Reason to love Grackles #3: They play an important role in the ecosystem. While they may seem like a big bad bully to some backyard birders, in reality the Common Grackle is a highly valuable prey item for many species including red foxes, coyotes, and bird of prey species such as owls and hawks.
Grackle Symbolism and Meaning
For many people, the grackle is a symbol of courage. If you’ve ever met a grackle then it isn’t hard to imagine why this is. Grackles approach life with an audacious attitude and are rarely deterred by the presence of humans in their vicinity. Grackles also frequently symbolize thievery.
Grackles like agricultural fields and are more of a threat to crops than crows. As much as they like open spaces, they also live in urban areas, making them abundant virtually everywhere. For homeowners, crop farmers, and property managers, these birds can be extremely dominant and harmful.
Grackles and Crows belong to different families; grackles are icterids while crows are corvids. Crows are also generally larger and heavier than grackles and have different colored eyes. In terms of sexual dimorphism, the grackles surpass the crows.
Grackles may deposit these sacs in areas away from water but I have not witnessed it. If water is close by, they will take these gifts to it. So, with grackles and ponds you have bird poop everywhere — the amount depends on the number of Grackle nests in your neighborhood.
Grackles are ground foragers that eat anything from seeds and fruit to invertebrates and fish. Grackles may be attracted to your garden, lawn area or song bird feeders as a food source. Remove feeders to limit this attraction. Remove leftover food on the floor and tables of open-air eateries.
Grackles are aggressive birds who will colonize in large flocks. These birds are very noisy, and their gregarious nature is very apparent when observing their roosting and nesting sites.
Grackles are fairly smart, but they are not considered to be as smart as certain other birds like crows, ravens, and magpies. Grackles are smart enough to figure out where to find an easy meal and identify that a scarecrow isn’t real, but they are not able to use tools or mimic the sounds of other birds.
Common Grackles eat other birds’ eggs and nestlings, and sometimes kill and eat other adult birds. They commonly eat adult house sparrows. Common grackles defend a territory around their nest. The breeding pair defends the nest by mobbing, chasing or diving at predators, including humans.
Many define grackles, starlings and pigeons, as pests. Crop growers see their fields being damaged by crows and blackbirds. Homeowners see them as bullies. Grackles scare their beloved songbirds from their bird feeders and steal their food.
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.
Although they resemble crows and ravens, grackles are not actually related to these birds. Instead, they are in the blackbird family of Icteridae, which also includes cowbirds and orioles. Grackles are smaller than either crows or ravens.
These birds are native to North America but are considered a pest bird because of the damage they cause to agricultural properties and farming crops. In the US, the Migratory Bird Treaty Act of 1918, grackles are protected.
If you see a grackle, or several grackles, staring up toward the sky, chances are they are all trying to win the same mate and show the other members of the flock who’s boss. This mating ritual is known as bill-tilt.
“Grackle” is an eighteenth-century Anglicization of the Latin graculus, which sounds a little like Dracula but means “jackdaw.” (Male grackles, when mating, with their arched shoulders and purposeful stalking and assaults on oblivous females, certainly resemble that infamous vampire.)
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 precedes it, people have been known to see groups of the bird as an “annoyance” or “plague.” Just suppose it all depends on personal preference.
But sometimes a beautiful bird like Common Grackles can dominate other birds, and take over your feeders. These large blackbirds have huge appetites, travel in big flocks and can take over your bird feeders by eating everything they can get their beaks on.
Flocks of crows are called a “murder,” and flocks of grackles are called a “plague.” I can attest to the name, even if for only several minutes.
Common Grackles are larger than Brewer’s Blackbirds with a longer tail and a heavier bill. Male Common Grackles have a bluish sheen on the head, whereas Brewer’s have a purplish sheen.
There are 4 effective ways you can get rid of grackles, blackbirds, and starlings at your feeder: Change the types of feeders you use. Change what foods you feed birds. Change the bird houses in your yard.
Use Caged Bird Feeders
Try enclosing the feeders with large-mesh hardware cloth or chicken wire with openings big enough to allow smaller birds to pass through (a 2-inch opening should do). This will exclude the large birds and help you get rid of the grackles and blackbirds.
Even though grackles might seem like they are taking over the city, University of Texas biology professor and longtime birder Peter English doesn’t consider grackles invasive or even dominant because they are not taking resources away from another bird species.
No, Grackles do not make good pets. These birds are wild animals, and in most places it is illegal to own one as a pet.
“These birds are common grackles, which like to form large flocks in the winter. They gather in high concentrations at roosting (or sleeping) sites at night, usually in large trees. Sometimes those roosts can be in trees in urban areas or near areas that are well-lit.