Friday, June 15, 2012

More on grackles

What: The adult was off foraging when I filmed these two. Towards the end you can hear my chickens gently purring. One of our Rhode Island Reds went into the coop and found a little surprise - one of the grackles!! As soon as the grackles' mom left to forage for them, one went in to the coop to investigate and then couldn't figure out how to get out. It let out a "cluck" noise (which you can hear on the video) and the pair of young went back and forth making that contact call. At one point a blue jay arrived. I wondered how big of a bird a jay would eat. I know they eat nestlings, but a fledged grackle? It might've been too small. As soon as the jay got near the grackles shut up. I was pretty close to one of the grackles, which I think might have kept the jay away, but I'm not sure.

I pointed my camera to the one in the coop just before the mom returned with food, so I missed getting video of the frenetic begging noises they make when mom's around. The mom made a "cluck" as she was returning to her young. She returned, found just one of her babies (the other was in the coop still) and then with the one they flew off. I let the other young grackle out of the coop, and left it be in the hopes the mom would return for it shortly, which she did. You can see the downy feathers sticking up off the side of the one's head, which makes me think these guys are younger than the one I have. But then, Chaiet only just in the last hour started making those clucking noises (and they're getting more insistent).

Ecological notes: Watching the young grackle balance on the branch, watch insects fly by, and navigate a variable world made me think about how the one that I'm "helping" is missing out on learning all of these important subtle skills. I had been feeding Chaiet with a metal spoon, but I started feeding it off my finger. I'm trying to figure out ways of getting it to see a bigger world while not letting it out of the cage. I tried catching some bugs and small worms yesterday so it could see those moving around inside its cage. I want to build a larger aviary type set up so it can start practicing to fly (which it still can't really do). I've been thinking a lot about the environmental enrichment programs zoos have implemented so that the animals get to exercise a broader range of skills/senses to acquire food and interact with their surroundings. Any suggestions for Chaiet, our young grackle friend, is much appreciated.

Where: Backyard.

Other notes: So many other sounds - cars, saws, people talking - it takes a certain type of bird to be able to successfully fledge their young in such a noisy environment. Grackles are certainly curious and adaptable birds, well-suited to an urban home.

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