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Description of the Common Grackle

BREEDING MALE

The Common Grackle is a large blackbird, glossy-black with large tail. Quite colorful when viewed at close range and in good light.

- Head and throat, glossy dark blue, yellow eye and dark, heavy bill.
- Body and wings, iridescent bronze (may appear black).
- Tail, iridescent bronze. Large, keel-shaped.
- Length: 12 in.  Wingspan: 17 in.

common grackle

 

Common Grackle m gl
Photograph © Greg Lavaty.

Female

Same as male, may average smaller, less glossy in appearance.

 

common grackle

Seasonal change in appearance

No significant change.

Juvenile

Dull brown with dark eye.

Habitat

Found in urban or suburban areas.  Also open woodlands and in semi-open areas with scattered trees and park-like areas, swamps and marshes and agricultural areas.

Diet

A diverse diet of insects, seeds, acorns, and fruit. May also include small birds, mice, and frogs.

Behavior

Forages on ground. May forage in mixed flocks with other blackbirds and roost in large flocks, often in urban and suburban areas.

Range

Breeds widely across the eastern two-thirds of North America but retreats from northern breeding areas in winter.

More information:

Bent Life History

Visit the Bent Life History for extensive additional information on the Common Grackle.

Wing Shape

The shape of a bird's wing is often an indication of its habits and behavior. Fast flying birds have long, pointed wings. Soaring birds have long, broad wings. Different songbirds will have a slightly different wing shape. Some species look so much alike (Empidonax flycatchers) that scientists sometimes use the length of specific feathers to confirm a species' identification.

Wing images from the University of Puget Sound, Slater Museum of Natural History

Fun Facts

The Common Grackle has been expanding its range west in recent decades, assisted by shelterbelt plantings in areas where trees are otherwise scarce.

Agricultural grains are a large part of the Common Grackle’s diet, and it is a pest to agriculture in some areas.

Vocalizations

A squeaky, “rusty gate” song and loud “chuck” call notes are given.

Attracting

Will visit feeders.

Nesting

Often breeds in colonies. Non-selective nest locations include trees, tree cavities, buildings, and other locations. Generally 2 to12 feet above the ground. Nest is a bulky and cup-shaped. Built from twigs, weed stalks, grasses, and mud. It is lined with feathers and a variety of inanimate objects.

Number: 3-6.
Color: light green or light brown in color, with brown or light purplish markings.

Incubation and fledging:
- Young hatch at about 13-14 days.
- Young mature rapidly and are able to fly when they are approximately 16-20 days old.