Conservation status Widespread and very common, and has been expanding its range toward the west in recent decades.
Family Blackbirds and Orioles
Habitat Farmland, towns, groves, streamsides. Common in many kinds of open or semi-open country. Often forages in farm fields, pastures, suburban lawns, cattle feedlots, marshes. Nests and roosts in places with dense trees (especially conifers) close to open areas, as in groves, woodland edges, parks.
Throughout the east and midwest, this big blackbird is a very familiar species on suburban lawns, striding about with deliberate steps as it searches for insects. Common Grackles often nest in small colonies, and several males may perch in adjacent treetops to sing their creaking, grating songs. Big flocks are often seen flying overhead in the evening, heading for major communal roosts, especially from late summer through winter.

Feeding Behavior

Forages mostly by walking on ground or wading in very shallow water; also up in trees and shrubs. When not nesting, usually forages in flocks. Sometimes steals food from Robins or other birds. Has been seen killing an adult House Sparrow. Will come to feeders for various items. When eating dry bread crumbs, may soak them in water first.


4-5, sometimes 2-6. Pale blue, blotched with brown. Incubation is by female only, 12-14 days. Young: Both parents feed nestlings, bringing them mostly insects. Young leave the nest about 16-20 days after hatching. 1 brood per year, sometimes 2.


Both parents feed nestlings, bringing them mostly insects. Young leave the nest about 16-20 days after hatching. 1 brood per year, sometimes 2.


Omnivorous. Feeds on insects, including beetle grubs, grasshoppers, caterpillars, many others; also spiders, millipedes, earthworms, and such diverse items as crayfish, minnows, frogs, lizards, eggs and young of other birds, and small rodents. Vegetable matter also important in diet, may be majority in winter; includes berries, seeds, waste grain, acorns.


Typically nests in small colonies of 10-30 pairs, sometimes to 100 or more. In courtship, male fluffs out body feathers, partly spreads wings and tail, and gives short scraping song; also postures with bill pointing straight up. Nest site is often well hidden among branches of dense tree or shrubs near water, less than 20' above ground; sometimes much higher, or very low in marsh growth. Unusual sites include hole in tree or hollow stump, in lower part of active Osprey nest, or inside old building. Nest (built by female) is bulky open cup of weeds, grass, twigs, usually with some mud added; inside lined with fine grass.

Illustration © David Allen Sibley.
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Text © Kenn Kaufman, adapted from
Lives of North American Birds

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Migrates in flocks. Present all year in much of range. In the North, migration is quite early in spring and fairly late in fall.

  • All Seasons - Common
  • All Seasons - Uncommon
  • Breeding - Common
  • Breeding - Uncommon
  • Winter - Common
  • Winter - Uncommon
  • Migration - Common
  • Migration - Uncommon

See a fully interactive migration map for this species on the Bird Migration Explorer.

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Songs and Calls

Clucks; high-pitched rising screech, like a rusty hinge.
Audio © Lang Elliott, Bob McGuire, Kevin Colver, Martyn Stewart and others.
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