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September 3, 2011 / Leslie

Weekend Birding: Common Grackle

The Common Grackle is a large, noisy blackbird with bad manners that usually gathers in large flocks. They inhabit most of North America and Canada east of the Rocky Mountains and are short distance migrants. Grackles that nest in Canada and the Great Plains will spend their winters in the central and southern US.

Migration is the only time I get a lot of Grackles at my feeders. When they do show up, they bring their friends and family and will eat anything they can get their beaks on. They are larger than the other birds at the feeders and will push the smaller ones aside to get at the food.

This is a photo I took last September. There are 27 Grackles and one Sparrow at the feeders and more Grackles in the trees. The larger Woodpeckers will argue with them but most of the other birds back off. Grackles prefer to eat on the ground and I’ve found that sprinkling a small amount of seed on the ground will help keep them off the feeders.

A few days ago I spotted a youngster and an adult male at the feeder. I can only assume dad was teaching him where to find food. That’s the youngster to the left and dad below. (Click photos for sharper images.)

Grackles appear black from a distance but up close the male has a glossy iridescent body, a purplish head and bright yellow eyes. Females are brownish black and less iridescent with the same yellow eyes. Juveniles are a dull brown color with dark eyes that will turn yellow as they age.

Interesting Facts:


Leave a Comment
  1. Cathy / Sep 3 2011 2:14 am

    Our Great-Tailed Grackles here in Phoenix have much better manners. I have a small colony that lives in the top of the huge pine tree in my front yard, and they’re better than an alarm system at letting me know when strangers are around.


    • Leslie / Sep 3 2011 10:35 am

      I stayed at a resort in Mexico that had a resident flock of Great-tails. They were noisy only in the morning as they assembled. They spent the day scavenging food and entertaining the tourists and were generally well-behaved.


  2. carol / Sep 3 2011 4:47 am

    I love the name Grackle.

    The sound like they are a bit like our Starlings with their noisy ways.

    They look a little like a small raven.

    have a good weekend



    • Leslie / Sep 3 2011 10:44 am

      I get Starlings too but not in such a large number. And they can be annoying too.


  3. Trish / Sep 3 2011 6:39 am

    Haha, noisy and bad mannered indeed! They take over our backyard when they’re in the neighborhood.


    • Leslie / Sep 3 2011 11:12 am

      They do seem to travel in gangs. When I see one or two I know I’m going to a flock the next day.


  4. Beth F / Sep 3 2011 6:43 am

    I scare the stupid grackles off my bird feeder all day long. Grrrrr. They are NOT my favorite birds. They bully the little birds and eat me out of house and home. 🙂


    • Leslie / Sep 3 2011 10:51 am

      They are the reason I switched one of my feeders to safflower. Only finches and Cardinals seem to like it and that’s fine with me. I also replaced my hanging hopper feeder with that little round plastic feeder second from the left. Grackles cannot land on it and they had been tipping the hopper feeder and dumping the seed on the ground. (Actually the tiny feeder was Mr. Apple Tree’s suggestion, the Grackles drive him crazy too!).


  5. Diane@BibliophileBytheSea / Sep 3 2011 6:50 am

    Your backyard looks prefect for attracting all the beautiful birds you’ve captured.

    We use to have a lot of these noisy birds, but oddly enough, once I put out feeders a last month for the first time here, there hasn’t been one of these around.

    Leslie, does that pole feeder system keep the squirrels away>


    • Leslie / Sep 3 2011 11:02 am

      The baffles do keep the squirrels off the feeders but you have to use the large size, the 22″ diameter. They were getting past my 18″ one. Once in a while I’ll find a squirrel has managed to jump straight up into the tray feeder but not often.

      The bush behind the poles is far enough away that squirrels can’t jump to the feeders and the birds love the cover it gives them. When a hawk comes by they all dive into it. It’s a Spirea Bush.


  6. BermudaOnion / Sep 3 2011 7:34 am

    I’m sure I’ve seen those, but probably always thought they were crows. I love your bird pictures!


    • Leslie / Sep 3 2011 11:06 am

      The crows stay at the top of the pine trees. I’ve never had one come down to the feeders. It’s probably not a bad thing since they are even bigger than Grackles.


  7. laurelrainsnow / Sep 3 2011 7:44 am

    I never even knew the term “grackles,” and like Kathy, I probably thought they were crows. They do look intrusive! Thanks for sharing.



    • Leslie / Sep 3 2011 11:07 am

      They do look like crows from a distance.


  8. mostraum / Sep 3 2011 8:39 am

    I love their name, rather funny sounding. The close up is great!


    • Leslie / Sep 3 2011 11:24 am

      I don’t know where the name comes from but it does fit the bird’s personality.


  9. Paulita / Sep 3 2011 8:55 am

    Thanks. I learn so much about birds from your weekly photos. We have these birds all the time at our feeder. I’ll tell my husband to try sprinkling food on the ground, but the mourning doves like to eat from the ground too.
    Here’s My Saturday Snapshot


    • Leslie / Sep 3 2011 11:09 am

      The Chipmunks like to eat on the ground too. When I put extra seed down those little guys stuff their faces and their cheeks get all puffed out.


  10. Alyce / Sep 3 2011 10:26 am

    I’ve never heard of Grackles, but I thought from the first photo that they looked like small crows.


    • Leslie / Sep 3 2011 11:11 am

      The Northwest coast has been spared from the Grackles. The Great-tail Grackles are migrating farther and farther north but as Cathy mentioned, they have better manners.


  11. gautami tripathy / Sep 3 2011 11:33 am

    Enjoyed looking at the photographs!

    Here is my Saturday Snapshot post!


  12. Janet Ruth / Sep 3 2011 3:36 pm

    Awesome photos, we never see birds in our yard because our cats scare them away. Loved the story about the grackles, and I don’t think I’ve ever seen one.


  13. TheBookGirl / Sep 3 2011 4:06 pm

    So the crows get the bad rep and it’s really the grackles 🙂


  14. Bev@My Reader's Block / Sep 3 2011 6:37 pm

    Love the sparrow. Not a fan of grackles….they eat up all my mom’s bird feed and drive off the birds she really wants to see.

    But those are great pictures as always!

    Here’s mine–something flying in the sky, but not birds:


  15. Gina / Sep 4 2011 9:42 am

    love this post…will be back


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