You See Grackles, But What Do You Know About Them?
If you live anywhere in North America east of the Rocky Mountains, chances are you know about the common grackle. They’re so prevalent in Texas, some people have even said they’d like to see them replace the mockingbird as the state bird. Since we have so many of them, I thought you might like to see a few interesting facts you may not know about the grackle.
Grackles are a part of the icterid family of birds, mostly from the New World. This just means they come from the Western Hemisphere, mostly the Americas and their neighboring islands. The common grackle is a native species to the United States.
Despite the fact grackles have been known to thrive alongside humans, the National Audubon Society says the common grackle population has been declining. It’s estimated that their population is somewhere around 73 million. This may sound like a lot, but it’s a far cry from their peak population of 190 million.
Grackles are one of the types of birds that are known to practice anting. This involves the birds rubbing ants on their feathers and skin. The real mystery is no one is exactly sure why. Some suggest the ants secrete a liquid which can act as an insecticide, killing feather mites for the bird. Others think it could have something to do with the bird shedding its feathers, or molting.
Grackles have a distinct and sharp song. Like most birds, its call varies between seasons. But what you may not have been aware of is grackles can actually mimic the sounds made by other birds. In fact, they’ve even been known to mimic human noises. Of course they’re nowhere nearly as good as a parrot or the mockingbird.
While some people might argue that all grackles look alike, they’re actually diverse in color. Even the common grackle found in the Concho Valley differs in plumage when it comes to sex of the bird. Male grackles have a black sheen that can give off a gorgeous purple, green, or blue iridescence in the sun. Females tend to be smaller and sport a black and brown combination of color.
The common grackle is known to be extremely opportunistic & quite the efficient forager. They will even steal food from less savvy birds. They’re omnivores and will eat anything from bugs to minnows to different types of berries and seeds. Of course these birds will snatch human food at a moment’s notice.
Almost everyone has heard of a “murder” of crows, though there doesn’t seem to be a defined term for a group of grackles. So, just like any other group of birds they are frequently referred to as a flight, pod or flock. However, since the common grackle has a reputation that proceeds it, people have been known to refer to groups of the bird as an “annoyance” or “plague.” I have to agree with that at times, especially if I happened to park my car under the wrong tree!
Since there are so many types of grackle, it only makes sense that the bird covers such a wide portion of the Americas. From the United States to Mexico, this bird has been known to make its presence noticed. Grackles also extend south to Columbia, Honduras, and even Venezuela. In fact, each country has their own traditions and stories about grackles.
There you go. Just a few things you may not have known about our constant feathered companion....the grackle!