Difference Between Grackle and Starling - Happiestbeaks

Hammad Tariq

· 10 min read
Difference Between Grackle and Starling

The passerine family includes grackles and starlings, which are both known for their unique looks and behaviours. One key difference lies in their physical characteristics. Grackles typically have longer tails and more slender bodies compared to starlings. The feathers of grackles are often shiny and have shades of blue, green, or purple.

Starlings, on the other hand, have smoother colouring with glossy black feathers and spots. Behaviorally, grackles are known for their raucous calls and aggressive feeding habits, while starlings are highly social birds that often form large flocks. These differences can help you tell these bird species apart and enjoy their unique qualities in the wild.

How do you tell the difference between a starling and a blackbird?

Distinguishing between a starling and a blackbird can be challenging due to their similar appearances, but there are key features that can help differentiate them. The feathers of starlings are smooth and glossy, with a purple or green sheen.

The feathers of blackbirds are duller and don't iridize. Starlings also usually have a long, thin head and a short, squared-off tail. On the other hand, blackbirds usually have a longer tail and a thick, cone-shaped bill.

Another thing that sets them apart is how they act. Starlings are known for being social and are often seen in large flocks and performing murmurations, while blackbirds tend to be solo or in smaller groups.

Vocalizations can also aid in identification; starlings produce a wide range of vocalizations, including whistles and mimicked sounds, while blackbirds have a distinct melodious song. Birdwatchers can easily tell the difference between starlings and blackbirds in their natural environments by looking at these physical traits and behaviors.

Key Differences Between Grackles vs. Starlings:

Size and Shape

The main ways to tell the difference between starlings and blackbirds are by their size and shape. Starlings typically measure around 7-9 inches in length with a wingspan of 12-16 inches. They have a compact, stocky build with a short tail and a pointed, triangular-shaped head.

Blackbirds, on the other hand, are a bit bigger. Their bodies are 8 to 11 inches long, and their wingspan is 13 to 17 inches. They have a more elongated body shape, longer tail, and a rounded head. Aside from that, blackbirds tend to stand a little straighter than starlings.

By putting the two species next to each other and comparing their sizes and shapes, birdwatchers can more easily tell the difference between starlings and blackbirds when they are out in the field.

Plumage Coloration

Another important way to tell the difference between starlings and blackbirds is by the colour of their feathers. When the light is just right, starlings' feathers have bits of purple or green that make them shine. This is especially true on their heads and backs.

Some species of starlings may also have white spots or streaks, particularly during certain times of the year or in specific regions. Blackbirds, on the other hand, usually have uniform black feathers, though some species may have small differences in colour, like reddish tints on their wings or undersides.

Also, male blackbirds often have bright yellow or orange spots on their bills or around their eyes, especially when they are breeding. Birdwatchers can tell the difference between starlings and blackbirds in a variety of settings and habitats by carefully watching these differences in the colour of their feathers.


A big part of telling the difference between starlings and blackbirds is their calls. Starlings are known for their wide repertoire of vocalizations, including a variety of whistles, clicks, and harsh, chattering calls. Their songs are usually a mix of different notes and phrases that make a melody.

Sometimes, they imitate the sounds of other birds or the surroundings. Blackbirds, on the other hand, have unique calls with deep, rich tones and sweet songs. Common blackbird calls include clear, flute-like whistles and repetitive, flute-like phrases.

Male blackbirds are also known for their loud territorial and love songs, which they use to mark their territory and find mates. By paying attention to these changes in sounds, birdwatchers can tell the difference between starlings and blackbirds based on their different songs and calls in different places.


There are changes in how starlings and blackbirds act that can help you tell them apart. Starlings are highly social birds known for their gregarious behavior, often forming large flocks, especially during migration and winter months.

They are opportunistic feeders and can be frequently seen foraging on the ground or perched in trees and shrubs. Starlings are also known for being quick and flexible, and they are not afraid to look for food and places to nest in cities.

On the other hand, blackbirds exhibit more solitary or territorial behavior, especially during the breeding season. They are often found in pairs or small family groups, with males vigorously defending their territories through vocal displays and aggressive behavior.

Blackbirds usually look for food on the ground, like bugs, nuts, and fruits. But they can also get food from plants and trees. Knowing these changes in behavior can help you tell the difference between starlings and blackbirds in different environments and watch how they interact with other birds in the same area.

Habitat Preferences

Blackbirds and starlings like different kinds of habitats, which helps you tell them apart. Starlings are very flexible birds that live in a lot of different places, like cities, parks, farming fields, and forests.

They are particularly abundant in human-altered landscapes, where they exploit various food sources and nesting sites. Blackbirds, on the other hand, like to live in more natural places like grasslands, marshes, and lakes.

They are often associated with water bodies and dense vegetation, where they build nests and forage for insects, seeds, and other food items. Birdwatchers and researchers can find starlings and blackbirds in their natural habitats and understand the ecological roles they play in different ecosystems by learning about these habitat choices.

Feeding Habits

Starlings and blackbirds exhibit distinct feeding habits that reflect their dietary preferences and foraging behaviours. Starlings are opportunistic omnivores known for their diverse diet, which includes fruits, seeds, insects, and human food scraps. They often hunt for food on the ground in big groups, digging through the grass and soil for bugs and seeds or picking through trash in cities to find food.

Blackbirds, on the other hand, have more specific ways of eating. During the breeding season, many kinds only eat insects and other invertebrates. They may also consume seeds, grains, and berries, especially outside the breeding season.

Blackbirds usually look for food in places with lots of plants, like marshes, wetlands, and farm fields, where they can find lots of food in the plants and the dirt. Knowing these changes in how they eat can help you tell the difference between starlings and blackbirds in different environments and learn more about their ecology.

Distribution and Migration

Because of how they've evolved in their environments and how they've lived their lives, starlings and blackbirds have different migration and distribution trends. Starlings, particularly the European Starling, have successfully established populations across much of North America, where they are considered invasive.

They are year-round residents in many regions, although populations may migrate short distances to seek food or avoid harsh weather conditions. On the other hand, blackbirds' migration habits are more complicated. Examples include the Red-winged Blackbird and the Common Grackle.

Many blackbird species breed in North America during the summer months and migrate south to warmer regions, such as Central and South America, for the winter.

During their migrations, which can cover long distances, big groups of birds often move together. Understanding these migration and distribution trends is important for protecting starlings and blackbirds and monitoring how their populations change across their ranges.


Starlings and blackbirds are two distinct groups of birds with noticeable differences in size, plumage coloration, vocalisations, behaviour, habitat preferences, feeding habits, and distribution patterns. Starlings are often smaller than blackbirds, with iridescent plumage and a wide range of vocalisations.

They are highly adaptable and can be found in various habitats, including urban areas. Blackbirds, on the other hand, tend to have more subdued plumage, distinct vocalisations, and prefer habitats such as wetlands, marshes, and grasslands.

They exhibit complex migration patterns, with many species migrating south during the winter months. Understanding these differences is crucial for bird identification, conservation efforts, and managing potential conflicts between humans and these avian species.

Frequently Asked Questions

Starling vs grackle sounds?

Starlings are known for their wide range of vocalisations, including whistles, clicks, and mimicry, while grackles have a distinct, harsh call often described as a loud, metallic "chuck" or "chuck."

About Hammad Tariq

Hammad Tariq, the passionate founder and author of HappiestBeaks, is a dedicated bird enthusiast, caretaker, and lover. With a deep-seated affection for avian companions, he channels his expertise into crafting insightful and informative blogs on bird care and behavior.