Wednesday, April 1, 2015

Extreme Makeover: Grackle Edition

Last month, I brought you the story of a common grackle that was kept illegally as a pet for 7 years by a well-intentioned gentleman who mistook the bird for an orphan. The bird was kept in a tiny cage, with access to water only in a coffee cup (which meant he could not bathe), and an improper diet. This left his feathers tattered and dull and his beak and nails overgrown. He also never achieved his adult yellow eye color, which may be an indication of thyroid issues. When I last left you, the grackle had been brought to the Schuylkill Wildlife Rehabilitation Clinic for some much needed medical attention.

Mr. Nature Geek and I went to visit the grackle (whom we named "Twitch" due to his constant movement) a few days later and were able to get him to perch on our arms and shoulders. We also offered him what could have been his first bath ever. I put a pan of water on a table, and with Twitch on my arm, splashed in the water with my fingers. Twitch knew just what to do! He immediately hopped in and went absolutely berzerk, flapping his wings and scooting around in the water like a little motorboat. When his bath was over, the water was cloudy and littered with frayed feathers. Twitch was one happy bird. 

In the month that followed, my friend and clinic rehabber Michele, would send me updates and let me come and visit Twitch to see his progress. He underwent a massive molt, replacing all of his tail feathers at once and most of his wing feathers. Thanks to his new spacious housing and natural diet of mealworms, seeds, fruit, and a little cat food for extra nutrients, Twitch's new feathers were as gorgeous as nature intended. 

So how is he doing today? You be the judge:

Yup, Twitch is doing pretty well these days. He has moved out of the clinic and is being fostered by me at Briar Bush. In just one weekend, Twitch went from being a fearful bird who did not want to stray far from his human companions to an independent, pain in the butt, and I wouldn't have it any other way. And just for a reminder of how far he's come, take a look at these before and after shots:

Hello Mr. Twitch, you fine lookin' grackle you. And he's not even done molting yet! Once all of his old feathers have been replaced, he'll be even more beautiful and he'll be able to fly (I think he's a pain now, just wait until he can fly away from me and not just run!) So what's next for Twitch? We're trying to find a good home for him either at another nature center or at an aviary, where he can live out his days in comfort. Either way, he's got some of the best days of his life ahead of him and is never going to look back.


  1. Hurray! Twitch is looking gorgeous, a fine example of purple-sheeny grackleness! Congratulations to all of you for making his life so much better!

  2. Thanks, Randy! It's so great to see how far this guy has come.