Tzanatl (Nahua) ‘tailed’: Zanate (or Zanate mayor) is the Mexican common name for the Great-tailed Grackle (GTGR), Quiscalis mexicanus. In Belizean kriol, it is simply Blackbird. Further south, it is called Clarinero (or Clarinero mayor). In Orioles, Blackbirds & Their Kin, ornithologist Alexander Skutch writes that in Costa Rica the males are called clarineros for their bugling behavior, while the females are called sanates.
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, (GTGR), Q mexicanus—the Belizean species portrayed 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 Gone Before?
Who was it that said: “A journey of a thousand birds begins with a single grackle”?
N.B. Check Notes & Observations as well as Essays for up-to-date posts.
Last updated: 31 January, 2013