Caring for a Grackle Fledgling [A Complete Guide]

Baby birds are commonly differentiated as being either a nestling or a fledgling. Nestlings are newly hatched young ones and are extremely difficult to care for. They need their mammas, and almost never survive outside their nest. A fledgling, on the other hand, stands a better chance with you. 

Grackle baby

It is important to identify if the bird is a fledgling or a nestling as the type of care you can provide depends on it. If you come across a baby bird without many feathers and barely able to walk or hop, it’s a nestling. The best thing you can do for it returns it to its nest if you can find it. A more in-depth guide can be found here.

Unlike most animals, birds have a poor sense of smell. They won’t mind too much if you’ve held their babies. Gently take the nestling and put it back inside. 

Grackle Fledglings – Understanding The Baby Grackle Bird 

A nestling is constantly cared for by its parents, but a fledgling is allowed some explore-the-world time. It is not uncommon for the casual observer to find a solitary grackle fledgling squawking on the ground or a low perch. 

They rarely return to the nest once they’ve left it, but it is a common misconception that it is lost or alone. Grackle mommies do not usually let her fledglings too far out of sight. They can be found keeping tabs on the kiddos from the nest or a higher branch. Pine trees are a favored spot for grackles. 

Should you come across a grackle on the ground that is not injured, just leave it be. It is learning to fly, and its parents are somewhere around. They will keep dropping by to feed the fledgling and nudge it to fly. However, if the bird is in visible distress or there are signs of an injury, you need to ensure that they are not accessible to predators. 

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These include your pet dogs and cats. Depending on the severity, you can either take the fledgling to a Wildlife Rehabilitator or keep it close to its nest and away from pets and traffic. 

How to Care for a Fledgling Grackle?

Suppose you are unable to take the fledgling to a Wildlife Rehabilitator or leave it outside, and now you have to take care of it or suppose you feel you can tend to its needs better and keep it safe, how would you do it?

The first step would be to make it as comfortable as possible. Keep it warm and cozy. You could make it a temporary home using shoeboxes or laundry baskets till you get a cage. Pad the bottom of the box with warm clothes. Do not leave a dish of water for it in the cage. It is a drowning hazard. Fledglings get all the water they need through food. 

Washing your hands before and after you come in contact with the birds is important. They can be carriers of harmful pathogens like H1N1, and you could give it an infection that it is not immune to. You could also wear gloves, just to be extra careful. Don’t try to give the fledgling a bath. It will make it even more anxious. Moreover, it does not need a bath. 

The next step would be feeding it. The younger the bird, the more frequently it needs to be fed, much like human babies. It can be as often as every twenty minutes. You may also have to give the food to the bird in its beak or throat. 

The parent birds tend to drop the worms and other food items directly at the back of the mouth. This triggers the swallowing reflex in the babies. It is also a good idea to wait for them to ask for food as this will make them open their mouths wider. You can use a tweezer to drop the food in. You do not have to worry about feeding them through the night, dawn to dusk is all.

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As they grow older, they will start foraging for food. Worms and insects around your house will be the easy targets. This is also the stage when you can slowly move from feeding them to leaving the food for them to peck and eat. 

It will need more outside time as it grows. If you are keeping it as a pet, you could provide a perch within the cage so it can learn to fly. However, if you want to return it to the wild, you can let it out more often, and encourage its flight instincts. One day it will fly high enough and not come back. Nonetheless, some rescuers have reported that their grackles keep answering their calls, and continue to visit at regular intervals.

You should also try to take steps so that grackles do not imprint on you. If they see you as a primary caregiver, it will be very difficult for it to survive on its own in the wild. While it can be daunting to care for a fledgling, it can also be incredibly satisfying when they survive and fly away.

What to Feed a Fledgling Grackle? What Is the Common Grackle Diet?

Grackles are omnivorous birds and consume a variety of foods. They forage for insects like grasshoppers, spiders, beetle grubs, and millipedes. They also like eating worms and caterpillars, frogs, crayfish, lizard eggs, small rodents, as well as the younglings of other birds. In the winter, they tend to consume more vegetarian food, including grains, acorns, berries, and seeds.

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Fledglings need a lot of protein to support their rapid growth. Their natural diet is mainly composed of worms that their parents feed them. Dog or cat food that has been soaked in water and moistened can be a temporary option that is easily available. Cat food has more protein and is the better option.

But this will not fulfill their nutritional requirement. It is important to add variety to their diet.  You can feed them mealworms and earthworms. You could try catching insects, removing their wings, and feeding them to the birds. But avoid hairy insects like bees and wasps. A boiled egg along with the shell is a good source of calcium and can be given to the bird. 

It is important that you don’t feed the fledgling any bread. It cannot contribute to its growth. You should also avoid bird seeds and grains till they start eating on their own. Do not give it water directly either as it gets the required amount from its food.

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Final Verdict

There are few greater pleasures in life than helping save a young fledgling and providing it with a new lease of life. It takes quite a bit of effort but can be quite satisfying at the end, when the bird soars into the skies, free, healthy, and capable of living on its own.