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.

Cool Facts

Photo taken from:
The Sibley Field Guide to Birds of Western North America by David Allen Sibley
  • 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.


  • 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.
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.
Sex Differences
Male iridescent black. Female dull brown and significantly smaller.
Juvenile is brown like female, with streaked underparts and dark eyes.
Range Map
Taxonomic Hierarchy


2003 Cornell Lab of Ornithology
Kingdom: Animalia
Phylum: Chordata
     Subphylum: Vertebrata
Class: Aves
Order: Passeriformes
Family: Icteridae
Genus: Quiscalus
Species: Quiscalus mexicanus
  • Quiscalus mexicanus graysoni
  • Quiscalus mexicanus loweryi
  • Quiscalus mexicanus mexicanus
  • Quiscalus mexicanus monsoni
  • Quiscalus mexicanus nelsoni
  • Quiscalus mexicanus obscurus
  • Quiscalus mexicanus peruvianus
  • Quiscalus mexicanus prosopidicola
Song a loud series of harsh rattles interspersed with whistling notes and other noises.

Identification and Information
See Anatomy of a Bird
  • Length Range: 27-47 cm (10.5-18.5 in)
  • Weight: 190 g (6.7 oz)
  • Size: 3. Medium (9 - 16 in)
  • Color Primary: Black, Sheen or Iridescence
  • Underparts: Black with iridescent purple sheen.
  • Upperparts: Black with iridescent purple sheen.
  • Back Pattern: Solid
  • Belly Pattern: Solid
  • Breast Pattern: Solid
  • Bill Shape: Dagger, All-purpose
  • Eye Color: Dull brown in male juveniles, becoming deep yellow at maturity. Females similar but paler.
  • Head Pattern: Plain
  • Crown Color: Black with iridescent purple sheen.
  • Forehead Color: Black with iridescent purple sheen.
  • Nape Color: Black with iridescent purple sheen.
  • Throat Color: Black with iridescent purple sheen.
  • Cere color: No Data
  • Flight Pattern: Strong swift direct flight on rapidly beating wings.
  • Wingspan Range: 49 cm (19.25 in)
  • Wing Shape: Pointed-Wings
  • Tail Shape: Squared Tail
  • Tail Pattern: Solid
  • Upper Tail: Black
  • Under Tail: Black
  • Leg Color: Black
  • Breeding Location: Grassland with scattered trees, Marshes, Urban
  • Breeding Type: Polygamous, Colonial
  • Breeding Population: Fairly common to common
  • Egg Color: Light gray to light blue with red purple markings
  • Number of Eggs: 3 - 4
  • Incubation Days: 13 - 14
  • Egg Incubator: Female
  • Nest Material: Bark, sticks, weeds, and grass.
  • Migration: Some migrate
  • Condition at Hatching: Helpless with sparse gray down.

Other Names

Similar Species

  • Quiscale longue queue (French)
  • Zanate mexicano, Sanate/Clarinero (Spanish)
  • 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.

Conservation Status

Uses human-modified habitats and has expanded its range. Populations have been increasing in all parts of range. Considered a pest species because it damages some crops.


Sources used to Construct this Page:

Open areas with scattered trees and nearby water, including pastures, agricultural areas, mangroves, and urban and suburban areas.
  • Johnson, K., and B. D. Peer. 2001. Great-tailed Grackle (Quiscalus mexicanus). In The Birds of North America, No. 576 (A. Poole and F. Gill, eds.). The Birds of North America, Inc., Philadelphia, PA.
Insects, other invertebrates, tadpoles, lizards, small fish, and plant material. Some eggs and bird nestlings.
Forages in flocks with other blackbirds. Sexes may forage in separate flocks. Follows tractors to get exposed food.

Adult Male

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Additional Photos & Video

Adult Female

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All photos 2008 Rick Swartzentrover - Free for non-profit use.

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