Every spring the grackles return to our backyard. Not just one or two – an entire flock. They seem to arrive earlier every year – this year it was early March when I first noticed them. They stay through end June, and sometimes well into the summer months.
I must admit I am not very fond of them. They devour all the feed in my feeders. The poor cardinals are shy and wait until almost dusk to return to the backyard to try to get a spot on a feeder. The smaller birds such as the chickadees and the finches steer clear of them. Then the grackles have babies in the woods right behind our property that backs up to Sandy Run Park and more than double their number!
They are mostly black in color with deep blue-black heads and yellow eyes. Often, they are found where starlings and blackbirds roost as well. We have red-winged blackbirds that arrive at about the same time. Although omnivorous, the grackle population in Dresher seems to enjoy the seed, and particularly, the peanut feeders. I think they have grown too lazy to worry about catching insects!
A few years back, I heard this cry – one I had never heard before. There was a baby grackle on the patio. It was obvious he was calling for his mother, so I left the family room in hopes that she would land on the patio and urge the baby to fly. Hours later, the baby bird was still there. When dusk fell, I went outside to chase him into the bushes. Our neighbor’s cat roams the neighborhood in search of mice, birds, and anything she can hunt. I was afraid for the bird, but I didn’t know what I could do.
The next morning, there he was, curled up in the grass asleep and in plain view. That afternoon after I left school, I visited Betty, the owner of Wild Birds Unlimited. Betty advised me to call the woman who lived nearby on Mondauk, a retired science teacher from Cheltenham who nursed birds back to health and set them free. I was relieved when I called her and she said to scoop the baby grackle into a large paperbag and bring him to her.
It was pretty easy to get the baby bird who had returned to the patio to scream for his mother. I figured it had been almost two days and the mother was not going to return. I followed the baby around for awhile, and then I placed the bag over him and gently used my hand to push him back while I turned the bag upright. Closing part of the bag by folding the top but leaving an air space, I drove over to “White Feathers.”
The retired science teacher had lots of birds. I leaned over an open cage to look at a pair of crows. “Stand back!” she ordered. “Don’t speak to them! Don’t make eye contact! Crows bond very quickly with people. I do not want them to get attached to humans. I am going to release them soon into the wild!” I immediately followed her orders. Who would dare to disobey her?!
She looked at the young grackle. “He is just fine. I will release him when he is old enough to fly. He’ll probably end up back at your house,” she chuckled. I looked at the science teacher and looked at the grackle. I was relieved. He was going to be okay.
Looking back, this is what I have done. I save things – cards, gifts from school children, Christmas poinsettias, and mostly animals. To date, I have saved countless spiders, bees, a mole, two little raccoons, a mouse, a rat, and even a snake. It is just who I am. This baby grackle was one of many.