Bird of the Week: Great-tailed Grackle

Great-tailed Grackle, Rogervan Gelder

Great-tailed Grackle

Grackles are unquestionably Austin’s most iconic urban birds: love them or hate them, there’s no escaping their brilliant, iridescent plumage or raucous call. Until the 20th Century, grackles were hardly found in Texas at all, their home range being limited to Mexico and Central America. However, they have adapted easily to human settlement, and the lack of natural predators or competition in urban areas has allowed them to substantially increase their range and numbers; in fact, since 1880 their range has expanded by over five thousand percent! Grackles are quite social, a fact which can be attested to by anyone who’s been near a shopping mall or supermarket at sunset. Tens of thousands of Grackles will roost together in these areas, the openness of which protects them from ambush by predators, and the noise of their jostling for favorable roosting sites can be earsplitting. In addition to being highly sociable, Grackles are intelligent: they have been observed solving the “Aesop’s Fable” test, in which they must drop rocks into a vessel to raise the level of the water inside it.

Compiled by Owen Moorhead. Sources include the Cornell Lab of Ornithology and National Audubon Society.

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