Grackles are some of the most conspicuous birds in the neighborhood. Large, loud, and hard to ignore, these long-tailed, iridescent black birds visit feeders, forage on lawns, and make odd, mechanical sounds.
Female grackles, however, are not commonly recognized. When we see a group of Common Grackles, most look the same. We might wonder, “Where are the females?”
Take a closer look and some of the birds are duller, some have smaller tails. These are the female Common Grackles, and they are known as “hens”.
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Female vs Male Grackle
Female Common Grackles look similar to their male counterparts. However, a close look shows that female grackles aren’t as iridescent, and their tails are shorter. They still have long tails, a yellow eyes, and some glossy green and purple highlights, just not as much as the male.
Male Common Grackles are easily recognized and told from females by having more obvious purple and green iridescence.
In the right light, these colors stand out and show how beautiful this bird species really is.
Although female Common Grackles look a lot like males, that’s not the case for two other grackle species in North America. Females of both the Great-tailed Grackle and the Boat-tailed Grackle look very different from male birds. Female Great-tailed Grackles are brownish-gray with blackish wings and tail, and have a buff eyebrow and throat. This differs greatly from the larger, purplish-black males.
Basically, male Great-tailed Grackles are like over-sized Common Grackles with more purplish plumage and extra-long tails.
Male Boat-tailed Grackles are similar, large black birds with iridescent green and purple highlights. Females of this long-tailed, coastal and Floridian species resemble female Great-tailed Grackles but are more warm brown than gray.
Female Common Grackles might look a lot like male birds, but they differ in several ways. Check out the differences between male and female Common Grackles in this table.
|Slightly larger, 12.5 to 13 inches in length. The tail is also a little bit longer. Wingspan of 16-18 inches. Their average weight is 122 grams.
|A bit smaller, 11 to 12 inches in length, and a slightly shorter tail. Wingspan of 14-15 inches. Their average weight is 94 grams.
|Black with much purple, green, and bronze iridescence, especially on the head.
|Dull black with only a little bit of purple, green, and bronze iridescence.
|Males defend territories from other males, especially during the breeding season.
They sing, flap their wings, stretch their neck and point their bill towards the sky. Males are fluff out neck feathers and fold their tail so it looks like a “V.”
|Female grackles work with their mates to defend their territory from other grackles. They don’t display like males, nor sing as much as males do.
|Males make brief, mechanical and whistled songs. They also give a nasal sound not made by female birds.
|Females make some of the same sounds as the males but also make a brief “waa” call not made by male grackles.
|Little known but probably similar to female grackles, around 15 years. The longest-lived male was 22 years old.
|Females grackles probably live 12 to 15 years on average.
The plumage of the Common Grackle is one of the main yet subtle differences between males and females. Male Common Grackles are black with beautiful iridescent highlights. They have deep metallic purple-blue on the head, and dark, metallic purple-blue, green, or bronze on the body and tail.
Female Common Grackles look very similar and can have a lot of iridescence on the head. However, they have less metallic highlights overall, especially on the tail and body.
Female grackles tend to look duller black and the backs of some females look blackish-brown.
Smaller In Size
The female Common Grackle is smaller than the male. However, the difference in size is so small, without a direct comparison, it can be really hard to see in the field.
On average, female Common Grackles are 11 to 12 inches long whereas the average length of male Common Grackles is 12.5 to 13 inches.
One noticeably different between the sexes is the tail. Although the tails of male grackles are only a little bit longer than female tails, they have a more prominent wedge shape. This is especially easy to see in flight and when males display.
Male and female grackles act pretty similar. They can sing similar songs, and both flock together. They forage for seeds and grains, and use their strong beaks to pick insects and other small animals from the ground. Male and female grackles also frequently wade into shallow water to forage.
Male grackles mostly differ with their territorial displays. Males point their bill towards the sky, fluff their feathers, and flap their wings while singing. Females don’t do this but, they construct the nest and incubate the eggs.
How to tell a younger grackle’s gender?
When they are in the nest, young grackles look the same. However, after fledging, females look paler and may have more streaking.
At this stage, juvenile Common Grackles can be told from other birds by their uniform dark brown plumage, dark eyes, and dark bill. Once birds molt into adult plumage in October, males and females can be more easily told apart.
Common Grackles usually nest once per year, occasionally twice. When the young grackles hatch, they are naked, pale brown, and have their eyes closed.
Their parents begin to feed them on the same day and they grow quickly. Around two weeks after hatching, fledgling grackles have most of their feathers and leave the nest. However, they stay near the nest for one or two more days. They have all of their feathers by the 16th day after hatching.
These young birds continue to be regularly fed by their parents for several weeks although they also find some of their own food. By July, they flock with other grackles in the area.
These young birds are able to breed the following summer. Although there have been few or no studies looking at Common Grackle lifespans, they are believed to live for 12 to 15 years.
Frequently Asked Questions
What color is a female grackle?
A female Common Grackle is dull black with some metallic highlights. Female Boat-tailed and Great-tailed Grackles are gray or brown with black and buff.
Do female grackles have yellow eyes?
Yes. Adult female grackles have yellow eyes.
Do female grackles sing?
Yes. Female grackles also sing although not as much as male grackles.
Do grackles mate for life?
No. Grackles find a new mate each breeding season.
Grackles might not be the most popular birds but they are still beautiful. Female Common Grackles look like males but we can tell them by their shorter tails and duller plumage.