Return of Bird go the Week: Nicaraguan Grackle

Male Nicaraguan Grackle, Rio Frio, Costa Rica

The Nicaraguan Grackle is a species with a restricted range, found only in northernmost Costa Rica and around Lake Nicaragua and Lake Managua in Nicaragua. These birds were photographed along the Costa Rica-Nicaragua border, on the Rio Frio, perhaps two miles from the border. The area was thick with other Grackle species, but the males stood out with their violet-green overall sheen, and much smaller size.

Female Nicaraguan Grackle, Rio Rio, Costa Rica

The species is sexually dimorphic; the female, shown above, is pale brown with dark brown wings, and has a much smaller tail, and is even smaller than the male.

This is a species strongly associated with water: riverine and lacustrine habitats, including wet pastures. It eats seeds, insects and other arthropods and probably also small vertebrates. Like most Grackles, it forages largely on ground, following grazing cattle, and turns over small stones, debris and cow dung to find hidden prey. It also picks prey items from water surface. Nicaraguan Grackles commonly forage in small flocks, often with other icterids.

This species is “relatively poorly known” according to Birds of the World (paywalled), which is something of an understatement. Partly, it’s politics; Nicaragua has not been exactly welcoming too ornithologists. Partly it’s habitat; this is a bird of swamps and marshes. Despite that poor knowledge, and the very restricted range, the species seems to tolerate a moderate amount of habitat alteration, and shows some preference for human-created pasturelands where the lands are wet. IUCN classifies this as a species of Least Concern.

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