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Birds of Florida
Page 5 of 6

On this page - Common Grackle, Boat-tailed Grackle, Blue Jay, Northern Cardinal

Common Grackle - Quiscalus quiscula

The Common Grackle appears black from a distance.

In a behavior called "anting" grackles will stand with their wings spread, letting ants crawl on their body and feathers. It is believed that the formic acid the ants secrete helps rid the birds of parasites.

The Common Grackle is a large blackbird with an 11 to 13 inch body length and 18 inch wingspan.

Appearing solid black from a distance, adult male Common Grackles are black with iridescent blue, purple and bronze, females are dull brown overall with less iridescence than males, juvenile birds are brown. Adults have a bright golden yellow eye, immature birds have dark eyes.

The Common Grackle congregates in large flocks, often mixed with other blackbirds, tarlings and cowbirds.

Diet consists of grains, nuts, seeds, fruit, insects, fish, frogs, birds, and just about anything else including garbage. Prefers open areas and forages on the ground.

Because they form such large flocks the Common Grackle causes serious damage to agricultural crops and has actually expanded its range to follow agriculture in the United States.

Boat-tailed Grackle - Quiscalus major

The Boat-tailed Grackle holding a Sable palm berry in its beak.

Boat-tailed Grackles nest in dense vegetation, often over or close to water.

Male Boat-tailed Grackles are 10 to 14 1/2 inches long with a wingspan just under 20 inches, they are a shiny iridescent purple-black overall with a more greenish hue on the wings and tail.

Female is 1/2 the size of the male, back and head is a dark cinnamon brown, breast and underside is lighter brown to buff colored, immature birds are colored like female with a streaked underside and breast. Adult eye color varies from straw yellow to dark.

Ground forager, diet consists of fruits, grains, acorns, other seeds as well as small invertebrates such as frogs.

Boat-tailed Grackle habitat includes marshes and open uplands as well as agricultural lands.

Blue Jay - Cyanocitta cristata

A Blue Jay (Cyanocitta cristata) perches with acorns it its mouth. Picture of a Blue Jay (Cyanocitta cristata).

Blue Jays are quite fond of acorns, the Jay at upper right has 2 acorns in its mouth and probably a couple more in its throat, Blue Jays often cache acorns for later consumption.

Blue Jays are present year-round in all of Florida. This large, common songbird has a fondness for acorns and is known for its seeming boldness, intelligence and expert mimicry of other birds calls.

Although these Jays are known to migrate, little is understood about their migratory habits, individual birds may or may not migrate, or they may migrate one year and not the next. Blue Jays are 10-12 inches long with a wingspan of 13 1/2 to 17 inches.

The Blue Jays underparts are gray to off-white, crest and back are blue, face is off-white with a black necklace/bridle, wings and long rounded tail are blue with black bars, wing/tail edged with white. Diet consists mainly of acorns, seeds, grains and insects.

Blue Jays frequent the edges of forests and open areas, particularly areas where Oak trees are present. Forms strong family bonds.

Northern Cardinal - Cardinalis cardinalis

A male Nothern Cardinal, Cadinalis cardinalis. A female Cardinal perched on a fence.

Found near the edges of wooded areas, around hedges and shrubbery the beautiful Northern Cardinal announces its presence with short chip-chip-chip call and clear songs.

Cardinals are 9 inches long, males are bright to gray-ish red overall, with a black face and a puffy looking red bill. Females are a buff brown with hints of subdued red in the tail and wings, red bill and crest.

Northern Cardinals love seeds, they can be attracted to the bird feeder with offerings of cracked corn, sunflower and safflower seeds.