About The Grackle

Grackles are one of the most abundant breeding birds in North America. They can be found throughout the United States east of the Rocky Mountains and extending to Canada in the summer breeding season. A Grackle is a large (11 to 13 inches) black bird with purple or bronze iridescence. It has a long, stout black beak and pale yellow eyes. Its tail is long and in flight forms a deeply keeled V-shape. The female Grackle is slightly smaller, less glossy with shorter tail than the male. Although Grackles may appear to be all black, the color varies regionally.

The Grackle Nesting Preferences

Both male and female Grackles bring nesting materials to the nest cavity usually in coniferous trees, willow swamps, under the eaves of barns, on rafters and in woodpecker holes. But the nest is built by the female only in about 5 days. The nest is large and made of twigs, grasses and leaves. The inside is lined with mud, fine grasses and horsehair. The female lays 1 to 7 eggs. The color of the egg ranges from nearly white, light blue, pearl gray to dark brown. The female incubates the eggs for about 12 to 14 days. At this time, the male may desert the nest and pair with a second female. The male that stays guards the nest while the female feeds the young. The young leave the nest 12 to 15 days after hatching though they remain near the nest for the next 1 to 2 days. The adults continue to feed the young.

Building a Birdhouse For The Grackle

A typical birdhouse for a Grackle is approximately 7 inches wide x 7 inches long x 16 inches high. The diameter of the entrance hole is 21/2 inches and located 14 inches above the floor. Grackles generally nest in pine trees or other evergreen trees, dense shrubs, farmlands and orchards.

The Grackle Mating Habits

Several male Grackles will fly around a female Grackle and perform different displays to attract the female. A male Grackle may fluff its body feathers, spread its wings and tail, vocalize and pose before the female Grackle with its bill held vertical. As the courtship continues, the number of males decreases until only one male is left. When the pair bond is established, the pair flies and sings together.

The Grackle Feeding Preferences

During breeding, Grackles mainly eat insects such as grasshoppers, bees, crickets, spiders, earthworms, snails and other invertebrates. They also capture live fish, eggs and nestlings and flying insects. During migration and winter, Grackles eat mostly grains, seeds, acorns and some fruits. Grackles forage on the ground and use their bills instead of feet to uncover food on the ground.

Interesting Grackle Facts

Grackles defend their nests fiercely by mobbing, chasing or diving at predators including humans. In winter, they join large flocks of mixed species such as European Starlings and Red-winged Blackbirds. These flocks can exceed one million birds. Grackles have a unique habit of taking hardened pieces of bread or dog food and dipping them in water and eating them after they have softened.