Backyard Birds: Common Grackle

The Common Grackle can be a handsome bird when seen from a short distance. Covering its head, neck and upper breast is a purple iridescence that can amaze viewers in the right light. The rest of its feathers, including its long, wedge-shaped tail, are glossed in a bronze-green sheen. But this beauty can be lost on many; a result of the combination of the grackle’s lack of table manners (and all other manners), its voice that sounds like “an un-oiled wheelbarrow” and the invasion of both lawn and feeders by large flocks of  these noisy birds.

Canada’s largest blackbird is both noisy and cocky, and is a resourceful forager. The grackle’s main summer diet consists of insects, small invertebrates and occasionally the eggs and nestlings of other birds. In winter, it will eat waste, grains, seeds, fruit and garbage. They will follow plows to catch invertebrates, pick leeches off the legs of turtles and steal worms from robins, among other techniques to get fast food. The grackle breeds in many different sites but it favours damp, open woodlands, the shores of lakes and streams and wet meadows. Be on the lookout for Grackles as they return to Alberta in April; they are almost here.

The young grackle is even noisier than the adult.

Note the long, wedge-shaped and keeled tail of this grackle.


Posted by Matthew Sim

3 thoughts on “Backyard Birds: Common Grackle

  1. I had just finished reading your post this morning, Matthew, when I looked out the window and saw a Common Grackle fly by! The first one I’ve seen this year, and right on schedule, just three days later than last year.

  2. My grackles just arrived today as well, but this is the latest they’ve ever shown up in my yard. Interesting that we’re all in the south east quadrant of the city, but have such varying return dates for these birds.

  3. Thanks for the post – unlike Pat and Bob I have not yet seen a grackle this year but I will be keeping my eyes (and ears!) open this weekend. I like the way that you included ID tips into the text and photo captions.

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