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.
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.
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.
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