• Welcome to BirdForum, the internet's largest birding community with thousands of members from all over the world. The forums are dedicated to wild birds, birding, binoculars and equipment and all that goes with it.

    Please register for an account to take part in the discussions in the forum, post your pictures in the gallery and more.
ZEISS DTI thermal imaging cameras. For more discoveries at night, and during the day.

Great-tailed Grackle - BirdForum Opus

Male, subspecies nelsoni
Photo © by Joseph Morlan
Pacifica, California, USA 26 April 2020
Quiscalus mexicanus


Photo © by Joseph Morlan
San Francisco, California, USA, 3 April 2021

A large (40cm) totally black bird (M) with a long, sharp bill and an impressively long tail that is held vertically in flight, like a boat rudder. The yellow eye is diagnostic. The plumage of the male shows many colors in sunlight due to iridescence; blues and greens predominate.

The female is brown with lighter underparts, and with a shorter tail.

Similar Species

Photo © by bobsofpa
Kenedy County, Texas, USA, April 2005

On Gulf Coast, can be distinguished from Boat-tailed Grackle by eye color.


Male, Subspecies Q. m. prosopidicola
Photo © by Stanley Jones
Galveston Island, Galveston, Texas, USA, 4 May 2021

In the United States found from southern California east to Iowa south to Louisiana. Also found throughout Mexico and Central America south to Peru. Continues to expand range including into Northern California.


Photo © by Greg Lavaty
Galveston, Texas, February 2005

Formerly lumped with Boat-tailed Grackle


This is a polytypic species consisting of eight subspecies[1]:

  • Q. m. nelsoni:
  • Q. m. monsoni:
  • South-eastern Arizona to western Texas and Mexican Plateau to Jalisco and Guanajuato
  • Q. m. prosopidicola:
  • South-eastern New Mexico to southern Texas, Coahuila, San Luis Potosí and southern Tamaulipas
  • Q. m. graysoni:
  • Coastal north-western Mexico (Sinaloa)
  • Q. m. obscurus:
  • Coastal south-western Mexico (Nayarit to Guerrero)
  • Q. m. mexicanus:
  • Southern Mexico (eastern Jalisco and San Luis Potosí) to northern Nicaragua
  • Q. m. loweryi:
  • Coastal Yucatán Peninsula, Belize and adjacent offshore islands
  • Q. m. peruvianus:


They can be found in a wide variety of habitats; marshes, wetlands, hill bushy areas, golf courses, gardens, and shopping malls.


In hot areas they will drink from any water available including swimming pools, and they may even take a voluntary swim!

They are social, particularly at dusk when they gather in sizeable flocks to roost in trees.


Great-tailed grackles frequent urban landscapes, often feeding in highly-developed areas such as parking lots. They will eat almost anything.


They can be noisy, especially during breeding displays, when the male issues loud calls at what looks to be great physical effort.

Listen to a voice clip
Recording © by Joseph Morlan
Pacifica, California, 26 April 2020


  1. Clements, J. F., T. S. Schulenberg, M. J. Iliff, S. M. Billerman, T. A. Fredericks, B. L. Sullivan, and C. L. Wood. 2019. The eBird/Clements Checklist of Birds of the World: v2019. Downloaded from http://www.birds.cornell.edu/clementschecklist/download/
  2. BirdForum Member Observations
  3. Johnson, K. and B. D. Peer (2020). Great-tailed Grackle (Quiscalus mexicanus), version 1.0. In Birds of the World (A. F. Poole and F. B. Gill, Editors). Cornell Lab of Ornithology, Ithaca, NY, USA. https://doi.org/10.2173/bow.grtgra.01
  4. Fraga, R. (2020). Great-tailed Grackle (Quiscalus mexicanus). In: del Hoyo, J., Elliott, A., Sargatal, J., Christie, D.A. & de Juana, E. (eds.). Handbook of the Birds of the World Alive. Lynx Edicions, Barcelona. (retrieved from https://www.hbw.com/node/62287 on 2 May 2020).

Recommended Citation

External Links

GSearch checked for 2020 platform.1