Grackles have always appealed to me due to their beautiful iridescence and graceful look in flight. They have adapted to living in close proximity to people and are abundant in our area. Although the range of the Common Grackle is large and expanding, their numbers are declining. Boat-tailed Grackles, however, are not at risk.
These large, gregarious, and noisy black birds are year round residents in the southeast and are found in many kinds of open or semi-open country. They forage in fields, pastures, marshes while nesting in places with dense trees (especially conifers) close to open areas. Grackles are a familiar species on lawns or in yards, striding about with long, deliberate steps as they search for insects. You’ll see them at the beach pretending to be shore birds, searching for small aquatic insects or crustaceans in very shallow water. They also consume berries, seeds, and grains.
They often nest in small colonies, and several males may perch in adjacent treetops to sing their creaking, grating songs. Big flocks are often seen flying overhead in the evening, heading for major communal roosts, especially from late summer through winter.
Boat-tailed Grackle – Quiscalus major
Length: 10-14 in, Weight: 3.3-8.4 oz, Wingspan: 15-19 in
The Boat-tailed Grackle is a large, lanky bird with a long, v-shaped tail, long legs, and a long, pointed bill. Adult males are glossy black with an iridescent purple/blue sheen.
Adult females are dark brown on the back and russet/lighter brown underneath with a subtle face pattern.
Boat-tailed Grackles are most frequently found in close proximity to water. Nests are well-hidden in dense trees or brush. Females lay 2-4 eggs and take full responsibility for incubating them and feeding the young hatchlings.
Common Grackle – Quiscalus quiscula
Length: 11-13 in, Weight: 2.6-5.0 oz, Wingspan: 14-18 in
Common Grackles are slightly smaller than Boat-tailed Grackles, with a narrower streamlined tail. The bill is thicker as well. Although their foraging habits are similar to their larger cousins, they depend more on crops, such as corn and rice.
Adult males look black at a distance but up close their iridescence is more pronounced. Coloration west of the Appalachians tends to be more bronze. A bright golden eye gives grackles an intent expression.
Females are slightly less glossy than males. Young birds are dark brown with a dark eye.
Females take primary responsibility for nest building, with males sometimes contributing materials. Both parents incubate the clutch of 2-7 eggs, and both parents are active in feeding the hatchlings.
Submitted by: Claudia Porter
Photos and source: https://www.allaboutbirds.org/guide/Boat-tailed_Grackle