GRACKLE (Lat. Gracculus or Graculus), a word much used in ornithology, generally in a vague sense, though restricted to members of the families Sturnidae belonging to the Old World and Icteridae belonging to the New. Of the former those to which it has been most commonly applied are the species known as mynas, mainas, and minors of India and the adjacent countries, and especially the Gracula religiosa of Linnaeus, who, according to Jerdon and others, was probably led to confer this epithet upon it by confounding it with the Sturnus or Acridotheres tristis, which is regarded by the Hindus as sacred to Ram Deo, one of their deities, while the true Gracula religiosa does not seem to be anywhere held in veneration. This last is about 10 in. in length, clothed in a plumage of glossy black, with purple and green reflections, and a conspicuous patch of white on the quill-feathers of the wings. The bill is orange and the legs yellow, but the bird’s most characteristic feature is afforded by the curious wattles of bright yellow, which, beginning behind the eyes, run backwards in form of a lappet on each side, and then return in a narrow stripe to the top of the head. Beneath each eye also is a bare patch of the same colour. This species is common in southern India, and is represented farther to the north, in Ceylon, Burma, and some of the Malay Islands by cognate forms. They are all frugivorous, and, being easily tamed and learning to pronounce words very distinctly, are favourite cage-birds.
In America the name Grackle has been applied to several species of the genera Scolecophagus and Quiscalus, though these are more commonly called in the United States and Canada “blackbirds,” and some of them “boat-tails.” They all belong to the family Icteridae. The best known of these are the rusty grackle, S. ferrugineus, which is found in almost the whole of North America, and Q. purpureus, the purple grackle or crow-blackbird, of more limited range, for though abundant in most parts to the east of the Rocky Mountains, it seems not to appear on the Pacific side. There is also Brewer’s or the blue-headed grackle, S. cyanocephalus, which has a more western range, not occurring to the eastward of Kansas and Minnesota. A fourth species, Q. major, inhabits the Atlantic States as far north as North Carolina. All these birds are of exceedingly omnivorous habit, and though destroying large numbers of pernicious insects are in many places held in bad repute from the mischief they do to the corn-crops. (A. N.)
- By some writers the birds of the genera Acridotheres and Temenuchus are considered to be the true mynas, and the species of Gracula are called “hill mynas” by way of distinction.
- For a valuable monograph on the various species of Gracula and its allies see Professor Schlegel’s “Bijdrage tot de Kennis von het Geschlacht Beo’ ” (Nederlandsch Tijdschrift voor de Dierkunde i. 1-9).2