, Volume 151, Issue 2, pp 391-399
Date: 30 Oct 2009

Ecology and Ethnobiology of the Slender-billed Grackle Quiscalus palustris

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Abstract

A renaissance-era encyclopedia compiled by Fray Bernardino de Sahagun and his research group of elite native scholars from the Royal College of the Holy Cross, Tlatelolco, Valley of Mexico, provides new information on the Slender-billed Grackle (Quiscalus palustris), a bird that disappeared before modern field studies of it could be made. In sixteenth-century Mexico, this grackle nested in emergent aquatic vegetation and in towns. It was abundant, went around in flocks, and did great damage in the maize crop. Although normally not eaten by humans, it was exploited for its feathers and sacrificed to the Aztec fire god. The Slender-billed Grackle inhabited both the Valley of Mexico and the Valley of Toluca. It was found in marshes, but the degree to which it was dependent on marsh habitats is unknown. Edward Alphonso Goldman, who saw living Slender-billed Grackles in the field, declined to call this bird a marsh specialist. Three records exist of Slender-billed Grackles and Great-tailed Grackles (Quiscalus mexicanus) inhabiting the same locality during the same time period. The author recommends that searches for this grackle be expanded to include non-marsh habitats and areas outside its known historical range.

Communicated by J. Fjeldså.