It All Begins With Grackles

N.B. New writing is posted under Essays/Posts and Notes & Observations.


Tzanatle (Nahua)’tailed’: Zanate (or Zanate mayor) is the Mexican common name for the Great-tailed Grackle (Quiscalus mexicanus). In Belize Kriol, it is simply Blackbird. Further south it is called Clarinaro (or Clarinaro mayor). In Orioles, Blackbirds and Their Kin, ornithologist Alexander Skutch explains that in Costa Rica the males are known as clarinaros for their bugling calls, while the females are called sanates.


More than 590 species of birds have been identified in Belize, possibly the most abundant of which is the Great-tailed Grackle (Quiscalus mexicanus).  Grackles are icterids, New World blackbirds, found from Canada to Brazil, but particularly in Central & northern South America.  There are six extant species in genus Quiscalus:

1. Great-tailed Grackle, Q mexicanus—pictured here, breeds from Minnesota to Peru
2.  Common Grackle, Q quiscula—widespread over the eastern 2/3 of North America
3.  Boat-tailed Grackle, Q major—U.S. Gulf & Atlantic Coast endemic
4.  Greater Antillean Grackle, Q niger—of Cuba, Jamaica, Hispaniola & Puerto Rico
5.  Carib Grackle, Q lugubris—of the Lesser Antilles & adjoining mainland coast
6.  Nicaraguan Grackle, Q nicaraguensis—of Nicaragua & Costa Rica

In addition, Q palustris—the Slender-billed Grackle—originally found in the Valleys of Mexico and Toluca, possibly a freshwater marsh specialist, is considered extinct.

Four forest-dwelling S American icterids placed in the genera Hypopyrrhus (1), Lampropsar (1) and Macroagelaius (2) are called grackles: their exact relationship to Quiscalus is uncertain.   A few mostly black-plumaged starlings, South Asian Hill-Mynahs of the genus Gracula and the Middle Eastern starling Onychognathus tristramii, may also be referred to as grackles.

What’s New?

The Art of Proxy War — The “Demerara Boy,” the ‘Unfaithful’ Mayan General and the Irish ‘British Sir’

    Imperial proxies come in all shades and ethnicities.  Though they see themselves as pursuing their own paths, they enjoy imperial support only so long as they advance the empire’s interests.  In January 1892, three such came together in Belize City: a nameless African or Afro-Caribbean acting as interpreter for a Cruzob Maya embassy; the Cruzob general Jose Crescencio Puc, who would pay the ultimate price for appearing to collaborate with the Mexicans; and Sir (Cornelius) Alfred Moloney, the Governor of British Honduras.

What’s Next?

A Parrot by Any Other Name: Would It Squawk as Loud? (With Apologies to both W Shakespeare and D Stap)

    What’s in a name? Potentially a great deal of information without which, one is limited to vague surmises.

What’s Gone Before?

7) The Mermaid’s Tell-Tale Tail: A Picture More Accurate Than a Thousand Words 6) Linnaean Taxonomy and Greek Mythology: Till Death Do Them Part5) Part I Paleontology and the Modern Evolutionary Synthesis: From George Gaylord Simpson to Niles Eldredge and Stephen Jay Gould 4) [Preliminary Post]    George Gaylord Simpson, Palaeontology and Modern Evolutionary Theory3) Don’t It Always Seem to Go/ You Don’t Know What You’ve Got/ Till You’ve Gone?(With Apologies to J Mitchell) 2) A Third Explanation for Sexual Size Dimorphism among Raptors — Why think of it as enlarged females rather than reduced males?1) Great-tailed Grackle As Negative Indicator Species

What’s Coming in the Long Term?

Who Are The Birds Of Belize When They’re At Home? Migration vs. Evolution

    Where do they come from?   Where do they go?   When?

Who was it that said: “A journey of a thousand birds begins with a single grackle”? _________________________________________________ Last updated: 14 July 2014 © 2012,2014 Nathaniel Wander, PhD Website counter