• Skip to Content
  • Skip to Main Navigation
  • Skip to Local Navigation
  • Skip to Search
  • Skip to Sitemap
  • Skip to Footer
Help develop a Bird ID tool!

Common Grackle

Quiscalus quiscula ORDER: PASSERIFORMES FAMILY: ICTERIDAE

IUCN Conservation Status: Least Concern

Common Grackles are blackbirds that look like they've been slightly stretched. They're taller and longer tailed than a typical blackbird, with a longer, more tapered bill and glossy-iridescent bodies. Grackles walk around lawns and fields on their long legs or gather in noisy groups high in trees, typically evergreens. They eat many crops (notably corn) and nearly anything else as well, including garbage. In flight their long tails trail behind them, sometimes folded down the middle into a shallow V shape.

Merlin Bird ID app
Yard Map Attract More Birds

Keys to identification Help

Blackbirds
Blackbirds
Typical Voice
  • Size & Shape

    Common Grackles are large, lanky blackbirds with long legs and long tails. The head is flat and the bill is longer than in most blackbirds, with the hint of a downward curve. In flight, the wings appear short in comparison to the tail. Males are slightly larger than females.

  • Color Pattern

    Common Grackles appear black from a distance, but up close their glossy purple heads contrast with bronzy-iridescent bodies. A bright golden eye gives grackles an intent expression. Females are slightly less glossy than males. Young birds are dark brown with a dark eye.

  • Behavior

    You’ll often find Common Grackles in large flocks, flying or foraging on lawns and in agricultural fields. They strut on their long legs, pecking for food rather than scratching. At feeders Common Grackles dominate smaller birds. When resting they sit atop trees or on telephone lines, keeping up a raucous chattering. Flight is direct, with stiff wingbeats.

  • Habitat

    Common Grackles thrive around agricultural fields, feedlots, city parks, and suburban lawns. They’re also common in open habitats including woodland, forest edges, meadows, and marshes.

Range Map Help

Common Grackle Range Map
View dynamic map of eBird sightings

Field MarksHelp

  • Adult male

    Common Grackle

    Adult male
    • Overall black plumage
    • Iridescent blue and bronze
    • Straight, pointed, and heavy dark bill
    • Long tail
    • © Matt MacGillivray , Ontario, Canada, May 2008
  • Adult male

    Common Grackle

    Adult male
    • Pale yellow eye
    • Straight, pointed, and heavy dark bill
    • Iridescent blue, purple, and bronze
    • Long, rounded tail
    • © Tom Smith , Bernardsville, New Jersey, December 2007
  • Immature

    Common Grackle

    Immature
    • Overall dull, dark brown
    • Straight, pointed, and heavy dark bill
    • Pale brown iris becoming yellow as bird approaches adulthood
    • © Stylurus , Dearborn, Michigan, April 2008
  • Adult male

    Common Grackle

    Adult male
    • Pale yellow eye
    • Straight, pointed, and heavy dark bill
    • Iridescent blue, purple, and bronze
    • Long, rounded tail
    • © Matt MacGillivray , Ontario, Canada, May 2008
  • Immature

    Common Grackle

    Immature
    • Heavy pointed bill
    • Brown iris
    • Long, rounded tail
    • Dark brown overall
    • © reemac640 , Maine, August 2008
  • Adult male

    Common Grackle

    Adult male
    • Straight, pointed bill
    • Iridescent blue, green, purple, and bronze
    • Long, rounded tail
    • Overall black plumage
    • © The Nature Nook , New Hampshire, May 2008
  • Adult males and female

    Common Grackle

    Adult males and female
    • Female (front) browner and less iridescent than males
    • © Jeff Schumann , New Hampshire, May 2008
  • Flock

    Common Grackle

    Flock
    • Often congregate in large flocks
    • © Robert Weir , May 2008
  • Adult female

    Common Grackle

    Adult female
    • Smaller, browner, and less iridescent than male
    • Dark brown overall, often with darker hood
    • Yellow eye
    • © Darin Ziegler, Colorado Springs, Colorado, April 2009

Similar Species

Similar Species

The best way to separate Common Grackles from blackbirds and cowbirds is by size and shape: Common Grackles are larger, lankier, longer tailed, and longer billed. Common Grackles have a widened tail, often held in a V-shape, even in flight. Great-tailed Grackles of the Southwest and south Texas, and Boat-tailed Grackles of the Atlantic and Gulf coasts, are even larger, and the males have much larger and more deeply keeled tails.

Regional Differences

The “bronzed grackle” race of the Common Grackle, breeding roughly west of the Appalachians and in New England, has the characteristic bronzy back. Birds of the Southeast, from North Carolina to Louisiana, often called the “Florida grackle,” are darker green on the back rather than bronzy, and they're purple on the belly. An intermediate race along the Eastern seaboard is sometimes called the purple grackle.

Backyard Tips

During migration, set up bird feeders in your yard with a variety of mixed grain and seeds. Spreading grain or seed on the ground helps, as this is where Common Grackles prefer to feed – and if they come to the ground they may let smaller birds continue to use the feeders. Bear in mind that too much grain scattered on the ground can attract rodents, so it's best to sprinkle just as much as the birds are likely to eat at any one time.

Find This Bird

Common Grackles are familiar inhabitants of wet, open woodland and marshes as well as in suburbs, parks, and agricultural fields. A good way to find them is to scan large flocks of blackbirds and starlings. The tallest, longest-tailed blackbirds you see will most likely be Common Grackles.

Get Involved

Keep track of the Common Grackles at your feeder with Project FeederWatch

Look for Common Grackle nests and contribute valuable data about them through NestWatch

Report your Common Grackle sightings to eBird

Learn more about bird photography in our Building Skills section. Then contribute your images to the Birdshare flickr site, which helps supply the Cornell Lab of Ornithology's websites with photos, including All About Birds.

You Might Also Like

Common Grackle from Bent's Life Histories of North American Birds (1958)

Explore sounds and video of Common Grackles from the Cornell Lab of Ornithology's Macaulay Library archive