Article and photos by Kathryn Mann
Common Grackle near Oologah, Oklahoma
In Oklahoma Common Grackles are the common songbird that cannot sing. It is said that they have a song that sounds like a squeaky barn door hinge, and that a flock of Grackles singing can sound like a thousand wheel barrows going by.
A Grackle sitting on his favorite fence near Commerce, Oklahoma
Grackles are exceptionally intelligent animals. For example they often steal dry dog food out of bowls and fly to a nearby puddle or pond and continue to dip the pellet in the water until they determine it is soft enough to eat. The following video should convince you that Common Grackles are geniuses.
Amazing Problem-Solving by a Grackle
Another Smart Grackle
Common Grackles are perhaps the most self-confident bird. They always walk about with their head erect, their shoulders back, and their chest out, with an intimidating gaze from their penetrating yellow eyes. Whenever other birds are around eating and a Grackle lands it is this cocky attitude that causes the other birds to fly off.
Common Grackles can frighten other birds with their intimidating look
Many people mistake Common Grackles for European Starlings which are non-native birds. Grackles are native to the United States, and have actually experienced a 61% population decline over the last several decades.
Common Grackles are stunningly beautiful. While their plumage is actually black, their feathers give them a bluish black iridescent color. The male is about 13 inches in length, while females are closer to 11 inches. They have yellow eyes, a long black bill, and a long keel-shaped tail.
This Common Grackle is visiting in my back yard
The Common Grackle is more common in rural areas of Oklahoma near farm land, though it is not unusual to see them in cities and towns. Like humans, they love ripe corn and take it off the stalk or more often from feedlots where it is meant for livestock. They also eat insects, crustaceans, earthworms, frogs, and berries.
This Grackle lives near Bull Hollow, Oklahoma
While in Oklahoma in the spring and summer Common Grackles breed and nest in small groups, yet it is more typical to see one solitary Grackle at a time. In the fall and winter they travel to warm urban areas like Austin and Houston, Texas where they gather in huge numbers and thousands often take over several adjoining trees. In Austin, where I grew up, the downtown Central Market grocery store plays recordings of predatory bird screeches to try to drive off the Grackles.