Subscribe to BirdNote

Sign up to receive a weekly email preview of the following week's shows!

Sign Up
Support BirdNote

Help BirdNote tell more stories, reach more people, and inspire action.


You are here

Great-tailed Grackles on the Move

This grackle’s story is one of expansion
© Brianne Bilyeu View Large

The range and abundance of the Great-tailed Grackle have expanded significantly since 1900, when the species barely reached Texas from Mexico. One winter roost of grackles in South Texas was pegged at 500,000 birds! Great-tailed Grackles can present pest management problems for agriculture and sanitation issues in urban areas. It’s worth noting that human alterations of the natural landscape invited the grackles in.

Full Transcript



Great-tailed Grackles On the Move

Written by Bob Sundstrom

This is BirdNote.

[Great-tailed Grackle song sequence of crackles, squeals, etc.] 

This startling voice — one of cracks, clatters, wheezes, squeals, and trills — belongs to a male Great-tailed Grackle. Picture a very large blackbird, glistening with blue iridescence. Male Great-tailed Grackles are all of a foot and half long, and slender, with a long, spike-like beak and a very long tail, folded narrowly in the shape of a boat’s keel. Females are brown, and 25% smaller. 

[Continue Great-tailed vocalizations]

The Great-tailed Grackle’s big story is one of expansion. In 1900, the species barely reached into Texas from Mexico. By 2000, it was found through much of the American Southwest. One winter roost of grackles in South Texas was pegged at 500,000 birds. [Huge flock of Great-tailed Grackles] Its leap in population has coincided with the advent of large-scale irrigation, industrial agriculture, and rampant urbanization. 

[Continue Great-tailed Grackle flock sounds]

In their vast abundance, they present pest management problems for agriculture and sanitation issues around cities and towns. But it was, of course, these very human alterations of the natural landscape that invited the grackles in. We may as well enjoy them, because they’re here to stay.

[Repeat some of introductory song]

Writers for BirdNote include Bob Sundstrom, Frances Wood, Ellen Blackstone, Dennis Paulson, and Todd Peterson. I’m Mary McCann. 


Bird sounds provided by The Macaulay Library of Natural Sounds at the Cornell Lab of Ornithology, Ithaca, New York. Great-tailed Grackle songs of individual birds and vocalizations of large flock [12634] recorded by L. Irby Davis. Huge flock of Great-tailed Grackes [12632] recorded by A.A. Allen. Ambient drawn from [105549] Green Jay track by G.A. Keller. 

BirdNote’s theme music was composed and played by Nancy Rumbel and John Kessler.

Producer: John Kessler

Executive Producer: Chris Peterson

© 2014 Tune In to  June 2014  Narrator: Mary McCann

ID#     GTGR-01-2014-06-04 GTGR-01    

Sights & Sounds

Related topics: