Find out why they are called Grackles

Robbikal Adlim Monday, July 8, 2013
I’m not sure why, but the name of the Common Grackle is the bird people have the most trouble remembering (i.e. Cackles, Gackles, Big Bad Blackbirds). As it turns out, it was one of the most difficult birds to name too.

Diana Wells writes in her book 100 Bird and How They Got Their Names, that when naturalists first came to explore North America it was difficult to determine to which genus these birds belonged. In between the size of a crow and starling, the common name, grackle, came from gracula, which is Latin for the Jackdaw or small crow.

In the 1700's, Carl Linnaeus a Swedish botanist, physician, and zoologist, who laid the foundations for the modern scheme of binomial nomenclature, gave the grackle their scientific name Quiscalus quiscula. This is from the Latin quis, which means “who” and qualis, which means “of what kind?”

In Michigan, Common Grackles eat lots of bugs, beetles, grasshoppers, caterpillars, spiders, crustaceans, mollusks, fish, frogs, salamanders, mice, and other birds like sparrows. As they gather in the fall their diet changes to more seeds such as corn, rice, sunflowers, acorns, tree seeds, fruits, and garbage.

By October most Common Grackles have left Michigan to forage and roost in large communal flocks with several different species of blackbirds. Sometimes these flocks can number in the millions.

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