Hey guys! Welcome back, and Happy Christmas to those of you that celebrate! Today I get to talk about one of my all-time favorite birds, the Common Grackle! Now I know many birders (and non-birders) will disagree with this. Grackles are brash, loud, annoying, and can congregate in extremely large numbers causing damage to crops, statues, etc. The collective noun for them is an Annoyance, after all, and with good reason.
Common Grackles are part of the blackbird family. Larger than most of their blackbird relatives, they can be picked out by their lankier profiles, long tails, larger beak, and distinctive call. Unlike the other two grackle species in North America (the Boat-tailed and Great-tailed Grackles), Common Grackles have very little sexual dimorphism, with females looking less glossy, but still black with iridescent coloring. In low light, grackles look completely black, but catch the sunlight right, and they are some of the most beautiful and striking birds you’ll see. The iridescence in Common Grackles can vary based on geography from more green in the southeast to more purple in the northeast.
But why are they my one of my favorite birds? Well, I’m not sure really. I think they look more like little dinosaurs than any other bird (yes I know that taxonomically speaking the chicken is the closest dinosaur relative.) I love their attitude. Last year, my sister went to Austin, TX and got me a shirt as a birthday gift. It had a picture of a grackle and said “Grackle got no boss.” I fell in love with it. It seems in Austin, Great-tailed Grackles are kind of all over the place. It’s become a slogan of sorts. I’ve come to apply it to the Common Grackles when I see them. It was actually really bad for a while, my friends all told me I had to stop saying it so often. Also, they’re one of the first birds I remember looking up in a field guide. They used to be in my backyard all the time when I was growing up. I’d see them back there and was struck by the blue and purple iridescence. I wanted to know what they were! My dad (mistakenly) thought they were starlings. It’s understandable. I mean, they’re both black/iridescent birds that seem to travel in large numbers. The Starling, however, is smaller and has light colored spots on it. I don’t really remember how I found out, or where I looked, as the internet wasn’t really a thing yet (I was like 10 years old), but somehow I found out they were a bird called Common Grackles. I’ve thought they were cool ever since!
Common Grackles are very common and widespread in the U.S. east of the Rocky Mountains. Look for them in winter when they form very large flocks with other blackbird species, with flocks sometimes numbering in the thousands, or even the millions! Common Grackles are opportunistic feeders and will eat pretty much enything they can find from fish to seeds to eggs to fruits. One of their favorite foods is corn, and since they form such large flocks, they are a big nuisance to farmers throughout the midwest. So, yeah, while most people don’t really like them, which is certainly understandable, they’re still one of my favorite birds. And it’s hard not to admit how beautiful they are when the light catches them right! Next up is one of the most well known, recognizable birds in North America! What could it be? Check back next time to find out! See you then!