Great-tailed grackles strolls on the grass in Zitacuaro

Great-tailed grackles strolls on the grass in Zitacuaro

Great-tailed Grackle, zitacuaro, michoacan, mexico, 6

The Great-tailed Grackles (Quiscalus mexicanus) that Bob and I saw in Mexico were certainly impressive when it comes to grackles.  On our first morning in Zitacuaro, as we made our way to the patio for breakfast, we did not recognize the ear-piercing call of a number of these birds as they stood sentinel on the hotel’s rooftop.

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Hotel Rancho San Cayetano is set in the centre of a sprawling estate that is well treed around the perimeter, but sunshine bathed the main building in warmth and invited not only the guests to enjoy the early-morning hour but the Great-tailed Grackles to bask in the golden rays before they began foraging for their own first meal of the day.

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Bob’s and my conversation was interrupted by the raucous calls of a pair of Great-tailed Grackles somewhere above us,

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and before we knew it, one of them lit on the grass within a few feet of our table.  I was immediately struck by the length of its tail, which is almost equal in length to the body.  The lawn was a magnet for the collection of Great-tailed Grackles that were in the area since those of us dining on the patio might carelessly leave behind some crumbs.

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Great-tailed Grackles are crafty and opportunistic birds that do not hesitate to forage on the ground wherever people gather, handily walking about looking for scraps.  In a habitat that is removed from people, these omnivores will happily wade in shallow water in search of crayfish, frogs, tadpoles and small fish.  They are quick to seek prey in trees and shrubs when breeding season is in full swing, taking advantage of the ready supply of birds’ eggs and even nestlings to round out their diet.

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As with the Common Grackles that Bob and I see in our own yard at home, the jet black plumage takes on a gorgeous violet-blue iridescence when illuminated by the rays of the sun, although our smaller grackles show the colourful sheen mostly on their heads.  This angle illustrates how the long tail is folded into a distinctive V or keel shape.

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Great-tailed Grackles are long, lanky birds with a long, pointed black bill, long legs and piercing yellow eyes.

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Over the course of a half hour or so, Bob and I took some notice of the Great-tailed Grackles as they poked about the edge of the flower gardens,

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but I have to admit that we were not prone to get excited by these birds, just merely had a casual interest.

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We were greeted by at least a couple of male Grackles every morning and an anxious Pablo, our host, wondering if the boisterous birds were disturbing our sleep in the early morning hours.  Bob and I were happy to report that we never heard their clacks and whistles until we emerged from our room onto the portico that leads to the main building.

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The Grackles were hard pressed to find any remnants of human food on the ground, which I’m sure pleased Pablo and Lisette.  Instead, the birds gleaned insects, spiders and other small creatures from the gardens and grass.  All the better to keep pests at bay.  I’m sure the farmer next door had a few choice words for the Great-tailed Grackles, though.  Given his fields of ripe strawberries, I’d imagine the Grackles were sampling more than a few of the tasty fruits.  We certainly did courtesy of Lisette’s neighbour.

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