Ten Common Birds Of The GTA

DeRango Productions

Common Grackle (Quiscalus quiscula)

Family: Icteridae

The Common Grackle is an interesting bird, not just for its dark and glossy finish, but for its noisy and aggressive nature. At a first glance this Blackbird looks mean and intimidating, when in song, it sounds just the same -very harsh and loud. The Common Grackle is a fairly common songbird, but not a very popular one. Rather than the sweet notes of your typical songbird like the American Robin, the Common Grackle will sing its harsh piercing notes. This bird is very predatorial, it is very noisy, and is commonly identified by its large rounded eyes.  The Common Grackle looks like your typical blackbird, just slightly bigger and has purple and green hues added to their coloring. If they aren’t walking around your lawn looking for a meal, they are probably high up on an evergreen in a noisy group. And when these angry looking birds get hungry, other birds in the area should be weary of a violent intruder. The Common Grackle will raid other bird nests eating the eggs and the young alike with no remorse!

Keys To Identification

Size:

11 - 14 inches. (28 - 35 centimeters) in length (fully grown), and weigh from 74 - 142 grams (2.6 - 5 ounces). They have a wingspan of about 14 - 18 inches (36 - 46 Centimeters).

Description:

Common Grackles appear black from a distance, but when you get up close to them, (If you can) they have a glossy purple head that contrasts with their bronzy-iridescent bodies. The term iridescent generally means that the surface of this bird appears to change color as the angle of view changes. For example, soap bubbles, butterfly wings, sea shells, and yes, the Common Grackle is another good example! (Check for forums for a picture of this example) A good way to spot this bird not just from its coloring is paying attention to its bright golden eye, giving the bird an intense bold expression.

Male: Black with iridescent hues above - purple, blue, green, and bronze.
Female: Smaller, duller, and iridescent only on front of their bodies
Juvenile: Dull Brown with a brown eye, and obviously smaller in size

Former Name's: Purple Grackle, Bronzed Grackle 

Sounds Like:

Voice:

Melody of harsh squeaking and guttural noises, The common Grackle kind of sounds like a rusty hinge. To me, the sounds of the Common Grackle resemble the notes of Seinfield. I am not a fan of the show, and a friend suggested that It doesn't sounds anything like Seinfield what so ever, but I still do hear similar notes.! Maybe its just me? Feel free to start a discussion in the forums regarding this topic.

Behavior/Habits:

Common Grackles have earned a bad reputation for being somewhat of a pest in certain areas of North America. These aggressive birds feed in farm fields, pastures, and suburban lawns by walking around, rather than hopping. They act very aggressively towards other birds, even stealing food from them. They seem to enjoy bullying around The American Robins as best they can. This bullying leads towards a sign of aggression that the male Common Grackle likes to show off with. What the male will do is fluff out their body feathers, spreading its wings and tail, so it will seem to be much larger and more intimidating. (They also do this to attract females as you will noticed in the video below) At the feeders, the Common Grackles will dominate other birds and take most of the food making a lot of noise in the process. They are also known to attack other birds with biting, pecking, scratching and flying towards any adversary. Crazy bird!

Habitat:

Common Grackles are often found in open areas with scattered trees, preferably coniferous trees. Common Grackles can be spotted in your Greater Toronto area backyard being aggressive around your feeders or hopping around your lawn. They are not intimidated by human habitation. They can also be found in farmlands, orchards and swamps. Common Grackles have adapted very well to human structures that they are quite common in open areas such as suburban developments, city parks and cemeteries.

Food:

Common Grackles eat mostly seeds, particularly agricultural grains like rice and corn. They also eat other types of seeds such as sunflower seeds and acorns. They will also snack on tree seeds such as sweetgum, wild and cultivated fruits. And if you find a Common Grackle that is pretty hungry they will even attack your garbage. The Grackle will pretty much eat whatever it thinks is edible; or anything that moves, including beetles, grasshoppers, caterpillars, spiders, they will even eat fish, frogs, salamanders, mice and other birds. Like I said, they will pretty much eat anything that they think is manageable of eating.

Similar birds:

The common Grackle does resemble its other family members a little bit. As a blackbird, it obviously looks like other blackbirds, and it also resembles some Cowbirds. The Rusty Blackbird looks like the Common Grackle with its rounded eye, and blackbird shape, but its lacking the iridescent glossy finish. The Brewers Blackbird looks like the Common Grackle also, it has that similar rounded eye, and a black finish! But the Brewers Blackbird has a glossy finish that almost looks like they are covered in a liquid ink.  (See pictures below: Left* Rusty Blackbird, Right* Brewers Blackbird)

Range: (the geographical area where this species can be found)

The Common Grackles will range over almost all of Eastern North America east of the Rockies, extending far into Canada in the summer breeding Season. Most of its time is spend in the Eastern United States from Florida all the way up to New York. 

Interesting Facts:

When you see those scary looking figures in a corn field known as scare-crows, you know that they are there to scare away birds that are a threat to the crops. And it turns out, Grackles are the number one threat to corn. They eat ripening corn as well as corn sprouts, and their habit of foraging in big flocks means bad news for farmers. 

Other: 

Here is a very cool video I found on Youtube where a male Common Grackle is showing off for a nearby female. I thought this was very cool! Its almost like he is flexing his muscles!

 

Video Cutesy of PigeonPal, 2006

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Credits:

"Common Grackle." Bob Nature Photo. Web. 11 Nov 2009. <http://www.bobnaturephoto.com/gallery/d/5090-2/CommonGrackle13.jpg>.

"Common Grackle Yard." Bill Hubick. Web. 11 Nov 2009. <http://www.billhubick.com/images/common_grackle_yard_20070516_02.jpg>.

"Jeff Rusty." Boreal Birds. Web. 10 Nov 2009. <http://www.borealbirds.org/images/blog/jeff-rusty.jpg>.

"Brewers Blackbird." Migratory Bird Center. Web. 10 Nov 2009. <http://nationalzoo.si.edu/ConservationAndScience/MigratoryBirds/Featured_photo/Images/Bigpic/brbl1.jpg>.

"Common Grackle Range Map." All About Birds. Web. 13 Nov 2009. <http://www.allaboutbirds.org/guide/PHOTO/LARGE/quis_quis_AllAm_map.gif>.

Common Grackle recording by Arthur A. Allen, LNS catalog number 12664. 

"Male common grackle displaying for female." YouTube. Web. 11 Nov 2009. <http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3FJ10OlxODk>.  

"Wikipedia Common Grackle." Wikipedia. Web. 11 Nov 2009. <http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Common_Grackle>.  

Ransom, Jay Ellias. Complete Filed Guide To North American Wildlife. Eastern Edition. New York: Harper and Row, 1981. 42, 193-194. Print.

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