Common Grackle

This week for Flora and Fauna Friday we have our gregarious and gorgeous gangs of Common Grackle (Quiscalus quiscula).

Common Grackles are a large species of Blackbird, family Icteridae, common throughout the Eastern United States that can be found year-round in South Carolina. However, they are somewhat migratory and most numerous around Edisto Island in winter. Grackles travel in flocks, usually composed of a dozen up to a hundred or more birds. They are generalists and a common site perched in forest canopies, marching across suburban lawns, or foraging in marshes, fields, and swamps. Common Grackles will eat just about anything but their diet mostly subsists of insects, seeds, fruits, and nuts.

Grackles have long tails, pastel-yellow eyes, and dark bills and feet. Male Grackles are a deep, iridescent purple-black that shimmers like fire-blued steel when basked in the sun’s rays, beams of blue, rose-gold, aquamarine, brass, and violet all shine brilliantly out of their feathers. Females are similarly colored but muted in their iridescence. Females also have a shorter tail than males without the flared “paddle” towards the tip. Our Lowcountry birds are usually of the purple form, who have darker colors overall and stronger purples and blues throughout their plumage. Common Grackles are one of those birds you practically always hear before you see. Flocks make an almost non-stop ruckus of squawks, screeches, and chatters as they fly, forage, and roost. These Grackles have a number of characteristic calls, from the typical Blackbird “chack” (or more aptly “grack” in this case), to resonant squeaky chattering, to the pained, squeaky shriek of the male’s song, which is just plain hard to put into words. When a male Common Grackle is fixing to sing, he’ll stop what he’s doing, fluff all the feathers on his body, and puff out his wings a bit right before letting loose a single cry. He’ll then go right back to what he was doing until, fifteen seconds or so later, like a bird possessed, he’ll do the whole song and dance again.

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