There are some names that seem to perfectly describe the creature to which they belong. Warblers, for example, are graceful little birds with voices that range from melodic to cheerfully buzzy. The name “warbler” captures the spirit of the birds that it describes. Now where does that leave us with a name like “grackle?” Grackle is brash sounding word; it evokes the qualities of a creature that is abrasive and stubborn. It’s hardly a surprise, then, that the grackle describes a bird that is a bold, noisy, and polarizing opportunist.
Grackles are often mistakenly identified as corvids, or members of the family including crows, ravens, jays, and magpies. (1) In fact, despite their much longer bills, tails, and general shape, grackles are more closely associated with blackbirds. (2) Like many other blackbird species, grackles are commonly found in urban environments. They thrive off of human leftovers and are extremely resourceful.
Unfortunately, the adaptability of the grackle, combined with their brazenness around humans and their tendency to make lots of noise, has led them to be seen by many as a nuisance animal. In all fairness, the grackle is a decidedly gregarious bird. They are notorious for their repertoire of songs and calls which range from chattering calls, to whistles, to squeaky metallic shrieks. (3)
One has to wonder, though, if the negative reputation of the grackle comes from something other than noise. What is a nuisance animal if not a clever creature that has dared to adapt to human habitation of the earth’s natural spaces? One must also wonder if perhaps the negativity aimed at grackles might’ve been softer if they had a more eye-catching appearance. Many birders, including the author, find grackles to be sleek, stunning, and iridescent in appearance. To those who dislike them, though, grackles are drab black birds that are just a bit too large to overlook. Whether the reputation of the grackle is entirely fair or not, they are a clear reminder that human beings have a responsibility to examine our relationship with the natural world, both as individuals and as a collective.
As unsightly nuisances or witty little contributors to the ecosystems of urban and suburban habitats, it can at least be said that the grackle is a fascinating bird. Known for their bravery, cunning, resourcefulness, and brashness, the grackle is an animal that can teach us a lot about living fearlessly and honestly. If you feel connected to the grackle, read on to discover what meaning these birds may have in store for you!
Grackle Symbolism and Meaning
For many people, the grackle is a symbol of courage. If you’ve ever met a grackle then it isn’t hard to imagine why this is. Grackles approach life with an audacious attitude and are rarely deterred by the presence of humans in their vicinity.
Grackles also frequently symbolize thievery. Although this may be a somewhat harsh interpretation of their natural foraging behaviors, many consider grackles to be thieving scavengers.
Grackles may also symbolize communication. While it is true that many find the vocalizations of the grackle to be grating, it cannot be argued that these birds are anything other than exceptionally chatty. Grackles, it seems, revel in the sounds of their own voices and devote lots of time to their unique musical stylings.
Perhaps the easiest bit of symbolism to connect to the grackle is misunderstood-ness. Love them or despise them, it is impossible to truly blame grackles for the roles that they play in human environments. Grackles have made the best of the ecological niche that they have been dealt.
Finally, the grackle may, in fact, symbolize intelligence. As stated above, grackles are not, despite many people identifying them as such, corvids. Regardless, they demonstrate intelligence and problem-solving skills which measure up to the corvid gold standard. Grackles are known to engage in “anting,” a clever behavior exhibited by crows in which the bird spreads its wings and allows ants to crawl on them for the sake of the anti-parasitic properties of the acids excreted by the ants. (4)
In addition, grackles have passed the “Aesop’s Fables” test, for which crows are regularly applauded. In this test, the bird is presented with a vessel full of water, a floating treat, and some stones. Birds exhibiting exceptional intelligence will drop the stones into the water in order to raise the water level and access the treat. This is no small feat. Few birds have proven smart enough for this test. The humble grackle is counted among these avian geniuses. (5)
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Grackle Native American Symbolism
In several Native American cultures, grackles and blackbirds are connected with corn. (6)
This connection is apt, as grackles are the number one threat to the agricultural production of corn. They are willing to eat ripening corn as well as corn sprouts. Much effort has been spent on solving the grackle problem within the agricultural industry. (7)
Grackle in Dreams
Dreaming of grackles can be a somewhat ominous experience. Take heart, though, because the oft misunderstood grackle has plenty of positive messages to share.
Dreaming of a foraging grackle may be a sign that your goal is closer at hand then you realize. Such a dream can act as a reminder that accomplishing goals takes a measure of resourcefulness. More often than not, after some reflection, you’ll find that you already have the tools that you need in order to succeed.
Dreaming of a singing, shrieking, or calling grackle is a sign that you need to find an audience who appreciates your perspective. Finding one’s own voice takes a great deal of courage. Do not be dissuaded by people who do not recognize the value of your voice. Speak, sing, and laugh loudly and proudly. Doing so will eliminate the detractors who hold you back and attract the audience that will cheer you on!
Finally, dreaming of a large group of grackles may be a sign that an inevitable change is coming. A large group of grackles is a nearly unstoppable force. Instead of focusing your energy on deterring the coming changes, try practicing an optimistic outlook. Change is natural, necessary, and beautiful; much like the poor maligned grackle itself.
