Great-tailed Grackle

Quiscalus mexicanus

A large, noisy blackbird, the Great-tailed Grackle has been expanding its range in North America throughout the last century. A bird of open country with scattered trees and water, it took advantage of urbanization and irrigation to move northward from Mexico into much of western United States.

Interesting Information

  • Three different subspecies of Great-tailed Grackles have expanded into the United States from three separate areas of Mexico.

  • The Great-tailed and Boat-tailed grackles have at times been considered the same species. Current thinking is that they are closely related, but different species.

  • As it expands its range northward the Great-tailed Grackle tends to migrate out of the most northern areas. It quickly becomes a resident and stays through the winter.

  • Great-tailed Grackles roost together in large numbers outside of the breeding season. In Central America these large, noisy roosts frequently are found in the central plaza of small towns.


Adult Description

  • Size: 38-46 cm (15-18 in)

  • Weight: 115-265 g (4.06-9.35 ounces)

  • Large blackbird.

  • Very long tail.

  • Male shiny black, female brown.

Sex Differences

Male iridescent black. Female dull brown and significantly smaller.


Iridescent black with purplish-blue sheen. Yellow eyes. Long, graduated, keep-shaped tail. Moderately long, strong black legs. Flat-topped head profile.


Dusky brown with darker wings and tail. Yellow eye. Buffy eyestripe and throat. Cinnamon buff to buffy brown on belly. Long tail only slightly keeled, if at all. Bill black. Legs black.


Juvenile is brown like female, with streaked underparts and dark eyes.


Photo taken from: The Sibley Field Guide by David Allen Sibley

© 2003 Cornell Lab of Ornithology


Open areas with scattered trees and nearby water, including pastures, agricultural areas, mangroves, and urban and suburban areas.


Forages in flocks with other blackbirds. Sexes may forage in separate flocks. Follows tractors to get exposed food.


Insects, other invertebrates, tadpoles, lizards, small fish, and plant material. Some eggs and bird nestlings.



Kingdom: Animalia
Phylum: Chordata
     Subphylum: Vertebrata
Class: Aves
Order: Passeriformes
Family: Icteridae
Genus: Quiscalus
Species: Quiscalus mexicanus
    Subspecies: Quiscalus mexicanus graysoni
  Quiscalus mexicanus loweryi
  Quiscalus mexicanus mexicanus
  Quiscalus mexicanus monsoni
  Quiscalus mexicanus nelsoni
  Quiscalus mexicanus obscurus
  Quiscalus mexicanus peruvianus
  Quiscalus mexicanus prosopidicola

Similar Species

  • Common Grackle smaller, with shorter tail and more restricted purple.

  • Boat-tailed Grackle is very similar, but tail is a little shorter and head is more rounded; voice is different.

  • The Gulf Coast form of Boat-tailed Grackle, the form most likely to be in the range of great-tailed, has dark eyes

Bird Sound

Song a loud series of harsh rattles interspersed with whistling notes and other noises.

Eggs look like this

Photo taken from: ARCTOS Collaborative Collection Management Solution