Boat Tailed Grackle Vs Common Grackle

Rural Chatter Birds, Nature and Environment Boattailed Grackle
Rural Chatter Birds, Nature and Environment Boattailed Grackle from


When it comes to grackles, there are two species that are often confused with each other: the boat tailed grackle and the common grackle. While they may share some similarities, there are also distinct differences between these two birds. In this article, we will explore the characteristics, behaviors, and habitats of both species to help you differentiate between them.

Physical Appearance

The boat tailed grackle (Quiscalus major) and the common grackle (Quiscalus quiscula) are both medium-sized birds with glossy black feathers. However, the boat tailed grackle is slightly larger, measuring about 16-18 inches in length, compared to the common grackle’s 12-13 inches. The boat tailed grackle also has a longer and more pronounced keel-shaped tail, which is where its name comes from.


While both species have black feathers, there are subtle differences in their coloration. The boat tailed grackle has a bluish-purple iridescence on its head and neck, which is more prominent in males during the breeding season. On the other hand, the common grackle has a more bronzy iridescence on its head and neck, which is also more prominent in males.


The boat tailed grackle is primarily found along the coastal regions of the southeastern United States, from Texas to Florida. It prefers wetland habitats such as marshes, swamps, and tidal flats. On the other hand, the common grackle has a wider distribution and can be found throughout North America, from the eastern coast to the central regions. It is commonly found in open habitats, including fields, meadows, and suburban areas.


Both grackle species are highly social and often form large flocks outside of the breeding season. They are opportunistic feeders and have a diverse diet, which includes insects, small vertebrates, fruits, seeds, and even garbage. However, the boat tailed grackle has a stronger affinity for aquatic habitats and is more likely to be seen wading in shallow water or perching on marsh vegetation.


During the breeding season, male grackles of both species engage in elaborate courtship displays to attract females. They will puff up their feathers, spread their wings, and produce a variety of calls and songs. The female grackles build their nests in trees or shrubs, typically near water sources. The boat tailed grackle’s nest is usually constructed over water, while the common grackle’s nest is built further inland.


While the common grackle is known for its migratory behavior, the boat tailed grackle is more sedentary and tends to stay in its breeding territory year-round. The common grackle migrates to southern regions during the winter months, forming large roosts with other blackbird species. This is why common grackles are often seen in large numbers during certain seasons in different parts of North America.


In summary, the boat tailed grackle and the common grackle are two similar but distinct bird species. Their differences in size, coloration, habitat preferences, and migratory behavior can help you identify which species you are observing. Whether you’re a bird enthusiast or simply curious about the avian world, understanding these subtle distinctions can enhance your appreciation for these charismatic birds.