Black Bird With A Blue Head: The Common Grackle

If you are trying to think of some of the most visually pleasing birds that are out there, your mind usually goes to the brightly colored varieties. However, these are not the only birds that stand out from the crowd.

Another type of bird that is pretty to observe in the wild is the  common grackle, and while it might not sport all the colors of the rainbow, it is still a beautiful sight. 

Common grackle birds are well known for their graceful all black bodies and head of iridescent greens and blues. They are certainly a striking type of bird that should be on your list of birds to witness. It’s almost as if these birds know just how beautiful they are, as they can often be found walking around in front yards and open fields, or gathering in high trees.

The common grackle likes to make their presence known, whether they intend to do so or not. They are smart and mischievous birds that typically move in large flocks. They will round up every piece of food that they can find, and they are definitely full of themselves. In this article, we are going to be looking at the common grackle bird in more detail.

About The Common Grackle Bird

The common grackle bird, or Quiscalus quiscula, almost looks like an elongated blackbird, and they measure at around 12 and a half inches in length. Interestingly, their tails are what makes up almost half of their overall length, and just like with most birds, the adult males are perhaps the most striking.

They feature bright and golden yellow eyes as well as iridescent blue and green heads. They also have glossy bronzed bodies, and you will be able to spot a hint of blue and purple iridescence in their wings and tails.

When it comes to mating season, the male common grackle is known to hold its tail in a V shape when they are flying, but the reasoning for this is not exactly known. This is not something that the female birds do, so perhaps they are just trying to get their attention in any way that they can.

The female common grackle is quite different when it comes to their size, as they are much smaller, and their sheen tends to be slightly duller. 

Common Grackles As A Flock

Many people associate flocks of common grackles with flocks of crows, but these two birds are not actually related, even though the grackles name was derived from the Linnaean genus Gracula.

If you didn’t already know, the genus refers to the Jackdaw, which is a member of the corvid family, but again, crows and grackles are not related 

Common grackles instead belong to the Icteridae family, and some relatives of this type of bird include blackbirds, Baltimore orioles, meadowlarks, and red winged blackbirds. So, they  still have plenty of relatives that you have probably heard of.

There are 3 different species of the common grackle, and these are the bronzed grackle, the purple grackle, and the Florida grackle.

Something that you might also be interested to learn is that a flock of common grackles is called a plague, although we wouldn’t really say that this name is representative of the birds in themselves. 

How Does The Common Grackle Behave?

Common grackles don’t typically have the best reputation, but this is mostly due to the fact that they are not solitary birds that like to keep to themselves. Instead, they tend to roost and migrate in large numbers, and their colonies will be home to hundreds of nests.

These birds are also not picky about who travels with them, and you will often notice other blackbird species, like European starlings, red-winged blackbirds, and cowbirds in among their flock.

Watching a huge flock as it spreads darkness across the sky is certainly a sight to behold. The common grackles is a particular social bird, and this is something that works in their favor.

Only around half of common grackles that are born will make it all the way through to adulthood. However, those that do can live for up to 22 years in the wild, which is incredible in itself.

Common Grackle Mating

The common grackle becomes even more interesting when it comes to mating season, which is when things really start to get entertaining.

These birds will usually arrive at their breeding areas between the middle of February and the middle of March. Sometimes, this will be a bit later in the northernmost stretches of their territory.

Both the male and female birds as well as territorial males will begin to ruffle their feathers and stand on the tips of their toes to attract their mates.

They will also make strange squeaking sounds, and will engage in a practice that is called bill tilting. This is when they will take the posture of tilting their heads and bills upwards, which is known as a sign of dominance.

More often than not, multiple courting males will surround just one single female, and they will do all of the above things to try and get her attention. This will go on for some time until all but one bird are left in her company. Although this might all sound a bit strange, it seemingly works well for these birds.

Where Do Common Grackles Settle?

Common grackles are spread around various different places, extending through almost all of eastern North America, east of the Rocky Mountains, and far into north Canada.

They are highly adaptable birds that have been able to adjust to deforestation by settling into both urban and suburban areas, including parks, orchards, and fields.

These are mostly monogamous birds, and once they have paired together, the female will go ahead and build her nest by using things like twigs, mud, and grass. She will usually lay between 4 and 5 pale blue eggs with brown spots on them, and she will incubate these eggs for around 2 weeks.

Once the eggs have hatches, both the male and female birds will feed their hatchlings a diet of insects until they are ready to leave the nest after around 20 days.

When this bird is still growing, they will add more of a variety to their diet, and they tend to eat various different foods like berries, frogs, eggs, lizards, minnows, and even smaller rodents. They even have a hard keel on the inside of their upper mandible that will allow them to break apart acorns.

They are a particularly aggressive bird, which is why they have also been known to attack and eat the nestlings of other birds, or even snatch a bat out of the air for dinner. Other birds know not to mess with the common grackle.

What You Need To Know About The Common Grackle Bird

Although the common grackle may look like any other ordinary black bird with a blue head, there is much more to it than this. The head of the bird as well as their beak and neck, will contain a magnetic mineral that is called magnetite. This allows them to use the geomagnetic fields of the Earth to navigate during flight. 

As well as this, the common grackles will do something that is referred to as anting, which is where they will curl over on the ground, spread their wings out wide, and let ants crawl all over them. Although this might sound really strange, there is actually an interesting reason why they do this.

Once their bodies are crawling with ants, the ants will then secrete something that is called formic acid, and this can actually help to destroy any parasites that are on the bird. So, this process actually helps to keep the bird healthy.