Grackles In Arizona – The ONLY 2 Species With Photos!

If you’re looking for help to identify grackles in Arizona, this will be the best article you read today. 

In this post, you will find photos, identification info, calls and songs, and all the fun information you need. 

Examples of Arizona grackles include the Common grackle (Quiscalus quiscula) and Great-tailed grackle (Quiscalus mexicanus).

Grackles have a bad reputation in Arizona due to their aggressive food-snatching behavior, huge numbers, and overall bad omen-like looks.

Despite that, they are still very intelligent and highly resilient birds that belong to the New World blackbird family.

Here are their photos and fun facts.

Trivia Question: Can you guess how many bird species are in Arizona?

Make sure to read until the end to see the answer.

Grackles In Arizona

Common Grackle

common blackbird grackle
  • Scientific Name: Quiscalus quiscula
  • Lifespan: 17-22 years 
  • Wingspan: 14-18 in
  • Length: 11-13 in
  • Weight: 2.6-5.0 oz
  • Range In Arizona: Central and Southern Arizona

Common grackles are one of the most widespread blue-headed blackbirds

They are found throughout most of North America east of the Rocky Mountains and they inhabit woods, fields, farms, and urban areas. 

Identify common grackles by their long, keel-shaped tails, dark beaks, and yellow eyes. 

Males have glossy black plumage with a blue-green sheen on their heads; females are less iridescent and are mostly brown. 

Although rarely found in Arizona, in the last 10 years, there have been sightings of common grackles in Maricopa, Coconino, Cochise, Yavapai, and Navajo Counties.

They are usually spotted there from fall to spring.

When the winter comes, common grackles love to gather in huge flocks, often with other blackbirds species – some groups may include millions of birds!

These medium-sized backyard birds are classified as songbirds because they have all the vocal equipment of a songbird, not because they have beautiful songs. 

Their song is a high-pitched rising “readle-eak” screech that sounds like a rusty gate opening. 

Source: Jonathon JongsmaCC BY-SA 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Some popular online dailies describe grackles’ songs as sounding like “everything from a squeaky door hinge and explosions of static from a radio left on at high volume to laughing whistles to monkey-like rattles.”

They can also mimic the sounds of other birds or even humans, although not as well as northern mockingbirds can, for example. 

Common grackles are omnivores and feed on insects, minnows, frogs, eggs, berries, seeds, and grain. 

To satisfy their diverse diet, they will forge in different places, from agricultural fields and feedlots to suburban neighborhoods, parks, city trashcans, and streets.

Lots of people have told the story of how grackles patiently wait for someone eating outside to turn their head away before the bird flies in to steal their favorite treat, the french fries.

It seems humans and grackles aren’t that different, after all.

A 2012 study by the National Audubon Society discovered that the common grackle population declined from the all-time high of 190 million in the 1970s to under 70 million today.

Such a 60% drop has resulted in the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) listing them as Near Threatened.

Common grackles breed from March to July, build their nests using twigs, leaves, and grasses, and place them high up in conifer trees near water. 

They will have a clutch of 1-7 (usually 5) pale blue or green eggs that females incubate for 10-17 days.

Fun Fact: A group of grackles is called a “plague”.


Great-tailed Grackle

great-tailed grackle
  • Scientific Name: Quiscalus mexicanus
  • Lifespan: up to 22 years in the wild
  • Wingspan: 19-23 in
  • Length: 15-18 in
  • Weight: 4.1-9.3 oz
  • Range In Arizona: Throughout Arizona

Great-tailed grackles are the type of birds that Arizonans are most familiar with.

They are also known as Mexican grackles and originate from Central America.

In the US, they are commonly found in central and southeastern parts of the state.

Great-tailed grackles have been moving north of Mexico and expanding their range for years – they did not reach Arizona until 1936 but became common there by the 1970s.

Identify male great-tailed grackles by their iridescent black plumage with blue sheen on their heads and upperparts; females are brown. 

Males also have large keel-shaped tails; female tails are not keeled and are smaller than those in males.

Great-tailed grackles are permanent residents of Arizona and can be seen in the state year-round, usually around woodlands, fields, parks, and towns.

Some populations might only spend summer in the northernmost parts of the state.

One 2010 study discovered that males are a lot glossier than females and that such glossiness correlated positively with tail length.

Great-tailed grackles sing multiple songs, ranging from sounding very sweet to sounding like a rusty gate hinge. Both sexes will also make low-pitched “chut” alarm calls. 

Source: Niels KrabbeCC BY-SA 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons

These black and blue birds begin breeding in mid-April, nest in colonies ranging from several to thousands of birds, and have a clutch of 4-7 pale blue eggs with dark splotches.

They inhabit pastures, wetlands, mangroves, and urban areas, feeding on insects, lizards, fruits, grains, worms, fish, and many other animals. 

These highly intelligent and very social birds roost communally in groups ranging from several thousand to 500,000 birds!

Unfortunately, due to the grackles’ habit of forming huge groups, Arizona people are forced to endure horror-movie-like scenes in their parking lots with hundreds of birds jumping and flying around.

Great-tailed grackles will nest in territories using 3 different strategies: they defend their territory with several females, they live in a colony but do not defend their territory or have mates, and they move from one colony to another after a few days.

Those males that form a territory are heavier and have longer tails than non-territorial males.

Great-tailed grackles resemble boat-tailed grackles, one of three species of grackles found in Texas; the two were once grouped under the name of “boat-tailed grackle.” 

Great-tailed grackles are slightly bigger than boat-tailed ones and significantly bigger than common grackles. 

Females all look alike – female great-tailed grackles will gather in colonial groups during the breeding season, while other grackles do not.

In Tempe, Arizona, these distinctive birds with long black tails have their own Facebook group, a fan page for grackles found in the historic Maple Ash Farmer Wilson (MAFW) neighborhood. 

There was even a tale where two grackles ate lunch together every day but when one of the friends was late, the other grackle got so mad that it tipped over the friend’s soda.

In any case, people either love grackles or they hate them, there’s no middle ground with them.

Fun Fact: Great-tailed grackles often gather around the city’s food trucks and grocery store parking lots and try to snatch food – this has led many natives to start referring to them as “taco raptors.”


Summary

This concludes our list of grackles found in Arizona.

Examples include the common grackle and the bigger great-tailed grackle.

If you live in Arizona, you must have noticed these omnipresent birds – hundreds and thousands of grackles judging drivers while perched on power lines and hopping along their lawns. 

Trivia Question Answer: According to the Arizona Bird Committee (ABC), as of January 2021, there are 567 species of birds found in Arizona!

If you enjoyed our article, here are our other popular reads on birds: List of black birds with yellow wings

Similar Posts