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Great-tailed Grackle

Quiscalus mexicanus ORDER: PASSERIFORMES FAMILY: ICTERIDAE

IUCN Conservation Status: Least Concern

A big, brash blackbird, the male Great-tailed Grackle shimmers in iridescent black and purple, and trails a tail that will make you look twice. The rich brown females are about half the male’s size. Flocks of these long-legged, social birds strut and hop on suburban lawns, golf courses, fields, and marshes in Texas, the Southwest, and southern Great Plains. In the evening, raucous flocks pack neighborhood trees, filling the sky with their amazing (some might say ear-splitting) voices.

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Songs

Great-tailed Grackles make an impressive array of sounds, ranging from sweet, tinkling notes to what one biologist described as “calls so loud they were best heard at a distance.” Other descriptions include “rusty gate hinge” and “machinery badly in need of lubrication.” The male’s territorial song includes a sound like crackling brush, a rapid-fire ki ki ki repeated 1–12 times, mechanical rattling notes, and a shrieking, high-pitched whistle.

Calls

When ready to mate, both sexes give a “solicitation call” of clear cheat or che notes. Both males and females also make a low-pitched, hard chut alarm call, and males give a loud clack in response to humans and other predators. Females “chatter” when building the nest and when incubating eggs and feeding young.

Search the Macaulay Library online archive for more sounds and videos

Backyard Tips

Great-tailed Grackles will take seed spread beneath feeders, often chasing off smaller birds. Cracked corn and milo are particular favorites.

Find This Bird

Great-tailed Grackles can be found in open habitats with water nearby throughout the Midwest and West including farmland and city parks. Look for them in mixed flocks foraging on pastures and lawns—their long legs and massive tails distinguish them from other blackbirds and Common Grackles.