Starling vs Grackle: A Detailed Comparison

Starling vs Grackle

Bird lovers often find it challenging to distinguish between certain species due to their striking similarities. This is especially true when it comes to Starlings and Grackles. Both birds exhibit similar behaviors and appearances, making it difficult for an untrained eye to tell them apart. 

In this guide, we delve into a detailed comparison of Starlings Vs. Grackles, highlighting their primary differences and similarities.

Starling Vs Grackle Comparison Chart

AppearanceSmaller size (7.5 – 9 inches), short square-ended tail, pointed wings, and a short, sharp-pointed bill.Larger size (11 – 13 inches), long V-shaped tail, broad and rounded wings, and a long, stout bill.
Plumage ColorGlossy black plumage with an iridescent purple or green sheen in the sunlight.Glossy black plumage, often appearing shiny blue or purple in sunlight.
HabitatUrban areas, farmlands, and forests.Wetlands, fields, parks, and urban areas.
DistributionNative to Eurasia but introduced to many other parts of the world.Primarily found in North America.
BehaviorKnown for their mimicking abilities, often copying sounds from their environment.Less vocal, more likely to be seen foraging on the ground in large flocks.
Diet and Feeding StyleOmnivorous, eating insects, fruits, seeds, and even garbage.Omnivorous, feeding on insects, seeds, berries, minnows, eggs, and small birds.
BreedingMonogamous, with both parents caring for the young.Polygynous, with males having multiple mates.
NestingNests in cavities, often in buildings or other structures.Nests in trees or shrubs, often over water.
VocalizationComplex songs are composed of various notes, trills, and mimicry.Harsh, jarring calls and simple songs.

Main Differences Between Starling Vs. Grackle

Starlings and Grackles are two distinct bird species with several key differences. Here are the main distinctions between these two bird species:


Starlings are medium-sized birds with glossy black plumage and iridescent feathers that shimmer with shades of green and purple in the sunlight. They have a slender, streamlined body shape and a pointed beak. In the winter, their feathers can show specks of white.

In contrast, Grackles are also medium-sized birds but have a more robust build. Their plumage is predominantly black, but it appears more matte compared to the glossy feathers of Starlings. Grackles have long, slightly-keeled tails and strong, thick beaks. Males have piercing yellow eyes, while females have brown eyes.


Starlings and Grackles have some differences in their preferred habitats. Starlings have a wide distribution because they are adaptable to different environments like urban areas, forests, and agricultural lands. They are highly adaptable to human-made structures and have even been known to nest in buildings and bridges. This adaptability has allowed Starlings to thrive in various habitats around the world.

On the other hand, Grackles have a preference for wetland areas, marshes, and open fields. They are found near water bodies such as ponds or lakes because they feed on insects and small invertebrates that live there. Grackles are less likely to be found in urban areas and tend to stick to more natural habitats.

It is worth noting that both Starlings and Grackles can adapt to different environments to some extent. While Starlings are more versatile in their habitat choices, Grackles are still capable of thriving in diverse ecosystems.

Starling Bird


Starlings are a widely distributed bird species found in various parts of the world. The starlings are originally from Europe, Asia, and North Africa. But can be found in Australia, and New Zealand too. This has helped them successfully establish themselves in these regions. In some areas, Starlings are considered invasive species due to their aggressive nesting behavior and competition with native bird species.

On the other hand, Grackles have a more limited distribution. Grackles are mainly found in North and Central America and the Caribbean, with some species extending into those areas. They are commonly found in parts such as Mexico and Canada. Their preference for wetland areas and open fields restricts their distribution compared to the more versatile Starlings.

It is important to note that both Starlings and Grackles are constantly adapting and expanding their ranges. Human activities, such as urbanization and habitat alteration, can influence their distribution patterns. 


Starlings are highly sociable birds that often gather in large flocks. They are known for their synchronized movements, creating mesmerizing displays in the sky. Birds form flocks for different purposes such as searching for food, resting, and defending themselves from predators. Starlings are also excellent communicators, using a wide range of vocalizations and visual displays to communicate with their flock members.

Grackles, on the other hand, are known for their intelligent feeding strategies. They have been observed using tools to extract food and solving complex food puzzles. Grackles are opportunistic feeders and can be quite resourceful in finding food sources. They have a unique way of foraging, flicking aside leaves or grass with their beaks to uncover hidden insects or seeds. This behavior demonstrates their adaptability and problem-solving abilities.

Apart from their feeding behaviors, both Starlings and Grackles are migratory birds, traveling long distances in search of seasonal resources. During migration, they form large mixed flocks, often with other bird species, creating an incredible spectacle in the sky. Migration allows them to access different food sources and breeding grounds throughout the year.

