Common Grackles are very “common” blackbirds. They often come to bird
feeders in noisy flocks with other blackbirds, cowbirds, and starlings that
seem to take over all other visitors. In some areas, it is now
a pest by farmers because of their large numbers and fondness for grain.
Along with some other species of grackles, the common
grackle is known to practice "anting," rubbing insects on its feathers to
apply liquids such as formic acid secreted by the insects.
These birds are aggressive and will raid picnic baskets
and food at parks and beaches. I enjoy watching unsuspecting people’s food
grabbed by Grackles.
They are relentless in fighting off aggressive
crows and predators. A small flock of Grackles made nests in my neighbor's
two huge pine trees. One late afternoon I heard noise and saw what appeared
to be 10 -12 Grackles frantic and vocal. as I approached a crow came out
from the tree and took flight. What I thought were 10 grackles turned to
almost 20. They took chase and for roughly 5 minutes an aerial battle took
place. The crow eventually came back, I believe to rob the Grackle nests,
and the Grackles fought with it within the tree. What was interesting was
that the Grackle calls seemed to alert all the Grackles in the area. Within
about 10 minutes over 50 grackles came and hounded the crow and eventually
chased it from the nests.
During spring mating season, Females typically build a
nest in a coniferous tree between, in deciduous vegetation, cattails and
other sites. I have had Grackles nest about 10’ up in my neighbors hemlock
hedges. The female lays 1–7 eggs that pale blue eggs, with black scrawls.
Incubation period is 11-15 days. The chicks are born blind and helpless.
They fledge in approximately 21 days.
Common Grackles are large, about the size of a
Mourning Dove. They are
11”–13” long with a wingspan of approximately 14”-18”. Common Grackles weigh
approximately 2.5–5 oz. They have long legs and long tails. Their head is
flat and the bill is longer than in most blackbirds Common Grackles appear
black from a distance, but up close their glossy purple heads contrast with
bronzy-iridescent bodies. A bright
golden/yellow eye gives grackles an intent expression. Males are slightly
larger than females. Females are slightly less glossy than males.
Young birds are dark brown with a dark eye.
Common Grackles thrive around agricultural fields, feedlots, city parks, and
suburban lawns. They’re also common in open habitats including woodland,
forest edges, meadows, and marshes. Unbroken tracts of forest are the only
places where you are unlikely to find Common Grackles.
Common Grackles move north in spring to northern Alberta, central
Ontario, and Newfoundland, New England south to Gulf Coast states east of
This bird is a permanent resident in much of its range. Northern birds
migrate in flocks to the southeastern United States. Those Northern Common
Grackles migrate to northern Kansas, southern Great Lakes region to the
southern US in the winter.
Grackles are omnivorous however they mostly eat seeds, corn, rice and
fruits. They are frequent visitors to birdfeeders. Amazingly, Grackles also
eat: beetles, grasshoppers, worms, all other types of editable bugs and
invertebrates, crustaceans, mollusks, fish, frogs, salamanders, mice, and