A common grackle (Quiscalus quiscula) is a large, lanky blackbird about the size of a mourning dove. At this time of year, grackles are known to forage and roost with many different species of blackbirds.
At CROW, an adult common grackle was admitted from Estero after it was found stuck to a glue trap. Known as one of the cruelest methods of killing animals, glue traps consist of pieces of cardboard, fiberboard, or plastic coated with a sticky adhesive designed to ensnare any small animal who wanders across or lands on its surface.
Upon admission, veterinary staff worked immediately to remove the bird from the trap. By applying chinchilla dust to the areas stuck to the glue, they were able to carefully free it. The bird had lost its tail feathers while struggling to free itself.“The grackle lost all of its tail feathers, as well as one of the primary flight feathers on the left wing,” said Dr. Robin Bast, CROW staff veterinarian. “These feathers will take weeks and sometimes months to grow back in to the point where the bird has normal flight again. This means these patients must remain in rehab for an extended period of time.”Multiple sessions using the chinchilla dust were needed to ensure that all of the glue was safely removed from the bird’s feathers and beak.
“Chinchilla dust binds with the glue adhesive and allows it to be rolled off of the feathers with gentle manual debridement. This product does not cause further damage to the feathers, and we can avoid having to bathe the bird to remove (possible application of) oil or soap which can result in hypothermia and increased stress to the patient,” said Dr. Bast. “Often this requires multiple application sessions for the glue to be completely removed – a single, prolonged session would cause too much stress to the patient and they tolerate frequent, shorter application sessions best. If chinchilla dust is not available, then Dawn soap or vegetable oil are alternative options but are not as ideal.”
Veterinarians noted the patient to have some soft-tissue swelling to its left wing. Warm compresses were used to reduce the swelling.
“Often animals stuck in glue traps sustain secondary injuries – soft tissue swelling, wounds, or even fractures – in their struggle to get free,” said Dr. Bast. “In this grackle, no fractures were found and it was treated for soft tissue swelling and an abscess (infection) at the tail base. Animals that become stuck in glue traps often struggle for hours and sustain severe injuries in the process. If not freed, they will die either from stress, traumatic injury or starvation, all of which are quite awful ways to perish even for the intended targets of the trap.”
The grackle was lucky to be rescued from the trap and not suffer a slow death by starvation or suffocation. It will need time to heal though.
“The glue residue has successfully been removed from the feathers, and the grackle is on pain medications and antibiotics to treat infection and swelling,” said Dr. Bast. “It is eating well on its own, and once the course of medications is completed, it will move to an outdoor enclosure to evaluate its flight capabilities. If it is able to fly well enough, even without tail feathers, to evade predators and survive on its own, it will be cleared for release."
CROW Case of the Week stories are written by Bob Petcher and appear weekly in the Island Sun and River Weekly Newspapers.