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A photo of a Boat-tailed Grackle (Quiscalus major), male
Boat-tailed Grackle, Male

Boat-tailed Grackle

Quiscalus major

The boat-tailed grackle (Quiscalus major) is a striking bird, with the male boasting a glossy, iridescent black plumage and a distinctive keel-shaped tail, measuring 37–43 cm in length. The female, considerably smaller at 26–33 cm, is cloaked in tawny-brown with darker wings and tail. Both sexes exhibit a robust physique, but it is the male's long dark bill and pale yellowish or brown iris that often catch the observer's eye.

Identification Tips

Adult males are entirely black with a shimmering iridescence and a pronounced tail. Females are smaller, with a shorter tail and brownish coloration. The wingspan ranges from 39–50 cm. Juvenile males resemble the adults but lack the iridescence, while immature females are duller with possible blotches on the breast. Eye color varies geographically, with Gulf Coast and inland birds having dark eyes, and Atlantic birds pale eyes.

Habitat

The boat-tailed grackle is a coastal denizen, favoring saltwater marshes and, in Florida, inland waters. It is not uncommon to find them in urban settings, rummaging through refuse or perched in parking lots.

Distribution

This bird is a permanent resident along the coasts of the Southeastern United States, with a presence that extends to several Gulf Coast cities and towns.

Behaviour

The boat-tailed grackle is a ground forager but will also search for food in shallow waters and shrubs. It exhibits a boldness, at times pilfering food from other birds.

Song & Calls

The vocal repertoire of the boat-tailed grackle includes a harsh "jeeb" and an array of grackle-like chatters and squeaks, each call as distinctive as the bird itself.

Breeding

Nests are well-concealed cups situated in trees or shrubs near water, with an average clutch size slightly exceeding three eggs.

Similar Species

The great-tailed grackle is similar but has a longer tail and lacks the domed head of the boat-tailed grackle. The common grackle is smaller, with a shorter tail and no domed head, and often shares habitat with the boat-tailed grackle along the Atlantic coast.

Diet and Feeding

An omnivorous bird, the boat-tailed grackle's diet includes insects, minnows, frogs, eggs, berries, seeds, grain, and occasionally small birds.

Conservation status

The boat-tailed grackle is classified as Least Concern by the IUCN, indicating a stable population without immediate threats to its survival.

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