The Nicaraguan Grackle

Found only in Nicaragua, and more recently in neighboring northern Costa Rica, the Nicaraguan grackle (Quiscalus nicaraguensis) is a familiar sight in the vicinity of Lake Managua and Lake Nicaragua. While its range is quite limited, because of its population size, it is not considered to be threatened and is listed as being of ‘least concern’ by the IUCN (International Union for Conservation of Nature) from a conservation standpoint. The Nicaraguan Grackle is often seen in pastures and agricultural fields, particularly around cattle, foraging on the ground for insects and seeds, and as farmers clear forested land to extend their agricultural activities, so too the range of the grackle is extended.

Measuring an average of 31 cm long, the male Nicaraguan grackle has black plumage with an eye-catching iridescence shaded violet on its tail and belly, violet-green on its back, head and breast, and blue-green on its wings. The male’s tail is V-shaped, which is very prominent when the bird is in flight. The female is quite different from the male, being brown with a pale stripe over the eye. She has dark brown thighs, flanks and undertail-coverts, while her underparts are beige and shaded darker on her upper breast, becoming paler on the throat and belly.

Small colonies of Nicaraguan grackles will generally nest in marshland, but can be seen foraging in scrubland, along riverbanks and lakeshores, as well as in wet pastures. They tend to feed in groups and are known for turning over stones and other debris to find insects underneath, thereby helping to keep insect populations in check. The female lays two or three blue eggs with dark markings, which she will incubate on her own. However, both male and female will feed the hatchlings. They make a variety of calls, with whistling sounds, nasal sounds and a sharp, whining sound, while their song consists of a repertoire of whistles increasing in frequency and speed.

Visitors to Nicaragua’s western regions may want to keep an eye out for the Nicaraguan grackle – one of the many different bird species found in this fascinating Central American country.