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Grackle

Three weeks ago, a bird was brought into the museum because it had fallen out of a tree and did not seem well. This happens almost daily at the Living Museum; many members of public bring us injured or abandoned animals. I responded to the call and when I saw the bird, he seemed very dehydrated and weak. I immediately began to get some food and water into him, and within a few hours he perked up and was begging, or gaping, for food. After examining him, we realized that we had acquired a common grackle, Quiscalus quiscula. Within a few days, our grackle was eating and drinking water very well. He has developed quite the personality, is very active, and can even fly a few feet now. In a few weeks, after his rehabilitation is done, and after he is examined to ensure he is completely healthy, he will be released back into the wild.

Our Grackle

Common grackles don’t have the nicest reputation. Often called “trash birds” they can be found rummaging through garbage cans trying to find a delicious snack.  Contrary to popular belief, grackles are very intelligent. They can do problem solving and even prevent infection by rubbing ants on themselves. This “anting” behavior is believed to help act as an insecticide for the bird. As the bird rubs ants on itself, the ants secrete formic acid, which is a natural insecticide, fungicide and bactericide.

Grackle squawking

Grackles can be found all over North America, and being mostly non-migratory, they tend to stay permanently in their regions  Some of the more northern flocks have been seen migrating to the southeast side of the United States during the colder months. Other than eating trash, they forage for insects, seeds, fruits, mice and minnows.  All grackles are black in color, with golden, almost white eyes. Our grackle still has black eyes, but once he is older, the eyes will change color. Grackles, more commonly male grackles, develop a beautiful iridescence that shines green, purple and blue. They have long tails, long legs and slender bodies.  The have large beaks that are perfect for their omnivorous diet.

Gaping for food

Many guests ask the animal keepers what they should do if they ever find a baby bird on the ground. The main thing to remember is that some baby birds, especially older babies, or fledglings, often fly to the ground, where the mom will continue to feed them. If the bird seems healthy, it is best to just leave he or she alone.  Bird parents are far better at raising baby birds than any human would ever be. If you find the baby bird is injured, seems like it hasn’t been attended to for some time, or if you are sure the mother of the bird is dead, then you should contact a wildlife rehabilitation organization (many veterinarian offices have numbers you can call).  Until then, leaving the baby in a dark, dry and warm place is best until the professional rehabilitator arrives. Don’t ever try to raise a baby bird on your own. Not only is it illegal, but without professional care and proper time (many baby birds need to be fed up to 100 times a day!) the bird has little chance of surviving.
Our baby grackle is doing well thanks to the many hours our team has put into him, and his future looks very promising.

Healthy baby grackle
By :Sarah Peake

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