Great-tailed Grackle, BraeBurn No, 12, May 23, 2017
The Great-tailed Grackle is one of the most common birds seen at BraeBurn; in fact, there may be more grackles on the course than any other bird.  Loud, brash, and smart, grackles graze in flocks of up to 10 birds during the day, often with one to four males and numerous females.  The Great-trailed Grackle is a medium to large bird at 18 inches long, twice the length of a common Blackbird, and it has a distinctly long tail that, in flight, looks like it is turned 90 degrees from the horizontal.  It looks like it is pulling along a rudder or a keel and not using its tail to assist in flight.
 
There are three grackles in North America: the Common Grackle (12.5” long), the Boat-tailed Grackle (16.5” long), and the Great-tailed Grackle and all three can be seen in our part of Texas.  The Great-tailed lives year-round throughout Texas, west to southern California, and south to coastal Venezuela and Colombia.  The Great-tailed Grackle has that distinctive yellow eye seen in the photo and males have an iridescent purple-blue hue.  Females are smaller (half the weight) and two-toned pale brown.
 
The grackles I saw in early September, 2017 were distinctive in that they did not have a great tail; in fact, some did not have a tail at all!  I wondered if they had been victimized by high winds during Hurricane Harvey but it turns out that grackles molt and lose their tail feathers during the late summer.
 
Grackles can congregate in groups of thousands for the night and often select shopping centers or parking lots for their roost.  Rice Village currently has a large population and there is another at the intersection of Buffalo Speedway and Main Street.  They are considered nuisance birds in many places but they are currently behaving themselves at BraeBurn.