(JF Gmelin, 1788)
|Range of Quiscalus mexicanus|
The great-tailed grackle or Mexican grackle (Quiscalus mexicanus) is a medium-sized, gregarious passerine bird native to North and South America. A member of the family Icteridae, it is one of ten extant species of grackle and is closely related to the boat-tailed grackle and the slender-billed grackle. It is sometimes referred to as a "blackbird". It is a New World blackbird and unrelated to any of the five species of Old World blackbirds (all of which are species of the Turdus genus). Similarly, it is often called "cuervo" in areas of Mexico owing to its glossy black plumage, although it is not a member of the genus Corvus, nor even of the family Corvidae.
Males reach up to 43 cm (17 in), including a tail that is almost as long as the body, weigh 230 g (8.1 oz), and are jet-black with a violet-blue iridescent sheen to the feathers. Females are significantly smaller at 33 cm (13 in), weigh 125 g (4.4 oz), and are mainly brownish-black, with a pale brown throat and belly. This morphological difference between males and females of a species is known as sexual dimorphism.
The great-tailed grackle and boat-tailed grackle were once considered the same species. Some species of grackle, usually the great-tailed, are confused with an American crow when people unfamiliar with bird identification are asked to identify a dead blackbird. This usually occurs when birds need to be identified as candidates for West Nile virus.
Distribution and habitat
Its range stretches from Kansas in the northeast to southern California in the northwest down to northwest Peru and northwest Venezuela in the south; the grackle's range has been expanding north and west in recent years. It is common in the southern regions of Texas, New Mexico, and Arizona. It is commonly found in agricultural regions and suburban environments, feeding on fruits, seeds, and invertebrates.
This bird has a large variety of raucous, cacophonous calls, some very melodic, but is considered to be a noisy pest species by some. Its range expansion has not been aided by human introduction.
The females can travel in flocks and they share food. When a male spots a female, he engages her by puffing up and gaping his mouth. He then proceeds to make loud calls and follow the female. The female will allow the large males to mate with her; she will usually reject smaller males. Before dawn and after sundown these birds often congregate in large numbers (known as annoyances) in a particular area, for example roofs and tree branches. There they sing and caw for long periods before taking wing simultaneously until the next congregation. Grackles are cunning and opportunistic birds and are a common sight in towns and hotels throughout Central America. They are omnivorous and brave, often approaching humans in search of scraps of food.
In Mexico, where it is known as the chanate or zanate, there is a legend that it has seven songs. "In the creation, the Zanate having no voice, stole its seven distinct songs from the wise and knowing sea turtle. You can now hear the Zanate's vocals as the Seven Passions (Love, Hate, Fear, Courage, Joy, Sadness, and Anger) of life." Mexican artisans have created icons in clay, sometimes as whistles that portray the sea turtle with the zanate perched on its back.
- BirdLife International (2012). "Quiscalus mexicanus". IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. Version 2013.2. International Union for Conservation of Nature. Retrieved 26 November 2013.
- Powell, A.F.L.A., F.K. Barker and S.M. Lanyon. 2008. A complete species-level phylogeny of the grackles (Quiscalus spp.), including the extinct Slender-billed Grackle, inferred from mitochondrial DNA. Condor 110:718-728.
- "UT's war on grackles" (PDF). The Daily Texan. Retrieved January 6, 2013.* Hermes JJ (2005). UT's war on grackles. Daily Texan. section. 8A.
- * Wehtje W. (2003). The range expansion of the great-tailed grackle (Quiscalus mexicanus Gmelin) in North America since 1880. Journal of Biogeography. vol 30, no 10. pp. 1593–1607.
- "Great-tailed Grackle (Quiscalus mexicanus) (Gmelin, JF, 1788)". Avibase: The World data bird base. Retrieved 23 May 2013.
|Wikimedia Commons has media related to the great-tailed grackle.|
|Wikispecies has information related to: Quiscalus mexicanus|
- Quiscalus mexicanus on Avibase
- Great-tailed grackle - Quiscalus mexicanus - USGS Patuxent Bird Identification InfoCenter
- Great-tailed grackle - Animal Diversity Web
- Great-tailed grackle videos, photos, and sounds at the Internet Bird Collection
- Great-tailed grackle photo gallery at VIREO (Drexel University)
- Great-tailed grackle species account at NeotropicalBirds (Cornell University)
- Johnson, K., and B. D. Peer. 2001. Great-tailed Grackle (Quiscalus mexicanus). In The Birds of North America, No. 576 (A. Poole and F. Gill, eds.). The Birds of North America, Inc., Philadelphia, PA.