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A photo of a Common Grackle (Quiscalus quiscula), male
Common Grackle, Male

Common Grackle

Quiscalus quiscula

The Common Grackle (Quiscalus quiscula) is a large icterid bird, notable for its glossy, iridescent plumage and its presence across much of North America. Males are particularly striking with their shimmering heads, while females are less iridescent. These birds possess a long, dark bill, pale yellow eyes, and a lengthy tail, contributing to their distinctive silhouette.

Identification Tips

Adult Common Grackles are identified by their size, ranging from 28 to 34 cm in length, and their iridescent feathers that can appear purple, green, or blue on the head, with a bronze sheen on the body. The males are larger than the females and exhibit more pronounced iridescence and keeled tails in flight. Juveniles are brown with dark brown eyes.

Habitat

Common Grackles thrive in open and semi-open areas, often near water. They are adaptable and can be found in a variety of environments, from dense trees, particularly pines, to shrubs and man-made structures.

Distribution

These birds are widespread across North America, primarily to the east of the Rocky Mountains. They are permanent residents in much of their range, with northern populations migrating to the Southeastern United States.

Behaviour

Common Grackles are gregarious and may form large colonies. They are known for their resourcefulness and opportunistic feeding habits, often foraging on the ground, in shallow water, or among shrubs. They may also exhibit "anting" behavior, using insects to apply substances to their feathers.

Song & Calls

The Common Grackle's vocalizations are varied, ranging from a simple "chewink" to a complex series of whistles during the breeding season. Their calls can be harsh and loud, and they are capable of mimicking the sounds of other birds and even humans.

Breeding

During the breeding season, males display by tipping their heads back and fluffing up their feathers. They nest in well-concealed cups in dense vegetation, often in colonies, and lay clutches of four to seven eggs.

Similar Species

The Common Grackle can be distinguished from other grackle species by its size, iridescence, and distribution. It is less sexually dimorphic than larger grackle species.

Diet and Feeding

Omnivorous in nature, Common Grackles consume a wide range of food, including insects, minnows, frogs, eggs, berries, seeds, grain, and even small birds and rodents. They have a specialized keel in their bill for cracking hard nuts and kernels.

Conservation status

Although currently robust in population, the Common Grackle has experienced a significant decline, with a 61% drop to 73 million individuals from historical highs. As a result, it is classified by the IUCN as Near Threatened.

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