Thursday, February 26, 2015

Boat-tailed Grackle

Boat-tailed Grackles range along the northern Gulf and Atlantic coasts but seem to be everywhere in south Florida. These big blackbirds populate the parking lots of shopping centers, looking for handouts, and paint our cars with their droppings. We hear their persistent raucous calls from the rooftops and treetops. Their noises can only be described as a highly variable jumble of whistles, squeaks, crackles, rattles and non-vocal bill-snapping and rustling of wings

Boat-tailed Grackle

Boat-tailed Grackle 3-20091129

Boat-tailed Grackle 20090326

Boat-tailed Grackle 20091119

Although they are birds of the marshes and Everglades, Boat-tailed Grackles adapt well to the suburban environment and set up colonies of females dominated by a single male who may defend a "harem" of several dozen females, permitting only a few other older ranking males to mate with them. Dominance between the males is maintained by an elaborate display which involves confrontation, alternate vocalizing, fluttering and posturing. This seems to ward off most violent struggles. Eye color varies from dark brown or black in south Florida to yellowish or straw-colored to the north and along Atlantic seaboard and the Gulf coast.

Boat-tailed Grackle fight 20110526


This display took place on our south Florida lawn. The males each took turns calling and fluttering as the other froze in a bill-up posture:

Boat-tailed Grackles 20110729

Boat-tailed Grackle Dance1 20100730

Boat-tailed Grackle Dance2 20100730

Boat-tailed Grackle Dance3 20100730

Boat-tailed Grackle Dance4 20100730


Crossed swords 20110202

If VIDEO does not appear in the space below, VISIT THIS LINK

Female Boat-tailed Grackles are smaller and quite different in appearance from the males. For much of the year they gather in same-sex flocks away from the males, whose displays intensify as the breeding season approaches. Younger males and females often passively watch the competition between the dominant older males. 

Boat-tailed Grackle female 20130922


Boat-tailed Grackle female 20111122

Our local population is essentially non-migratory but in winter is supplemented by visitors from the north. At dawn and dusk we may see large flocks moving back and forth between communal roosts. They are opportunitic omnivores, seeming to eat anything from linsects and lizards on our lawns to seeds, grain and garbage. Their long legs are an adaptation to feeding in shallow water, where they capture small aquatic organisms by sight, almost like miniature herons. 

To the west, the similar Great-tailed Grackle species replaces the Boat-tailed. The former have bright yellow eyes.

Great-tailed Grackle:

Great-tailed Grackle 2-20111110

Linking to GOOD FENCES:

Great-tailed Grackle 20111110

The smaller Common Grackle also has yellow eyes:

Common Grackle 3-20110414

Common Grackle 20110923

A winter gathering of a mixed flock of grackles against a gray sky, Linking to SKYWATCH FRIDAY :

A gathering of grackles 20121127

Linking to BirdD'Pot

Linking to Wild Bird Wednesday




Please visit the links to all these memes to see some excellent photos on display



  1. Hi Ken, awesome post and series on the Grackles.. They are handsome birds. Have a great day!

  2. fine looking birds! we typically get commons here, but i have seen some boat-tails in dallas, i think. :)

  3. (or maybe i'm remembering them from along the coast...)

  4. Fascinating to learn more about this Grackle. Thanks so much. I thoroughly enjoyed the photos and the video.

  5. I got to see/hear the Great-tailed Grackle when in California in April! What a noise they was entertaining at the time, but not sure I would want to hear it all the time.

    BTW, these are some great shots!

  6. Lots of lovely images!!! And so much information, as well!

  7. The Grackle has such beautiful colors! I really love that last shot though. Impressive!

  8. Belíssimas fotos, fiquei impressionada! Muito lindo! Parabéns!

  9. Great pics. Love how blue the males look in the light.

  10. HI Kenneth Very interesting post with great information about the Crackle. These certainly look very difference and of course your images re brilliant. Hve a lovely weekend.

  11. I absolutely like all those birds pictures ! Very beautiufl , interesting and even funny for some of them . Great post !

  12. Your post was so relevant to me as a few days ago I was listening and watching Grackles in Mexico City. I knew I had seen them in Florida but I just couldn't remember their name. So thank you.

  13. Just incredible Grackle photos!! Never seen anything like this.

  14. Wow - those grackle shots are just magnificent!

  15. Fantastic photos of birds... and those which is linking to Weekend Reflections is absolutely fabulous...

  16. Ken, just stopping back to say thank you for linking up and sharing your post.. Have a happy day!

  17. Magnificent photography of 'critters' ~

    Happy Week to you,
    artmusedog and carol

  18. Wow, great series of photos. I do have difficulty identifying boat-tailed vs. great-tailed grackles. When I'm in the coast, I sometimes presumed they're boat-tailed. :)

  19. Fabulous photos of the grackles! They're handsome birds, especially the males.

  20. Noisy but beautiful birds! Loved the display video. They are so interesting!

  21. What an amazingly long tail. Lovely pictures and a cool looking bird.


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