Our Wild Neighbors

Common Grackle

Quiscalus quiscula

A gregarious opportunist from Central and Eastern Canada

Image of a Common Grackle, mounted perched on a branch and seen in profile with its head to the left.

Description of the animal

  • The largest Icteridae: the male measures approximately 32 centimetres and weighs approximately 100 grams. The female is a bit smaller.
  • Black, iridescent feathers.
  • Iridescent brassy-bronze body.
  • Iridescent bluish-purple head. Its wings and tail are sometimes a bluish-purple shade too.
  • Black legs and feet.
  • Conical, pointed black bill.
  • Lemon-yellow iris.
  • Female looks much like the male, but more drab in colour.
  • Its tail is shaped like a ship’s keel during mating season.

Habitat and needs

  • Great adaptability. The Common Grackle is present in a variety of environments, but it prefers open areas with scattered trees. It nests just about anywhere and even uses abandoned woodpecker nests built in tree cavities.
  • Migrates by day in large, mixed-species flocks (red-winged blackbirds, starlings, cowbirds, and sometimes robins).
  • Sleeps in a roost composed of many colonies.
  • Omnivorous. A callous protuberance in its palate makes it capable of eating hard foods that cannot be ingested by other birds in the Icteridae family. It also eats garbage.
  • Nests in a tree with approximately thirty other couples. The female lays five or six eggs which she broods alone. Young Grackle feces are wrapped in tiny gelatinous sacs. To keep the nest clean, the female removes the fecal sacs and drops them into the nearest body of water.
  • Uses ants or dust to rid itself of parasites. The Grackle discovered the virtues of naphthalene long ago: it rubs its feathers with mothballs!
  • Emits a rusty-metal grinding sound.

Relationship

  • Deforestation has favoured Common Grackle populations, which are now more present than ever before.
  • When large congregations form in cornfields, the Common Grackle can cause a great deal of damage.
  • The Common Grackle helps control undesirable insect and small mammal populations. Its excrements also contribute to seed dispersal.

Living with them

  • Limit the availability of open spaces if you do not wish to have Common Grackles in your yard.
  • Use birdfeeders with tiny perches that make it impossible for larger birds to perch on them. Birdfeeders protected by metallic wire that let only small birds through are another solution.
  • Keep garbage bins tightly closed!

Participating cities where this animal has been seen