this time, about half the males have deserted the mother and the nest. Those who remain will participate in parental care, including brooding and feeding. The young are able to leave the nest after 16-20 days, however they remain near the nest several days thereafter.

 

WHERE TO FIND THEM

 

Common Grackles can be found in almost any open area or field. They are commonly found on the lawns of suburban houses or along highways, foraging for food all year round.

 

Photo: M. Noonan

Birds of Western New York is brought to you by the Institute for the Study of Human-Animal Relations at Canisius College in Buffalo, NY.