Plumage Color

The plumage of starlings is shiny and has an iridescent quality. It can change color based on the species and the season. In general, adult Starlings have a dark, blackish-blue, or greenish-black body with speckles of white or light spots. However, during the breeding season, some species develop vibrant colors, such as metallic purple, green, or bronze. This flashy plumage is often accompanied by bright yellow eyes and a yellow or orange bill, adding to their eye-catching appearance.

In contrast, Grackles are known for their predominantly black plumage. The feathers of adult Grackles have a glossy sheen, reflecting shades of blue, green, or purple under certain lighting conditions. Male Grackles often display iridescent feathers on their head, neck, or body, which can range from bronzy-black to bluish-purple. In contrast, females generally display less iridescence and have a somewhat muted appearance.

During the breeding season, both Starlings and Grackles can undergo significant changes in their plumage coloration. Males, for instance, may develop brighter and more intense colors, such as a deep purple or blue, to attract mates.

Diet And Feeding Style

Starlings have a diverse diet that includes insects, fruits, seeds, and small vertebrates, which makes them opportunistic omnivores. Their adaptability allows them to thrive in various habitats, such as urban areas and farmland, by utilizing any food sources that are accessible.

On the other hand, Grackles are more specialized in their feeding habits. They primarily feed on insects, small invertebrates, and seeds. Grackles have long bills that they use to dig into the soil or probe shallow water for prey. They are also skilled at catching insects on the wing, using their agility and quick maneuvers.


Breeding is a crucial aspect of the life cycle of both Starlings and Grackles, and understanding their breeding patterns can provide valuable insights into their population dynamics and behavior.

Both Starlings and Grackles have distinct breeding seasons that typically occur during the spring and summer months. During this time, males engage in courtship displays to attract female mates. These displays often involve vocalizations, posturing, and intricate flight patterns designed to showcase their fitness and attract attention.

Grackle Bird


When it comes to nest building, Starlings and Grackles employ different strategies. Starlings are cavity nesters and are known to utilize natural tree cavities or artificial nest boxes for nesting. They are skilled at creating messy nests made of grass, twigs, and other available materials. Grackles, on the other hand, do not rely on cavities for nesting. Instead, they build cup-shaped nests using a combination of twigs, grass, and mud.

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After the eggs are laid, both Starlings and Grackles go through a period of incubation. The female is primarily responsible for incubating the eggs, while the male may assist in feeding and protecting the nest. The period that the parents take care of the nest and regulate its temperature and humidity to ensure the successful development of the chicks usually lasts for approximately two weeks.

After hatching, the parents keep taking care of their young ones by providing them with food and other requirements. Both Starlings and Grackles are diligent parents, feeding their chicks a diet of insects and small invertebrates to ensure their growth and survival. The parents take turns foraging for food and returning to the nest to feed the hungry chicks.

As the chicks grow, they undergo a process called fledging, which is when they develop the necessary strength and skills to leave the nest. This usually occurs around two to three weeks after hatching. Even after leaving their nest, the young birds still rely on their parents for food and protection. However, they gradually learn the skills needed for self-care. This period of fledging and independence is crucial for the development and survival of the young birds.


Another intriguing aspect of Starlings and Grackles is their vocalization. Both species are known for their diverse repertoire of calls and songs, which play an important role in communication and establishing territories.

Starlings are highly vocal birds, capable of producing a wide range of sounds. Their songs are typically melodious and complex, consisting of a mixture of warbles, whistles, and mimicry. They have an impressive ability to imitate the sounds of other birds and even human speech, which adds to their unique vocal repertoire.

Grackles, on the other hand, have a more characteristic call that is often described as a sharp, high-pitched “chack” or “chuck.” These calls are used for various purposes, such as communication within their flock, warning signals to alert others of potential threats, and territorial displays.


Do Grackles And Starlings Run Together?

Both Grackles and Starlings are known to form large flocks, which often leads to confusion among bird enthusiasts. It is not uncommon to see these two species feeding, roosting, or even migrating together. This behavior may give the impression that Grackles and Starlings run together, but it is important to note that they are separate species with distinct characteristics.

Are Grackles And Starlings Similar Birds?

While Grackles and Starlings may share some similarities in appearance and behavior, they are ultimately different bird species. The main differences between them are their size of the body and shape. Grackles are generally larger with long legs and a long, keeled tail, while Starlings are slightly smaller and have a more compact body.

How Do You Identify A Starling Bird?

To identify a Starling bird, look for medium-sized, stocky birds with short tails and triangular wings. Their plumage is glossy black, shimmering with iridescence in sunlight, and white-spotted in winter. They have pinkish legs, a yellow bill, and are known for mimicking sounds. In flight, their wings form a star-shaped silhouette, hence their name ‘Starling’.


While Starlings and Grackles share some similarities, such as their glossy black plumage and adaptability to various habitats, they are distinct species with unique characteristics. Both birds play vital roles in the ecosystem, contributing to seed dispersal and pest control. Understanding these differences can enhance bird-watching experiences and contribute to conservation efforts.

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