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Partially Leucistic Grackle

Updated on May 14, 2011
StephanieBCrosby profile image

Stephanie Bradberry is an educator herbalist, naturopath, and energy healer. She loves all things natural and the beauty of nature.

They come in droves. A flock of grackles randomly descend upon my yard, sucking up every morsel of food that may be on the ground or in a feeder until they are scared away. The image is almost surreal and akin to a cartoon character putting a whole chicken leg in his or her mouth only to emerge picked clean seconds later. But, once, this frequent nuisance of our yard came to be a source of excitement. Did we have a new bird? It looked like a common grackle, but it had streaks of white—a sharp contrast to the sea of black.

As usual, my husband posted our photo (can’t find it to upload right now) to Whatbird. The response was quick but foreign: a partially leucistic grackle. Huh? I hit the books while my husband hit the web.


Leucism: “Condition of plumage resulting from reduced pigment in feathers; leucistic birds vary from having a few stray whitish feathers to being nearly all white with just a trace of normal pigmentation (the latter resembling albino birds but with normally pigmented eyes).” (Brinkley 505).

Albinism: “Congenital absence of pigmentation; in birds, results in white plumage and pink eyes” (Brinkley 502)

Partially leucistic Common Grackle
Partially leucistic Common Grackle | Source
Common Grackle (male) Photo: M. Crosby
Common Grackle (male) Photo: M. Crosby
Common Grackle (female) Photo: M. Crosby
Common Grackle (female) Photo: M. Crosby
Albino Common Grackle
Albino Common Grackle | Source


The Common Grackle (Quiscalus quiscula) is about the size of a Jay and is rarely seen outside of a flock. It looks all black, but in good view and/or light the males have glossy, purplish blue, iridescent coloring (much like an oil spill). The Common Grackle has a long wedge-shaped tail, pale yellow eyes and pointed beak. The females are smaller and duller. There are three variations of Common Grackles:

  • Purple Grackle: found south of New York and has iridescent purplish hues all over
  • Bronze Grackle: found in U.S. interior states and has a bronze colored back
  • Florida Grackle: found all over the continental U.S. and parts of Canada.

There are two other types of Grackles:

  1. Great-tailed (Quiscalus mexicanus), which is mainly found in the Great Plains and can have multiple partners.
  2. Boat-tailed (Quiscalus major), which has the limited range of the Atlantic and Gulf coasts.

Feeding Habits

Grackles feed on just about anything. They are known to eat insects, spiders, grubs and earthworms, eggs, baby birds, frogs, mice, grains, and wild fruit.  Grackles will forage for minnows and crayfish. At feeders, Grackles like cracked corn.


Grackles like open spaces like farm fields, pastures, marshes, and suburban yards. They need a wooded area for nesting and roosting.

Now I hesitantly welcome a flock, if only to catch a glimpse of the partially leucistic grackle again.


Alderfer, Jonathan, ed. National Geographic Field Guide to Birds: New Jersey. Washington, DC: National Geographic, 2005. Print.

Brinkley, Edward, S. National Wildlife Federation Field Guide to Birds of North America. New York: Sterling Publishing Co., Inc., 2007. Print.

Bull, John, and John Farrand, Jr. National Audubon Society Field Guide to North American Birds: Eastern Region. Revised ed. New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 1994. Print.

Sibley, David Allen. The Sibley Field Guide to Birds of Eastern North America. New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 2003. Print.

Cite This Article


Crosby, Stephanie Bradberry. Partially Leucistic Grackle. HubPages, 2011. Web. Today’s date.


Crosby, S. B. (2011). Partially leucistic grackle. Retrieved from


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    • StephanieBCrosby profile image

      Stephanie Bradberry 5 years ago from New Jersey

      Hello chef-de-jour,

      You are welcome. And thanks for reading and your wonderful comment. How poet your description of the fascination with birds. Sounds like a poem in the making! It is cool seeing birds with different plumage from the flock.

    • StephanieBCrosby profile image

      Stephanie Bradberry 5 years ago from New Jersey

      Hi Denise Handlon,

      I love birds too, obviously. And it seems the longer we live in this house, the more interesting our visitors become. Hopefully bluebirds will be eating out of my hand soon :)

    • chef-de-jour profile image

      Andrew Spacey 5 years ago from Near Huddersfield, West Yorkshire,UK

      Many thanks for this. As a bird watcher and poet I am constantly distracted by the birds - how comical, how sociable, how solitary, how magnetic they are. Your grackles are wondrous for their partial plumage, such a treat to see a fresh species when unexpected.

      We get the occasional semi-albino crow which is always a sharp contrast to the hundreds of solid black ones, which I love to watch at roosting time 'going home' over the hedgerows and woods.

      Votes for these grackles!

    • Denise Handlon profile image

      Denise Handlon 5 years ago from North Carolina

      I love birds-interesting information here about this particular breed and I had no idea about 'whatbird'. I'll have to check it out sometime.

      I enjoyed your writing, Stephanie. :) Up/I/U

    • StephanieBCrosby profile image

      Stephanie Bradberry 6 years ago from New Jersey

      Thanks, Mrs. Menagerie. If you see one it will definitely stick out. Maybe I should set my cat out husband would love for her to get swooped up by a hawk. Thanks for the kind word about my writing :)

    • Mrs. Menagerie profile image

      Mrs. Menagerie 6 years ago from The Zoo

      Well, this is very cool. I'd never heard of a Leucistic anything. We get Grackles in droves here too, that is until my cat scares them all away. I'll keep a lookout for the occasional odd one. Your writing is really good, btw.

    • StephanieBCrosby profile image

      Stephanie Bradberry 6 years ago from New Jersey

      Thanks, ColibriPhoto. I agree. You always end up learning something new.

    • ColibriPhoto profile image

      ColibriPhoto 6 years ago from Quito, Ecuador

      Nice article Stephanie. Always exciting to see new birds even if they are just a bird of a different color.