Saturday, April 7, 2012


Grackle is the common name of any of eleven (usually) black passerine birds native to North and South America. All are members of the Icterid family but belong to multiple genera. The members of the Genus Quiscalus found in the North America; three in Colorado and one, the Boat-tailed Grackle, is found usually only along the coasts of southeastern Texas to Florida, around and more than half-way up the Atlantic East coast. It is found in coastal saltwater marshes, and, in Florida, also on inland waters. In that all grackles seem to be moving northward, it is no longer extraordinarily rare to find the Boat-tailed Grackle also in Colorado. These three grackles are:
  • Boat-tailed Grackle, Quiscalus major
  • Common Grackle, Quiscalus quiscula
  • Great-tailed Grackle, Quiscalus mexicanus
The Icterids are a group of small to medium-sized, often colorful passerine birds restricted to the New World. Most species have black as a predominant plumage color, often enlivened by yellow, orange or red. This group includes the New World blackbirds, New World orioles, the Bobolink, meadowlarks, grackles, and cowbirds. A passerine is a bird of the order Passeriformes, which includes more than half of all bird species. Sometimes known as perching birds or, less accurately, as songbirds

The best way to separate Common Grackles from blackbirds and cowbirds is by size and shape: Common Grackles are larger, lankier, longer tailed, and longer billed. Common Grackles have a widened tail, often held in a V-shape, even in flight. Great-tailed Grackles of the Southwest and south Texas, and Boat-tailed Grackles of the Atlantic and Gulf coasts, are even larger, and the males have much larger and more deeply keeled tails. The Great-tailed Grackle is the largest of our grackles, by several inches; while lighter in body-weight, they are about the same length as an American Crow.

Boat-tailed Grackles overlap with Great-tailed Grackles only in coastal Texas and Louisiana. They live mainly in coastal salt marshes, rarely moving inland (except in Florida where they are widespread across the peninsula). Boat-tailed Grackles, only slightly larger than the Common Grackle, have a much more rounded head, whereas Great-tailed Grackles have a sloping, flat crown.

Grackles tend to congregate in large groups, such a group is called: a plague of grackles.

A Plague of Grackes; likely with other black birds
like starlings and Red-Winged Blackbirds.

I like these big guys; probably because I don't get anywhere near that many! I should be thankful I've never had many more than about 100 mixed 'black birds' in my yard at a single time! But because I am intrigued by these Grackles (and used to confuse Great-tailed with the much smaller Boat-tailed Grackles), I intend to follow this post with a 3-part piece on the Grackles I might actually see here in Colorado. I hope you enjoy...and leave a comment; I love 'em. Again, if you click a label you'll find other postings & photos of a similar nature.


  • Wikipedia
  • Cornell’s All About Birds
  • The Crossley Guide – Eastern Birds
  • Kaufman Focus Guide – Birds of North America
  • Smithsonian Field Guide to Birds of North America
  • Stokes Field Guide to Birds of North America


  • Wikipedia
  • YouTube

1 comment:

birdhouses said...

ahh, yes, I called them "standard" grackles in the previous post. I meant "common" grackle. Plenty of these to go around. This is a very informative website.