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Grackle vs Starling: Top 5 Differences That Set Them Apart!

Grackle vs Starling

Last Updated: May 17, 2022

I have a friend who always mistook a grackle for a starling. Once, she exclaimed, 'oh! There is a dead grackle in your backyard,' only that this dead grackle turned out to be a dead starling.

This is a common mistake made by most people, but never me. As a bird enthusiast, I have seen different bird species.

This has enabled me to differentiate between similar-looking birds effectively. In this article, I will be doing just that -- revealing grackle vs starling similarities and dissimilarities.

Read on, bird fan!

Main Differences Between Grackle vs Starling

The main differences between Grackle vs Starling are:

  • Grackles can be spotted with their characteristic yellow eyes, dark legs, and a dark bill, whereas Starlings have dark eyes, pinkish legs, and a slender yellow bill.
  • Grackles have more extended and broader tails with a visible orange patch during flight, whereas Starling has shorter tails that lack any visible pattern.
  • Grackles usually have a black mask on their face, whereas Starlings have a brown-colored face.
  • Grackles feed on every food and most especially the corn crops, which is their favorite, whereas Starlings feed on insects and seeds only.
  • Grackles have glossy black feathers on the head with a purple sheen, whereas Starlings have shiny brown upperparts with pinkish underparts.

But then, with the numerous difference between grackles and starlings, why do people still mistake them for each other? Let's look at some similarities between these two birds.

Similarities Between the Common Grackle and the European Starling

Grackles and starlings are birds with distinguishing features. Yet, I have seen people mistake a grackle for a starling and vice versa. This is because, amidst the differences, they also have some noticeable similarities.

Grackles and starlings have similar shiny luminous plumes.

During winter, you can easily observe this as the starlings look similar to the grackles, with their black beaks and more spotted plumage. This plumage becomes less vibrant.

You can also mistake a grackle for a starling because of its similar length and shape. However, starlings have slightly longer and slimmer bills. They likewise keep an eye on both herds in enormous gatherings.


All About the Common Grackles: Their Interesting Characteristics

Grackle
Grackle

Grackles are large, lanky blackbirds that look a bit stretched. They have long legs, tails, and bills. The adult male, slightly larger than the females, appears dark-colored. 

However, in a well-lit space, you can spot an iridescent bluish head and bronzy body on the adult male.

You can easily recognize a younger grackle with its overall brown color and dark brown eyes.

Distribution and Habitat

You can easily find the common Grackles in North America East of the Rocky Mountains. This is because these grackles breed in that region. However, if you stay in the Southeastern United States, you could spot a grackle likewise. The northern birds have been known to flock towards this region, especially after a nesting season.

Common grackles are well adapted to human habitats; thus, you can find them around extensive gardens, parks, farmlands, and urban residential areas. They are also found in open woodlands near marshes and swamps.

Behavioral Pattern and Lifestyle

Common grackles are regarded as noisy and friendly birds. Thus, they can often be spotted migrating, nesting, and roosting in large flocks with other birds. With their sounds and songs, they easily communicate within themselves. 

These songs can vary all year round and are often harsh. With their ' chewink chewink' song, which changes to the more complex 'ooo, whew, whew, whew, whew, whew' song, you can easily recognize a common grackle within a flock of flying birds.

Common grackles are very active birds, especially in the daytime, when they spend most of their time foraging for insects after a lawn trimming. They prefer to eat from the ground at bird feeders, especially when their favorite meal of corn crops is placed there.

In the breeding season, males tip their heads back and fluff up feathers to display and keep other males away. This same behavior is used as a defensive posture to attempt to intimidate predators. These birds are territorial around their nests.


All About the European Starlings: Their Unique Characteristics

Starling
Starling

European Starlings are medium-sized birds with glossy black plumage. They have pink legs and bills colored black in winter and yellow in summer. You can differentiate the younger starlings by their grey-brown overall. The male adult has rich brown irises, unlike females with grey irises.

Distribution and Habitat

Starlings are widely distributed in Europe, Eurasia, northern Africa, and India. However, those found in Europe are referred to as European Starlings. The starlings found in northern Europe often migrate southeastward or southwestward, and therefore starlings can be found all around Europe.

You can easily spot a European starling in urban or suburban areas, farmlands, grazing pastures, playing fields, reedbeds, and golf fields. Occasionally, they can be found in open forests, woodlands, shrubby areas, and coastal areas. This enables them to forage for their meal.

Behavioral Pattern and Lifestyle

These highly sociable birds would rather walk or run than hop. They are usually seen in noisy flocks near roosts, especially during the winter or autumn. These birds have various songs for various activities.

They communicate within themselves with calls such as flock calls, threat calls, attack calls, and copulation calls.

You can hear a harsh scream which serves as an alarm call, or even while foraging, and you can hear them squabbling incessantly.

You don't want to hear them chattering when roosting or bathing, and it can't be very pleasant, especially if you're nearby. One surprising thing about starlings is that the male is usually the songsters, although the females sing occasionally.

Starlings have three types of foraging behavior -- probing, hawking, and lunging. These behaviors enable them to maneuver the soil catching meals like earthworms.

Fun Fact: Starlings also have one peculiar characteristic! They belong to a special type of bird species that lay blue eggs. The American Robin and House Finch are two that belong to this species.


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Frequently Asked Questions

Are Grackles and Starlings a Similar Bird?

You might be tempted to refer to these birds as the same bird because of their similarities. However, it would be best to know that these birds differ from each other in terms of appearance and behavior.

Also, grackles and starlings are birds of different species and families. They are not the same birds!

Grackles belong to the family Icteridae, while starlings are part of the family Sturnidae.

Do Grackles and Starlings Flock Together?

The truth is that if you want to spot a grackle, look for any large flock of starlings, and you might see a grackle in between. This is because these birds flock together after the nesting season. 

Because they are usually seen together, identifying them can be challenging and confusing.

Starling vs Grackle vs Blackbird - Are There Any Differences?

What if I told you that there is another species of bird similar to the grackle and starling? The blackbird is a species of bird that can be mistaken for starling or grackle. Surprised right? 

You can differentiate a blackbird from the two other birds because blackbirds are considerably the smallest out of the three, with an average length of 8 inches.

It also has a characteristic very short triangular-shaped beak. Let's not forget that the common blackbirds belong to the family Turdidae.


Conclusion

And that's all, guys! I am sure with this article, when next you spot a bird at your feeder in your backyard; you will easily tell if it's a grackle or starling.

These two birds are different from each other; irrespective that they possess some similar features, you can differentiate them on closer contact with them. By observing grackle or starling physical appearances and behavioral patterns, you can quickly tell them apart.

And who knows, you just might become a bird enthusiast like me!

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