Grackles are a member of the blackbird family and are common across the eastern and midwestern United States. You can identify these loud, gregarious birds by their beautiful iridescent plumage. They are opportunists and, thus, are well adapted to living around humans. So, what do grackles eat?
The common grackle is not a picky eater. They mainly eat seeds, including sunflower seeds, acorns, and sweetgum. However, they will also enjoy the fruits of wild and cultivated shrubs, grains like wheat and corn, and occasionally garbage.
More than twenty-five percent of the grackles diet includes insects, amphibians, fish, mammals, and other birds. Seemingly everything is on the menu for these wily avians.
Read on to learn more about their diet and other fascinating habits!
Common Grackle eating fruit from a cherry tree
Generally speaking, a grackle’s favorite food is insects. These birds are natural ground foragers. They will commonly strut through yards and fields feasting on insects, including beetles, caterpillars, grasshoppers, and grubs - many of which are harmful to your crops or gardens.
Grackles are omnivores. They also commonly eat a variety of seeds, grains, berries, and small animals - such as mice and other birds.
The common grackle mostly hunts and finds food by ground foraging. It uses its long bill, rather than its feet, to search for meals in the grass. These birds will also search for food off the ground. You can find flocks or individuals foraging among trees and shrubs or visiting bird feeders.
Grackles mainly forage for food on the ground
Grackles often feed throughout the majority of the day. They are opportunistic feeders, taking advantage of whatever food sources they can find when they can find them.
Outside of nesting season, grackles typically forage in flocks for safety. They will stop in fields, orchards, or maybe even your backyard in search of food, including seeds, grubs, and small mammals. They may even go through your trash for tasty morsels.
When grackles are seen foraging in the grass, they are generally picking up seeds and fallen fruits or eating various insects.
Many bird lovers have mixed feelings about grackles because they sometimes bully or eat other birds. They may also rummage through your garden eating fruits and vegetables. However, these birds are not entirely a nuisance.
More often than not, grackles are eating bugs and insects that can be harmful to your garden. Japanese beetles, caterpillars, and grasshoppers are among the pests these birds often remove, benefitting you and your plants.
Grackle with a beak full of insects
During winter grackles typically eat leftover seeds and grains from crop fields and meadows. Acorns and fruits are also common cold-weather meals. With insects and other food sources less available, grackles may visit your bird feeders more often as well.
Baby grackles eat mostly insects. Both parents participate in feeding the nestlings while they remain in the nest. The nesting period typically lasts ten to seventeen days after hatching.
Grackle feeding young chick
To feed grackles, either set up bird feeders in your yard with the seeds they like or spread the birdseed on the ground. Favorable mixes include sunflower seeds, corn, millet, and wheat. If you have oak trees, the fallen acorns will also attract grackles.
Since grackles are ground foragers, spreading birdseed in your yard will be more to their liking. Doing so will also encourage the birds to eat potentially unwelcomed insects and bugs. It may also discourage them from bullying other birds out of the feeders.
There is little that a grackle will not eat. In a way, they are nature's garbage disposal. However, if you are trying to discourage grackles from coming to your feeder, there are a couple potential solutions. Both involve offering seeds that grackles do not like, but other songbirds do.
The grackle seems to be deterred by safflower seeds, which are a favorite of nuthatches, cardinals, and chickadees. They also do not like nyjer and thistle seeds, commonly preferred by finches.
Grackle eating a spider on the ground
Grackles drink water. For a long while, though, little was known about how grackles drink. They had never been observed drinking water like most birds. Yet, many had witnessed them dipping their food in shallow ponds and other water sources.
Thus, it was thought that these birds attained enough hydration through the food they ate. Until, at long last, grackles were observed drinking as other birds do - with their beaks.
Grackle drinking water from a bird bath
Grackles will feed from bird feeders - sometimes as welcomed guests, other times they are rather unwelcomed. During migration seasons in the spring and fall, they often travel in large flocks, descending on feeders when they come across them.
These birds are large and can eat a feeder clean quite quickly. They may even bully smaller songbirds, discouraging them from coming to your feeders. However, if you have grackles traveling through during migration - or hanging around in winter causing a ruckus - you may be able to remedy it.
Try supplying your feeders with the previously mentioned seeds that grackles do not like. If this does not work, spread plenty of birdseed out on the ground, away from your feeders. Doing so may encourage the grackles to forage on the ground and leave other birds alone.
Grackle eating seed from a bird feeder in the back yard
Grackles can be good birds to have around. They can also be a nuisance. When traveling in large flocks, they become unwanted pests for gardeners and farmers because they eat crops and livestock feed.
The grackle will also bully and sometimes kill other birds, making them unwelcome guests at many backyard feeders. However, they are not inherently bad apples. As previously mentioned, these birds also eat many insects that can be harmful to your crops and gardens.
If you enjoy bird watching, these characters have interesting behaviors to observe as well. It’s really up to you to decide whether or not grackles are good to have around.
Close up of a grackle at a bird feeder, feeding on a seed mix
Grackles occasionally eat other birds. They will also eat eggs and nestlings. Grackles are often painted in a bad light because of this behavior, but it is natural.
Grackles have been reported to kill and eat sparrows. They will also attack other songbirds up to the size of a thrush.
Grackles do eat peanuts, both in the shell and just the hearts.
Grackles eat sunflower seeds. These are among the bird's favorite meals, along with corn, acorns, and wheat.
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