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Great-tailed Grackle

Quiscalus mexicanus

Length: 15 to 18 inches Wingspan: 18 to 24 inches Seasonality: Summer
ID Keys: Extremely long fan-shaped tail, yellow eyes, even glossy black overall (male)

Great-tailed Grackle - Quiscalus mexicanusThe Great-tailed Grackle is a recent addition to the list of South Dakota birds, as this former specialty of the Southwestern U.S. has been steadily expanding in numbers and range over the last few decades.  Gregarious birds, very large and noisy flocks can sometimes be found, especially in their population strongholds further south and west.  They are very similar in appearance to the Boat-tailed Grackle, a species found near in the Gulf and Atlantic coasts, but not found in South Dakota.

Habitat: Can be found in a variety of open to semi-open habitats, including farmland, marshes and wetlands, brushy forest edges and hedgerows, and suburban areas.

Diet: Omnivorous.  Food items may include any of the following:  Insects, spiders, small fish, frogs, tadpoles, snails, crayfish, lizards, small snakes, eggs and young birds, waste grain, seeds, fruits, berries, and nuts.

Behavior: Will forage nearly anywhere, from the ground, in shrubs and trees, and even by wading in shallow water.  However, the majority of foraging is done on the ground.

Nesting: May and June.  The hest is usually placed in dense vegetation near water, either in thick herbaceous marsh vegetation, or in small trees and shrubs near the water.  The nest is a cup built of grasses, weeds, and marsh vegetation.  The female lays 3 or 4 eggs, and she alone incubates the eggs.  The female alone feeds and raises the young after they hatch.  The young leave the nest after about 20 days.

Breeding Map: Breeding Bird Survey map unavailable, as the species only recently started to nest in the state.

Song: A variety of loud, harsh noises.

Migration: Those at the northern part of its range will migrate south in the fall.  However, as the species expands its range to the north, it is now over-wintering in places it never used to winter.

Interactive eBird map: Click here to access an interactive eBird map of Great-tailed Grackle sightings

Similar Species:  Boat-tailed Grackle, Common Grackle

Conservation Status: Expanding in range and numbers. The IUCN lists the Great-tailed Grackle as a species of "Least Concern".

Bird Feeders:  Will attend feeders for various seeds and nuts.

South Dakota "Hotspot": Great-tailed Grackles are expanding their range in South Dakota, and may be found in an ever-growing list of areas. Atkin's Slough near Tea in Lincoln County (just west of Tea) was one of the first places where the species nested in the state, and continues to hold birds of this species in the summer. 

Further Information: 1) USGS Patuxent Bird Identification InfoCenter, Great-tailed Grackle

2) Audubon Guide- Great-tailed Grackle

3) WhatBird - Great-tailed Grackle

Photo Information: April 17th, 2005 -- Wetland near Tea -- Terry Sohl

Additional Photos: Click on the image chips or text links below for additional, higher-resolution Great-tailed Grackle photos.


Click on the map below for a higher-resolution view
Great-tailed Grackle - Species Range Map
South Dakota Status: Locally common summer resident in the eastern part of the state and along the Missouri River.  Range continues to expand.

Additional Great-tailed Grackle Photos
Click for a higher-resolution version of these photos
 Great-tailed Grackle - Quiscalus mexicanusGreat-tailed Grackle - Quiscalus mexicanusGreat-tailed Grackle - Quiscalus mexicanusGreat-tailed Grackle - Quiscalus mexicanusGreat-tailed Grackle - Quiscalus mexicanus