In Spring, hundreds of Grackles arrive in my neighborhood causing havoc. Filling the trees like black leaves and making an enourmous amount of noise.
Usually they gather in the morning flying from tree to tree and squaking until a large number have gathered.
Then, out of nowhere a group flies off. Seconds later, another group follows.
This contiues until all are gone. And just like that, everything gets quiet again.
Grackles are related to the Red-winged Blackbird. But unlike the Red-winged Blackbirds, these birds nest in colonies and only protect the area of the nest.
Their mating, nesting, and feeding habits are better observed as a group and not as a single pair.
Since they tend to be colonial in nature, distinquishing a pair of birds from a flock can be difficult.
Measuring about 12 inches in length. Males are black with iridescence on head, back and belly. Iridescence on body is purplish on birds from Southeast to S. New England, bronze on birds elsewhere.
Females are similar to males, but with a shorter, flat tail and less iridescence.
Following one female, several male Grackles will land around the female and perform several different displays in an effort to attract the female.
In flight you can identify the males, they will fly with the V-tail flight display during mating season.
As the mating and courtship season continues, the number of males following a female decreases until there is just one male to one female.
Both Male and Female will bring nesting material to the nest site. This is done over a period of time lasting from 1 to 4 weeks, but it's not the actual act of nest building.
The actual nest building is done after this period, and by the female only, which she completes in about 5 days.
The nest is made of grass, twigs, reeds, and mud. The inside is lined with finer materials.
You can find the nest located in a shrub or tree 3 to 30 feet above the ground or water.
The female will lay 4 to 7 eggs that are pale greenish brown with dark marks.
Incubation of the eggs will last about 13 to 14 days with the young leaving the nest in about 12 to 16 days after hatching.
During this time the male Grackle may guard the nest while the female feeds. Also, the male may pair with a second female during this time.
In such cases he rarely returns, the female bird then raises the brood by herself. Only 1 brood is raised each season per nest site. Second broods are rare.
Grackles will frequent backyard feeders primarily during spring and summer in large numbers. They feed on a variety of seeds. Two of their favorites are sunflower seed and cracked corn.
Sometimes they can be a problem at the the feeders by emptying the feeders so quickly and keeping smaller birds away.
If they've become a problem for you try selecting a type of feeder that restricts larger birds from getting to the seed.
These birds will steal the young from other birds just as the others young hatch. I've seen many newly born Cardinals get eaten by these aggresive birds.
They tend to attack very early in the morning. Usually, several will arrive at a nest site and cause the adult Cardinals to try to protect the nestlings.
While the Cardinals are attacking one Grackle another Grackle steals the young.
My favorite way of keeping them out of the feeders is by using Caged Bird Feeders. These allow the smaller birds in while keeping the large birds out.
In Fall, they'll form huge roosts that by winter will include Red-winged Blackbirds and Cowbirds that can number in the tens of millions and be a nuisance if located near urban areas.
Large flocks can damage grain crops.
The Common Grackle nest communally, and has a habit of using swimming pools to drop the waste of their young.
Some believe this is because they have a sense about rivers and streams washing the waste downstream, away from nest sites.
This practice would make it difficult for predators to find the nest with their sense of smell.
Unfortunately for the pool owner, hundreds of droppings from several nest will make daily cleanup a necessity.
There really isn't anything one can do except wait for the young to leave the nest. This will end the need to carry waste away from the nest.
The Grackle is protected by the Migratory Bird Treaty Act.