Walking my dog early Thursday afternoon, I passed my neighbor’s lawn, noticing a black ball of feathers and a beak, motionless in the grass. Holding back Annie with a significant prey drive for birds, I slowly approached and bent down to see. It was a fledgling grackle. I expected him to fly away instinctively but instead, he (or she, I will continue with “he” after this) looked at me and remained still. I carefully cupped him in my hands. To my surprise, he proceeded to hop onto my arm. I immediately noticed one eye was completely shut (or perhaps he was born without it, as there appeared to be no trauma or noticeable crusting). It did not cause me worry, as birds can survive missing one. I was concerned how “friendly” he was though, since even young birds will show fear with humans and a dog, and fly away. He did not struggle to get away however, meaning he was not well.
His mother appeared in a tree about twenty feet from me, calling with panic in her voice – understandably so. I set the bird down, assured the protective mother was there to take care of him. The fledgling had other ideas. He clung to my fingers stubbornly, despite attempts to put him on bush branches. Eventually, I forced him off and onto the grass, near the bush where he could hide.
After finishing the walk, I wrote a note to the neighbor, telling her about the bird, and put it on her door. Between the two of us, we kept an eye on him. I debated about taking him to a wildlife center. It is often best to let parents do their job and sometimes, to let nature take its place. Maybe he was meant to die.
That same evening, turning the corner of my street, my headlights revealed his huddled black form in the road. Immediately, I stopped. When I picked him up, he was significantly weaker than he had been earlier in the day. No parent came around, only a disgruntled robin zipped by and a chirping sparrow pair sat in the bushes. I decided it was time to help him out.
I took him home and set him in a cage for the night. I expected he would be dead by morning but at least he would not die by car or wild animal. When I uncovered the blankets around sunrise, he was, much to my great surprise, alive. He even had strength to do a grackle squawk and ask for food. He refused to eat but at least there was hope now. The wildlife center did not open for another hour so I sat with him. It is then that I did these sketches.
I am not sure if he made it but I will let you know. I know he is in good hands at his temporary home. From the spunk he showed that morning, he had fight in him (I know he looks very sick in the one sketch, and he was sneezing, but his sitting moments were much easier to draw). Thanks to my neighbor, Trish, and the Wisconsin Humane Society Wildlife Rehabilitation Center he has a chance.
The Wisconsin Humane Society Wildlife Rehabilitation Center link is a wonderful resource on advice for helping wild animals and info on successful rescues:
Here are pictures I took of him that same morning of his more lively moments (it is his good side with the working eye).