Common Grackle (Quiscalus quiscula)

Song: The "rusty-gate" call, highly variable, it always contains a harsh, raspy element, and sometimes includes a higher pitched, whistled part. The females in particular often include the whistled component (Peer et al, 1997). Every grackle, both male and female has a single, individually distinct version of the song (Stokes 1979).

Common Grackle song, Waukesha County, Wisconsin, October 9, 2010.

Common Grackle song, Waukesha County, Wisconsin, October 9, 2010.

A good way to recognize the song is to look for the characteristic Ruff-out display that always accompanies it. The tail and wings are spread, the body feathers ruffled and the legs extended (Stokes 1979).

Most song occurs during the breeding season, especially the early stages, before the eggs are hatched. At first groups of up to twenty birds will sing together while perched in the top of a tree (Stokes 1979). Gradually these singing groups will diminish in size until they consist of just one mated pair. At this time there is frequent counter singing between the pair, with the male and the female answering each others song with their own (Peer et al, 1997).

Grackles will also sing in the fall, in September and October, as they congregate in flocks (Bent 1958).


Bent, A. C. 1958. Life histories of North American blackbirds, orioles, tanagers, and their allies. U.S. Natl. Mus. Bull. 211:28-52.

Peer, Brian D. and Eric K. Bollinger. 1997. Common Grackle (Quiscalus quiscula), The Birds of North America Online (A. Poole, Ed.). Ithaca: Cornell Lab of Ornithology; Retrieved from the Birds of North America Online: doi:10.2173/bna.271

Stokes, Donald W. 1979. A Guide to the Behavior of Common Birds. Little, Brown and Company, Boston.