Great-tailed grackle

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Great-tailed grackle
Quiscalus mexicanusMPCCA20061226-0567B.jpg
Scientific classification
Kingdom: Animalia
Phylum: Chordata
Class: Aves
Order: Passeriformes
Family: Icteridae
Genus: Quiscalus
Species: Q. mexicanus
Binomial name
Quiscalus mexicanus
(JF Gmelin, 1788)
Quiscalus mexicanus.svg
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.[2] It is sometimes erroneously referred to as a "blackbird" in the southern United States,[3] although blackbirds belong to the genus Euphagus. 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.[citation needed]

Distribution and habitat[edit]

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.[4] 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.[citation needed]

In culture[edit]

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.[5]

Statue of maria mulata in Cartagena

In Colombia, the species is called Maria mulata,[6] and is the official bird of Cartagena de Indias.[citation needed]


  1. ^ BirdLife International (2012). "Quiscalus mexicanus". IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. Version 2013.2. International Union for Conservation of Nature. Retrieved 26 November 2013. 
  2. ^ 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.
  3. ^ "Eight Reasons Grackles are Awesome". Texas Monthly. Retrieved February 19, 2015. *
  4. ^ "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.
  5. ^ * 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.
  6. ^ "Great-tailed Grackle (Quiscalus mexicanus) (Gmelin, JF, 1788)". Avibase: The World data bird base. Retrieved 23 May 2013. 

External links[edit]

Further reading[edit]

  • 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.