Five O’clock Great-tailed Grackle Cacophony

Great-tailed Grackle male on a fence postGreat-tailed Grackle male on a fence post – Nikon D200, f7.1, 1/640, ISO 400, +1.0 EV, Nikkor 200-400mm VR with 1.4x TC at 400mm, natural light

Since the freezing temperatures arrived in my neighborhood I have been listening to a five o’clock Great-tailed Grackle cacophony nightly. There is a flock of Great-tailed Grackles that spend the day at a local pond near me and now because of the freezing temps they are roosting in a conifer across the street at night. They fly in about 5 pm and make a racket for about 15 to 20 minutes.  I’ve searched Great-tailed Grackle calls on line and the closest I can come to the sounds I hear when the birds come into the roost were recorded by Ted Floyd in Monte Vista. Have a listen here. This recording is close to but not quite what I hear when the grackles arrive at the roost.

I guess I need to take my phone outside and record the Great-tailed Grackles as they settle into the roost. This is the first year the grackles are using the roost and I don’t know if that will continue. Winter roosts can contain thousands of grackles in the southern part of their range and I think that sound would be deafening because there are probably only a dozen or so that roost near where I live and they are quite loud.

Great-tailed Grackles are rapidly expanding their range, I have seen them as far north as Montana and their population numbers here in Utah seem to be growing quickly too. In the 1900’s the northern edge of their range was in southern Texas but as agriculture and urban development spread so has the range of these grackles. There is a rather large flock of Great-tailed Grackles in Syracuse, Utah at a McDonald’s there on Antelope Drive. They eat seeds, grains, insects, small mammals, fish, tadpoles, frogs, lizards, snakes and more including edible garbage. I know they like fries because I have watched them eat them.

It is always too dark to photograph them when they fly into the roost for the night but I suspect I will be listening to them every evening for some time to come.

Life is good.



  1. Utahbooklover December 4, 2015 at 2:03 pm

    Very interesting Mia. I sometimes see a few crackles here in Brigham City too.

  2. Elephant's Child December 4, 2015 at 1:09 pm

    Love the irridescence – and the happy chatter.

  3. Patty Chadwick December 4, 2015 at 8:33 am

    We had a boat-tailed Grackle named Jack…what an opinionated character her was! Almost wore his tail to a frazzle trying to get back in the house, whenever he could…clinging to the windows with a three-point cling…toenails and tail, shrieking at me. It was fun when there woukd be a treeful of Grackles and when we’d go out , they’d all fly away…except Jack, who’d swoop down and land on your shoulder or your head and scream, or gurgle, sweet nothings in your ear….He used to wait in a tree for my husband’s work van to come home, fly down, land on the roof rack, ride it into the driveway on it and be the first to greet him. One day, the rack had been removed, and the van roof waxed, Jack swooped down, landed, slid off, hit the garage door, and fell to ground, dead! We were devasted! But, then he wobbled upright, shook himself off……and became undead!

    • Elephant's Child December 4, 2015 at 1:10 pm

      Oh Patty. Don’t do that too me. My heart was in my mouth before Jack became undead…

      • Patty Chadwick December 4, 2015 at 7:14 pm

        Sorry! Now you know how we felt!!!

  4. steven kessel December 4, 2015 at 6:15 am

    Down here in Tucson we are inundated with Great-tailed Grackles during the winter months. Interestingly, they are not a desert species and avoid our local desert. They are adept at finding the public parks and shopping malls with a bit of water, however and are visible there in large numbers.

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