Bald Eagle #16-1664

July 22, 2016
Rescue Location
Virginia Beach, Virginia
Cause of Admission/Condition
Wing fractures and leg fracture
Former Patient
Patient photo

Last Updated Jump to patient updates

On July 22, the Virginia Department of Game and Inland Fisheries conducted a surprise inspection of a wildlife rehabilitation facility in eastern Virginia, which resulted in the seizure of several birds of prey. Among them was Bald Eagle #16-1664 which was transferred to the Wildlife Center for evaluation and care. No medical records were sent with the birds, but social media reports state that this young eagle hatched earlier this year in Virginia Beach, and is the offspring of "ND", a Bald Eagle that hatched at Norfolk Botanical Garden in 2010.

In May, biologists with the Center for Conservation Biology banded the eaglets in the nest and found that this young eaglet had a left leg injury. The bird, likely a male, was reportedly taken to a local veterinarian, where it was treated for a left leg fracture and later treated for a left wing fracture.

When the eaglet was admitted to the Wildlife Center, Dr. Ernesto was able to see the remodeled bones in the eaglet’s left leg, which had contracted the leg about 12% of its original length. The bird’s left radius and ulna had been fractured close to the carpal ["wrist"] joint, and Dr. Ernesto could see signs of sclerosis [increased opacity or "whiteness"] in the joint on radiographs. This is a sign that the bones are remodeling after a fracture and/or are inflamed. The veterinary team is concerned about the bird’s ability to fly with the compromised joint, which also could be a source of chronic pain for the bird. The eagle will need to be assessed in a larger flight pen to determine how well the eagle can fly and if the bird will be releasable. The veterinary team doesn’t anticipate any significant issues with the healed leg injury, but will also be monitoring for signs of bumblefoot.

The Center depends on the donations of caring individuals to provide veterinary care to wildlife and training in wildlife veterinary medicine. Please help! 

Patient Updates

On Monday, October 16, the same dedicated Wildlife Center supporter who drove Bald Eagle #15-0733 to Arkansas picked up Bald Eagle #16-1664 and transported him to his new home at Cape May Zoo in New Jersey.

Due to a change in enclosure availability, the Tracy Aviary in Utah was unable to receive Bald Eagle #16-1664 this year. Instead, an alternate education institution was sought.

The Cape May Zoo in New Jersey contacted the Center after one of their mature education eagles – transferred from the Wildlife Center of Virginia in 2007 – passed away. They were happy to add this young eagle to their collection. USFWS exhibit permits were approved this fall, and the eagle will be transferred when transportation arrangements are made.

The U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service permits were approved for Bald Eagle #16-1664; this means that the bird is one big step closer to going to his new home! At this point, it’s been too hot to fly the eagle commercially to the Tracy Aviary in Utah; it’s likely that the Center will need to wait until fall to ship the bird, unless alternative arrangements can be made through a private airplane pilot.

Within the past month, the Wildlife Center received clearance from USFWS to place non-releasable Bald Eagle #16-1664. The Tracy Aviary, located in Utah, has been looking for an immature Bald Eagle for programs for some time; they will be giving this bird a new home. Paperwork has been started; once USFWS approves of the transfer, the bird the bird will be flown to his new home in Utah.

Last month, the veterinary team continued to monitor Bald Eagle #16-1664. After observing the eagle’s limitations with and without pain medication, the staff believe that the bird can be placed as a non-releasable education bird; it does not appear to be experiencing any discomfort.

The staff first need to submit paperwork with the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service to get approval for placement; once permission is received, the staff will begin looking for a suitable location for this young eagle. The approval and permitting process typically takes several months.

Bald Eagle #16-1664 has not been flying well in flight enclosure A3. The bird is unable to gain altitude and consistently tilts to one side while flying to compensate for the reduced mobility in his injured wing.

Drs. Dave, Ernesto, and Peach reviewed the eagle’s case again; they each watched the eagle fly and reviewed radiographs and physical examination findings. All three vets believe that this is a permanent issue due to the way the eagle’s wing fracture healed, and that this eagle will not be releasable.

Dr. Ernesto is concerned that the eagle may be experiencing chronic pain since the healed fracture involves the eagle’s joint. The team will be coordinating a pain study in the Bald Eagle this week, which means that the bird will begin a short course of pain medication so that the veterinarians can carefully assess if pain meds affect the Bald Eagle’s flight capabilities. This will help determine if the Bald Eagle is able to be placed at an educational facility. The veterinarians do not want to place the eagle if the bird will experience chronic pain for the rest of his life.

Wildlife Center rehabilitation staff have been monitoring Bald Eagle #16-1664 in outdoor enclosure A3, where it is housed with two other eagles. During daily exercise the eagle has not been able to fly well. The bird is unable to gain enough height to successfully perch, and also has a significant tilt to the right in flight. While this is most likely due to the eagle’s compromised left wing, the Wildlife Center will continue the observation process. No medical records were sent with the eagle, resulting in no reliable way to compare the wing to its previous physical condition. Rehabilitators will continue to monitor for improvements, but the eagle may be non-releasable.

Bald Eagle #16-1664 has been doing well in one of the Center’s outdoor enclosures during the past week. The bird is able to get to high perches, is holding both wings appropriately, and is eating well.

During the next few weeks, Center veterinarians will re-evaluate the eagle’s left carpal ("wrist") joint to see if the bird is able to fly in a larger space. At this point, the veterinarians know that the bird is unable to extend his left wing fully, due to the compromised joint.

In the coming months, the young eagle will need to be carefully assessed to determine if he is able to be released.