Bald Eagle #13-0283

March 31, 2013
May 17, 2013
Rescue Location
Gloucester County, Virginia
Cause of Admission/Condition
Lead toxicity
Former Patient
Patient photo

Last Updated Jump to patient updates

On March 31, a mature Bald Eagle was found in a field in Gloucester County. The bird was unable to fly more than a few feet at a time. It was captured and transported to a permitted rehabilitator in the area. The rehabilitator and her veterinarian were not able to find any fractures; they noted that the bird was able to stand, but was wobbly. A volunteer transporter brought the bird to the Wildlife Center later the same evening.

Dr. Dana Tedesco, the Center’s veterinary intern, was on-call to admit the Bald Eagle Sunday evening. She performed a physical examination and initial blood work, including a test for lead toxicity. The test result indicated that the eagle was positive for lead poisoning – at a level of 0.735 ppm, treatment was needed.

Dr. Dana also found the eagle to be dehydrated and depressed. The bird had a large crop, and regurgitated some food. Dr. Dana noted that the eagle’s lungs sounded full of fluid – likely indicating aspiration pneumonia. Lead poisoning can sometimes cause crop stasis in some raptors – which means that the bird’s digestive system does not function properly, and food sometimes does not move through the bird’s system. In this case, when food was not moving through the eagle’s crop, the bird attempted to regurgitate some food – and likely ended up inhaling some fluid. One set of radiographs were quickly taken, just to check for the presence of lead in the eagle’s digestive tract. No metal was seen.

Dr. Dana performed a “crop wash” on the Bald Eagle to remove the food that was in the eagle’s crop. In addition to the usual bits of food, Dr. Dana also removed several small pieces of plastic in the course of the crop wash. The first dose of chelation therapy was provided. This treatment involved injecting a CaEDTA solution under the skin on the eagle’s upper thigh. This “chelator” will bind to the lead to take it out of the blood – essentially “scrubbing” the blood clean.

The Bald Eagle was placed in the Center’s holding room for the night. On Monday, April 1, Dr. Dana reported that the eagle appeared brighter and more alert, though is still in guarded condition.

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Patient Updates

Wildlife Center President Ed Clark reports that the Bald Eagle release went very well. A crowd of about 100 people were in attendance at Beaverdam Park. Shortly after 1:00 p.m., Ed released the eagle into a large open field – the eagle flew about 15 yards before making a tight u-turn [“on a dime”, according to Ed]. The eagle then flew about 20 yards behind a line of trees and out of sight. Ed reports that the bird was a strong flier.

Release Video by Jim Deal

Release Photos

Photos by Barbara Melton:


Photos by Jim Deal:

Photo by Wanda Fary:

Eagle Release in the News

Bald Eagle #13-0283 has been flying well over the past few weeks – the bird has increased its stamina and is a strong flier. On Wednesday, May 15, the veterinary team drew blood from the eagle for pre-release blood work – everything was within normal limits, and Dr. Rich Sim declared that the eagle was ready for release.

Bald Eagle #13-0283 will be released by President Ed Clark at Beaverdam Park on May 17 at 1:00 p.m.  The release will be held near the Beaverdam Park Ranger Station [8687 Roaring Springs Road, Gloucester]. The release is open to the public; we ask that you RSVP to

Wildlife rehabilitator Amber reports that Bald Eagle #13-0283’s flight is improving – the eagle is a strong flier, though does not always exercise at its “optimum level”. Amber would like to see more consistency in daily exercise prior to thinking about pre-release blood work.

On April 25, Bald Eagle #13-0283 was moved to flight pen A1 for flight conditioning. Rehabbers Kelli and Amber report that the eagle flew fairly well over the weekend – the bird is able to fly from perch to perch and maintains a good altitude, though it does need more work on its stamina. Daily exercise and monitoring will continue.

Bald Eagle #13-0238 has been continuing to eat well on its own. On April 19, the veterinary team moved the eagle to A2, one of the Center’s longest flight pens. When first placed in the pen, the eagle flew the length of the flight enclosure and landed on a swinging perch; the landing was a bit wobbly, but the eagle appears to have adapted to its new swinging perches in the past few days. The bird is currently sharing the enclosure with #12-0230, a non-releasable Bald Eagle.

Bald Eagle #13-0283 continues to live in one of the Center’s outdoor C-pens.  On April 13, the eagle ate on its own – a dinner of a whole rat. The bird’s weight also increased a small amount. On April 14, the eagle didn’t eat – but the rehab staff are continuing to offer a whole rat and a whole fish in hopes of tempting the eagle into eating again. Once the bird is consistently eating on its own several days in a row, then the staff will consider moving the bird to a flight pen.

Bald Eagle #13-0283 received its last day of chelation therapy today. Because there was a blood chemistry paneled scheduled for today, the team decided to run the follow-up lead-check today, rather than getting additional blood for testing tomorrow. The eagle’s lead levels are now 0.08 ppm – this is a low level that will not require further treatment.

The eagle is still not eating very much on its own – and has lost some weight. The staff continue to hand-feed the eagle every day.

Bald Eagle #13-0283 remains feisty after its first round of treatment for lead toxicity. An additional round of chelation therapy was started today. Because the eagle needs to be caught up for treatment twice a day, the ideal housing would be in a crate in the Center’s holding room [where the bird has been since its admission]; however, the Bald Eagle is so feisty, the staff feel that it will be safer to house it in an outdoor C-pen enclosure. The veterinary team has been hand-feeding the eagle over the past few days; the staff also hope that this move outdoors will encourage the bird to eat on its own.

The veterinary team drew blood from Bald Eagle #13-0283 today for lead test to see if chelation therapy had successfully lowered the eagle’s lead levels. Results came in at 0.323 ppm — a lower level than the initial lead test, but still at a high enough level to warrant additional treatment. A second round of chelation therapy will begin on April 8, with a follow-up lead test on April 13.

Because the eagle has become much more bright, alert, and feisty since admission, the team anesthetized the bird today to take a set of radiographs. All views were within normal limits and no injuries were seen. The eagle has not regurgitated any additional plastic or food in the past two days, so Dr. Dana asked the rehabilitation staff to offer a diet of chopped, skinless rats/mice.


Dr. Rich reports that Bald Eagle #13-0283 continues to improve. The eagle is standing and feisty — a marked change in attitude. The eagle’s breathing and lung sounds have also improved, though the bird’s breathing is still slightly labored.

A follow-up lead test will be performed on April 5.

Bald Eagle #13-0283 was standing in its enclosure this morning in the Center’s holding room – Dr. Dana noted that the bird was quiet, yet alert. The eagle’s respiratory rate is improved, though Dr. Dana is still able to hear “crackles” in the bird’s lungs – evidence of the eagle’s aspiration prior to admission. The eagle regurgitated more pieces of plastic this morning.

Chelation therapy continues; an additional lead test will be performed on Friday, April 5.