Grackle Encounters and Omens
Encountering grackles is fairly common and may not always feel particularly meaningful. Know, however, that there is always wisdom to be found from interacting with nature. Sometimes, the greatest wisdom is simply a reminder to appreciate the natural world around us.
An encounter with a grackle may indicate the need to think outside of the box. When confronted with a challenge, grackles use their formidable brains to formulate a clever solution. An encounter with a grackle may mean that the current issues that you face may require some creativity and careful thought to conquer.
Additionally, encountering a grackle may indicate that there is someone in your life whom you have unfairly misjudged. The grackle may be a warning that you could lose the opportunity for a fruitful relationship by rushing to judgment. Let people show you their true intentions through their actions and you’ll never go wrong when it comes to judging character.
Grackle in Mythology & Folklore
Grackles are native only to the Americas and are simply not present in very many mythological traditions. Regardless, below is a summary of several myths involving grackles and related blackbirds.
Native American Mythology:
In one Native American myth, a beastly individual called “Big Man-Eater” is killed by the brothers of a woman whom he has been terrorizing. After he is slain, they toss his ashes into the air. His ashes transform into blackbirds which fly away. (8)
Another myth explains how the coyote’s tail got its black tip. In this story, a group of blackbirds is singing, dancing, and flying through the sky when they encounter Coyote. Coyote asks if he can join the dance. The blackbirds agree and give him feathers to fly with. Throughout the story, the blackbirds teach Coyote to fly, but become increasingly impatient with his inability to keep up. Eventually, the blackbirds give up on Coyote and allow him to fall from the sky. His feathers shrivel up into the black hairs on the end of coyotes’ tails. (9)
According to Mexican mythology, Zanate, the Great-tailed Grackle, originally had no voice at all. Resolving to obtain a voice for himself, Zanate chose to steal one from the sea turtle. The sea turtle had seven songs representing the seven “passions” of life. When Zanate stole the sea turtle’s voice, his own song became filled with these seven emotions: love, hate, fear, courage, joy, sadness, and anger. (10)
Grackle Spirit Animal
If the grackle is your spirit animal then you might just be a bit of a trouble-maker. Unapologetically loud, honest to a fault, and too smart for their own good; these are the primary traits that describe an individual with the grackle as their spirit animal.
People with the grackle spirit animal tend to have creative spirits. They are well suited to fast paced urban environments. Often, when they don’t have enough stimulation or don’t feel adequately challenged, people with the grackle spirit animal become distractible and unmotivated.
When sufficiently interested in a task, though, people with the grackle as their spirit animal can become laser-focused. Their outside of the box approach to problem-solving make these individuals ideal candidates for innovative, inventive, or artistic careers.
Grackle Totem Animal
The grackle totem animal is associated with resourcefulness. People with the grackle totem animal often possess a MacGyver-like ability to use the tools available to them to create imaginative solutions to problems.
Though inventive, people with the grackle totem animal have a tendency to grow lazy. Their intelligence often allows them to see shortcuts that others don’t see. Because of this, they may eventually grow unaccustomed to working hard to achieve things.
Fortunately, when someone with the grackle totem animal truly applies their brain to something, they are unlikely to fail. Stubbornness is another defining trait of the individual with the grackle totem animal. Stubbornness and perseverance go hand in hand. Although they may not always know the right time to quit, people with the grackle totem animal are impressively capable of sticking it out through touch circumstances.
Grackle Power Animal
The power of the grackle is difficult to summarize in a single word. People with the grackle as their power animal are blessed with a unique ability to make a home out of almost any circumstances. Though this may sound strange, it is actually an incredible asset.
Grackles have been known to nest in bizarre locations including woodpecker holes and even nests of larger bird species (with the larger birds still nesting inside!). (11) People with the grackle as their power animal are undeterred by circumstances. They are determined to find a physical and spiritual home no matter where this must be.
Because of this unusual ability, people with the power of the grackle tend to be excellent at community-building. People often rally around them because of that comforting “home” feeling.
Grackle Tattoo Meaning
A grackle tattoo often represents an individual who feels misunderstood or misjudged. People who choose to get a grackle as a tattoo usually empathize with the underappreciated grackle.
Additionally, a grackle tattoo may represent intelligence, problem-solving, communication, or creativity.
Feathered ne’er-do-well or avian Einstein; the truth about the grackle largely depends upon your perspective. For those who truly dislike these birds, one has to wonder if perhaps there is an element of perceived arrogance involved. The grackle is one of very few birds that will stand their ground when approached by a human. Do those who dislike grackles find some kind of cockiness in this gesture?
If that’s the case then they can hardly be blamed. Or rather, it’s difficult not to see these birds as swaggering and boisterous. For those, like the author, who fall into the pro-grackle camp, this confidence is charming. No matter where you fall in the great grackle debate, there is one thing that is indisputable. The grackle’s brash attitude is something for which humankind is squarely responsible.
In building cities and urbanizing the landscape, we have created the wildlife that has adapted to this new habitat. The grackle, like the pigeon or the raccoon, has become an urban animal. It stands as an incredible testament to the stubbornness of Mother Nature and the beauty that persists even when humanity has seemingly conquered her.