Family New World Blackbirds (Icteridae)

Least Concern

Great-tailed Grackle (Quiscalus mexicanus)


French: Quiscale à longue queue German: Großschwanzgrackel Spanish: Zanate mexicano

C[orvus]. mexicanus

J. F. Gmelin

, 1788,

area around Veracruz city, Veracruz, Mexico


Closely related to Q. major; occasional hybrids between the two reported along coast of S USA (in Texas and Louisiana). Study of mitochondrial DNA revealed two clades with fairly deep sequence divergence (3.1%), one formed by W races nelsoni and graysoni, which is more closely related to extinct †Q. palustris of C Mexican Plateau, the other including all other races; despite this, nelsoni hybridizes freely with monsoni in S USA (California and Arizona) following range expansion in 20th century. In Mexico, nominate race intergrades with obscurus in Guerrero (Balsas Valley), with prosopidicola in S Tamaulipas, and with loweryi in extreme W Campeche. Eight subspecies recognized.

Subspecies and Distribution
  • Q. m. nelsoni (Ridgway, 1901) – SW USA (from C California, Nevada and SW Arizona) S to NW Mexico (N Baja California and Sonora).
  • Q. m. graysoni P. L. Sclater, 1884 – Western Grackle – coast of Sinaloa, in W Mexico.
  • Q. m. obscurus Nelson, 1900 – W coast of Mexico from Nayarit S to Guerrero.
  • Q. m. monsoni (A. R. Phillips, 1950) – SW USA (SE California, C Arizona, Utah and Colorado S to New Mexico and W Texas) S to C Mexico (Zacatecas).
  • Q. m. prosopidicola (Lowery, 1938) – C & S USA (from Nebraska S to C Texas and Louisiana) and NE Mexico (Coahuila, Nuevo León and Tamaulipas).
  • Q. m. mexicanus (J. F. Gmelin, 1788) – Great-tailed Grackle – C Mexico (from E Jalisco, San Luis Potosí and S Tamaulipas) S to Nicaragua.
  • Q. m. loweryi (Dickerman & A. R. Phillips, 1966) – Yucatán Peninsula, including Cozumel I and other nearby islands, S to Belize.
  • Q. m. peruvianus Swainson, 1838 – Costa Rica, Panama and Colombia E on Caribbean coast to NW Venezuela (Zulia) and S along Pacific coast to W Ecuador and extreme NW Peru (Tumbes).
  • Species is currently spreading N (& E) within USA, having now reached as far N as Oregon, S Idaho, South Dakota and Minnesota; this involves the three N races (nelsoni and monsoni in W, prosopidicola in E), but detailed information lacking as to exact range limits of each race, and situation complicated by extensive intergradation. Also a recent breeding record in Dominican Republic#R.

    Descriptive notes

    Male 43 cm, average 230 g; female 33 cm, average 125 g. Large icterid with large bill and long tail. Male nominate race is entirely black, with violet iridescence on head,... read more


    Song of male variable within a colony, also among races. First part of song consists of hard notes... read more


    Most types of habitat, except for unbroken forest. Found originally in marshes, coastal mudflats... read more

    Food and feeding

    Omnivorous and opportunistic. Feeds on invertebrates, small vertebrates, carrion, berries and fruits, seeds, and discarded food scraps.... read more


    Season Mar–Jul in S USA (Texas) and Jan–Jul in Costa Rica; double-brooded in Guatemala and perhaps elsewhere in tropics.... read more


    Apparently resident in most of range. A short-distance migrant in extreme N, though even these... read more

    Status and conservation

    Not globally threatened (Least Concern). Common throughout range; abundant in man-made habitats. Has extended N since middle of 20th century, e.g. in Mexico colonized NW... read more

    Recommended citation

    Fraga, R. (2020). Great-tailed Grackle (Quiscalus mexicanus). In: del Hoyo, J., Elliott, A., Sargatal, J., Christie, D.A. & de Juana, E. (eds.). Handbook of the Birds of the World Alive. Lynx Edicions, Barcelona. (retrieved from on 26 February 2020).