Scientific Name
Quiscalus quiscula
Also Known As
Crow Blackbird, Maize Thief
All of Florida
Insects, Fish, Frogs, Eggs, Grains, Fruit
Life Expectancy
5 - 12 Years
The Grackle

Photo 267449839 © michieldewit, CC BY-NC

Grackle conservation status - Least Concern

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Grackles in Central Florida

The common grackle (Quiscalus quiscula) is a ubiquitous bird found throughout central Florida. Often considered a nuisance, grackles are highly adaptable and thrive in urban and suburban environments.

This comprehensive guide provides detailed identification tips, biology facts, and control methods for grackles in central Florida. Read on to learn grackle habits, reproduction, diet, health risks, signs of infestation, and professional mitigation options if you have an overabundance on your property.

Subspecies of Grackle in the Area

Appearance and Identification

Grackles can be identified in both juvenile and adult plumages by their distinctive physical characteristics

Adult Grackle

Photo 199729235 © Peter Taylor, CC BY-NC

Adult Grackles

  • Size: Adults reach 11-13 inches (28-33 cm) long including the tail, weighing 3.4-5 ounces (96-142 grams).
  • Plumage: Adult males are iridescent black overall with glossy purplish-blue heads. Females are smaller and less glossy than males.
  • Tail: The tail is keel-shaped and long in adults, about 5 inches (13 cm).
  • Eyes: Bright yellow eyes in adults compared to the brown juvenile eye color.
  • Bill: Long, pointed bill in adults. The culmen is flattened.
  • Legs: Robust pinkish-brown legs with sharp claws adapted for perching.
Juvenile Grackle

Photo 79065910 © Frank Ziegler, CC BY-NC

Juvenile Grackles

  • Size: Hatchlings are about 2 inches (5 cm) long and weigh 0.6 ounces (18 grams). They reach 7-8 inches (18-20 cm) long by 3 weeks old.
  • Plumage: Juvenile plumage is dark brown to blackish overall with pale tan underparts. The eyes are light brown.
  • Features: Younger grackles have a proportionally larger head and eyes compared to the adult body. The wings are short and tail is stubby in newly fledged birds.
Grackle Eggs

Grackle Eggs

  • Size: Grackle eggs range from 0.9-1.5 inches (24-38 mm) in length and 0.6-1 inch (17-26 mm) in width.
  • Shape: The common grackle’s eggs are oval while the boat-tailed and great-tailed grackle eggs are more elongate or pointed oval shapes.
  • Color: The background color varies between species from light blue to light brown or gray, with darker brown spotting. Great-tailed grackles have heavier spotting concentrated on the wider end.
  • Shell: The shell texture is smooth with a slight gloss. It is often described as “chalky”.
  • Clutch: Grackles lay 3-5 eggs per clutch, with incubation starting before the last egg is laid.
  • Nest: The eggs are incubated for 12-14 days in a nest of twigs, grasses, and debris, lined with mud or dung.

Maturation Rate

Grackle chicks develop quickly after hatching. They are ready to fledge by 2 weeks old but remain dependent on the parents for several more weeks. Juveniles approach adult size by about 1 month post-fledging. Sexual maturity and adult plumage occurs within the first year after hatching.

Habits and Behavior

Grackles are highly social, foraging and roosting in large noisy flocks. They are active during the day and gather in communal roosts at night, sometimes with thousands of birds. Grackles walk on the ground in open spaces and perch prominently on wires, trees, and rooftops.

Their flight style is described as lazy and fluttering with the tail often fanned. Grackles produce a wide range of squealing, chattering, and clicking vocalizations. They are aggressive and often displace smaller birds from feeders and nest sites.

Reproduction and Lifespan

Grackles breed very prolifically, facilitated by the long nesting period. In central Florida, breeding can occur from February to July. Females build a basket-like nest secured with mud in trees, shrubs, or manmade structures. The typical clutch size is 3-5 eggs.

Incubation lasts 12-14 days and the altricial hatchlings fledge by 14-17 days old. Grackles produce 1-2 broods per breeding season. Lifespan ranges from 5 to 12 years in the wild. Their high reproductive potential allows grackle numbers to rapidly increase.

Ideal Habitat and Range

The warm, humid climate of central Florida provides ideal habitat for grackles to thrive year-round. Average temperatures range from the 60s°F (16°C) in winter to over 90°F (32°C) in summer. The rainy season lasts from June to September, delivering over 50 inches of annual rainfall.

Abundant sources of food, water, and nesting sites allow grackles to flourish in both natural and manmade environments. They frequent open grassy areas like fields, parks, and wetlands as well as suburban lawns, shopping centers, and landscaped areas. Grackles adapt readily to human activity and artificial food sources.

The high reproductive capacity, omnivorous diet, temperate climate, and availability of urban food waste like trash facilitate grackle overpopulation issues in central Florida neighborhoods. Exclusion of food sources and roosting sites is often needed to disperse large concentrations.

Diet and Feeding

Grackles are opportunistic omnivores and consume a wide variety of plant and animal matter. Staple foods include:

  • Insects – grasshoppers, beetles, caterpillars, ants, wasps, etc.
  • Grains – corn, oats, wheat, rice, bread crumbs, etc.
  • Berries – juniper, dogwood, black cherry, etc.
  • Fruits – oranges, bananas, melons, apples, etc.
  • Nuts and seeds – acorns, peanuts, sunflower seeds.
  • Small fish, crustaceans, mollusks when available.
  • Carrion, scraps – feed on dead animals, roadkill, trash.
  • Bird eggs and nestlings.

Grackles forage on the ground in open areas like lawns, plowed fields, and meadows. They also raid trash bins and bird feeders for scraps. Grackles obtain most of their water from food but will drink and bathe in puddles.

The Grackle Feeding

Photo 201162336 © Katrina Martin, CC BY-NC

You may need an ambulance like this if you catch any of these diseases

Common Health Risks

Grackles can potentially transmit certain infectious diseases to humans through feces contamination:

  • Salmonellosis – diarrhea, fever, abdominal cramps.
  • Campylobacteriosis – diarrhea, cramping, fever, nausea.
  • Cryptococcosis – fungal infection that can cause pneumonia.
  • Histoplasmosis – lung infection from fungal spores in droppings.

Large amounts of grackle droppings around homes can lead to unsanitary conditions. Their loud communal roosts are also considered a nuisance. Use netting, metal spikes, habitat modification, and population control to mitigate problems.

Preventing Grackle Overpopulation

  • Remove food sources – Secure trash and recycling bins. Remove pet food bowls, fallen fruit/berries, and spilled grain. Use bird feeders with weight-activated perches.
  • Exclude roosting/nesting sites – Block access to patio overhangs, roof eaves, attic vents, etc. Use nets over ponds and water features. Trim back dense shrubs and trees.
  • Install deterrents – Reflective tape, ultrasonic repellers, owl decoys, and water spray devices.
  • Population control – Replace bird seed with treated corn. Live trap and relocate birds away from property.
Overpopulation of Grackle

Photo 175678216 © Biana Varga, CC BY-NC

American Crows in Central Florida – Conclusion

With abundant food sources and ideal nesting habitat, American Crows thrive across central Florida’s urban and rural environments. Their intelligence allows them to exploit any opportunity. While American Crows can become a nuisance through droppings, noise, and damage, proactive dispersal, exclusion, and sanitation limits problems.

Understanding American Crow biology and behavior is key to implementing an effective management plan tailored to the situation. Population control traps may be warranted if exclusion fails to resolve a persistent American Crow issue. With an integrated pest management approach focused on prevention, American Crow conflicts can be mitigated humanely and successfully.