Barry Kent MacKayArt by Barry Kent MacKay
Art and Photo Presentation

In this section are copies of original works of art. All of them are dedicated to helping us live according to unconditional love and compassion, which is the foundation of our peaceful means of bringing true and lasting peace to all of God's creatures, whether they are human beings or other animals.

Boat-tailed Grackle (Quiscalus major)


Barry Kent MacKay painting
(Artwork - 076)
Boat-tailed Grackle
(Quiscalus major)

This painting shows a pair of Boat-tailed Grackles, a member of the family Icteridae, which is limited to the western hemisphere.  
Boat-tailed Grackles are found only along the U.S. east coast, the coast of the Gulf of Mexico, and throughout much of Florida.   They can be very bold and come close to people (making them easy to sketch and photograph) and are full of character…I love to see them.  The female, the right-hand figure in the painting, is quite different from the male, and I have long wanted to paint the lovely golden-browns and rich sienna browns of her plumage. 
When I decided to do them I realized I had a challenge.  Boat-tailed Grackles are almost identical to another, more widely distributed species (and one that I know at least as well…probably better), the Great-tailed Grackle (Q. mexicanus) which ranges from as far north as Oregon, south along the west coast of South America, to Peru.   The ranges of the two, very similar-looking species come together on the Gulf coast of Texas.   The books tell you that where the two species occur together the Boat-ailed Grackles usually have brown eyes (iris) while the Great-taileds have pale yellow.   And up  on the Atlantic Coast, where there are only Boat-taileds, the eyes are yellow.
Eye-colour is variable though and if I just did the painting, how would one know where it was supposed to be?   The answer lies in the object of interest that these two birds have discovered.  They are toying with one of America’s most beautiful and distinctive species of snake, the Black Swamp Snake (Seminatrix pygaea), which is an endangered species that occurs only in wetlands on the South Atlantic coast of the U.S., although well north of Florida.   There are lots of Boat-tailed Grackles in the range of the Black Swamp Snake, but no Great-tailed Grackles (at least not now; Great-tailed Grackles are rapidly expanding their range north and west, but not, so far as I know, eastward).   Therefore, any naturalist familiar with the snake would know that whatever their eye-colour, these can only be Boat-tailed Grackles.
The snake is very aquatic, and grows to about 55 cm (22 inches) in length.  The grackles would eat a smaller one, but the one in the painting is a bit on the bigger side for them, and at any rate, gets away (at least in my imagination…of course I invented the whole scene).   The painting is done in acrylics on compressed hardboard and is life size.  I started it in December (after thinking about it for several years) and finished it in early January.  It shows a very hot and humid scene while outside my studio window we had the biggest ice storm I have ever experienced, and then the temperature went down around minus 28 C (about 20 below, Fahrenheit).

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Copyright © Barry Kent MacKay
Barry describes himself as a Canadian artist/writer/naturalist.
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