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Boat-tailed Grackle

Quiscalus major ORDER: PASSERIFORMES FAMILY: ICTERIDAE

IUCN Conservation Status: Least Concern

When you smell saltwater on the East Coast, it’s time to look out for Boat-tailed Grackles. The glossy blue-black males are hard to miss as they haul their ridiculously long tails around or display from marsh grasses or telephone wires. The rich, dark-brown females are half the size of males and look almost like a different species. Boat-tailed Grackles take advantage of human activity along our increasingly developed coast, scavenging trash and hanging out in busy urban areas away from predators.

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Songs

Boat-tailed Grackles have a variable song with harsh jeeb-jeeb-jeeb notes and low-pitched guttural rolls. Both males and females sing, though females do so only rarely.

Calls

Boat-tailed Grackles clack or scream at predators and approaching humans. The female makes a chattering call in the breeding season. Chut calls are given by either sex before and during flight, and whimpering cheat calls are given by amorous males.

Other Sounds

Males produce a rattling sound from their wing feathers in flight, particularly during aggressive interactions near colonies. They may also snap their bills.

Search the Macaulay Library online archive for more sounds and videos

Backyard Tips

Boat-tailed Grackles eat sunflower seeds, sorghum, millet, corn, and other bird seeds from feeders, particularly platform feeders.

Find This Bird

To see Boat-tailed Grackles, head to the southeastern or Gulf Coast and look for long-tailed black birds around marsh edges, boat launches, and parks. They often walk around boldly on long legs with their tails cocked up, searching for food. It is also common to see Boat-tailed Grackles perched on roadside utility wires. If you still can’t find one, head to a fast food restaurant in a beach town and scout around for discarded French fries—you’re almost sure to find grackles there.