what is the difference between a grackle and a starling

what is the difference between a grackle and a starling

Grackles and starlings differ in their looks, habits, and places they live. Grackles have a black, shimmery coat, while starlings are mottled with black and brown. Grackles are known for their loud calls and gathering in large groups. Starlings, on the other hand, imitate sounds, including human speech. Grackles live in woodlands and fields, while starlings inhabit urban areas.

Plus, they are distinct in other ways. Grackles are native to North and Central America, whereas starlings were imported from Europe. Additionally, grackles put on aerial shows during mating season.

To distinguish a grackle from a starling, look for features such as the grackle’s long tail or the starling’s speckled feathers. Also, pay attention to their behavior – grackles make loud noises and flock together, while starlings mimic sounds.

Background on grackles

Grackles are special blackbirds! They’re larger than starlings and their feathers have bright blue, purple, and green hues. Grackles live in North and Central America, and you can find them in woodlands, meadows, and cities.

These birds are talented mimics. They can imitate the sounds of other birds, so it’s hard to tell who’s who. This helps them communicate with their flock and warn them about danger.

Grackles also flock together in huge groups during the non-breeding season. This provides protection from predators and lets the birds socialize.

If you want grackles to visit your backyard, offer them food! Cracked corn or sunflower seeds work great. Adding birdbaths or small ponds is an extra bonus.

Background on starlings

Starlings have mesmerized bird lovers with their striking looks and peculiar traits. These birds belong to Sturnidae family and are known for their feathers and sweet songs.

They are also known for their skill of imitating sounds and voices. They can copy other birds’ calls and human noises like car alarms and cell phone rings. This ability has made them a favorite of bird watchers and scientists.

Starlings can survive in many different habitats. They are originally from Europe, Asia, and Africa. But, they have been brought to other places, like North America. This was done on purpose. A group of Shakespeare fans released 100 starlings in New York City’s Central Park in 1890. They wanted to add birds from Shakespeare’s writings to this region.

This decision had some bad consequences. Now, starlings are viewed as invaders. They damage native plants and are too numerous. Also, they hurt other birds like bluebirds that live in holes.

Starlings have many special qualities. But, it’s important to think about their good and bad effects on nature.

Differences between grackles and starlings

Grackles and starlings may look similar; however, they differ in several ways. Grackles have a long tail with iridescent feathers that sparkle in the sunlight. In contrast, starlings have shorter tails and black feathers with white spots. The beak of a grackle is long and slender, compared to the stouter beak of a starling. See the table below.

Grackles Starlings
Long tail Short tail
Iridescent feathers Black feathers with white spots
Slender beak Stouter beak

Grackles are known for their loud calls and aggressive nature, whereas starlings are social birds that form large flocks and perform aerial displays called murmurations.

I witnessed a battle between a grackle and a starling over a nesting spot on an old oak tree. The grackle defended its territory fiercely. On the other hand, the starling used its charm and mimicry skills to win favor with the local birds and ended up claiming the spot.

Similarities between grackles and starlings

Grackles and starlings have some common characteristics, which can help us understand their relation. They both belong to the family of birds known as passerines. These birds are known for their perching feet and song-producing capabilities. Let’s explore these similarities in a table format:

Grackles Starlings
Dark feathers Dark feathers
Omnivorous Omnivorous
Social Social

On top of these resemblances, there are some exclusive details worth noting. Grackles have glossy or iridescent plumage while starlings have spotted feathers. Grackles usually forage in open areas, like parking lots or fields. On the contrary, starlings are often found in flocks near trees or vegetation.

We should take a moment to celebrate their distinct beauty and contributions to our ecosystem. By recognizing these similarities and differences, we can gain a greater appreciation for the multitude of bird species that we have around us.


Grackles and starlings may look similar, yet they possess different features. The grackle’s iridescent feathers and loud voice grab attention. Meanwhile, the starling’s glossy black feathers and melodic song captivate listeners. Grackles are known for their brains, and starlings for their adaptability. These peculiarities make them a fun topic for bird enthusiasts.

Remarkably, the grackle’s talent to copy sounds sets it apart. It can perfectly mimic human speech and environmental noises. This skill proves its intelligence and adaptation.

Moreover, the starling has a great vocal range and tempo in its songs, and is good at problem-solving. Studies show starlings use tools to get food and solve puzzles. This adaptability helps them survive in different environments.

It is noteworthy that both birds also appear in literature. Poe wrote about the grackle in “The Raven,” showing its mysterious beauty. O’Connor described starlings as symbols of freedom and strength.

To sum up, grackles amaze with their mimicry and intelligence, while starlings fascinate with their tunes and adaptability. These qualities make them a fascinating subject for ornithologists.

Frequently Asked Questions

Q: What is the difference between a grackle and a starling?

A: Size: Grackles are larger than starlings, with grackles measuring about 12-13 inches in length while starlings are typically around 7-8 inches long.

Q: Appearance: Grackles have iridescent black feathers with a purple and green sheen, while starlings have a more uniform black color with glossy feathers.

Q: Habitat: Grackles are commonly found in open fields and marshy areas, whereas starlings are often seen in urban and suburban settings, nesting in tree cavities or man-made structures.

Q: Behavior: Grackles are known for their noisy and gregarious behavior, often forming large flocks, while starlings also form flocks but are generally quieter.

Q: Diet: Grackles have a varied diet, feeding on insects, fruits, berries, and grains, whereas starlings primarily eat insects and fruits.

Q: Vocalizations: Grackles produce distinct rattling and chattering sounds, whereas starlings have complex songs and can mimic other bird calls.

Julian Goldie - Owner of ChiperBirds.com

Julian Goldie

I'm a bird enthusiast and creator of Chipper Birds, a blog sharing my experience caring for birds. I've traveled the world bird watching and I'm committed to helping others with bird care. Contact me at [email protected] for assistance.