Bald Eagle #17-0968

May 16, 2017
October 9, 2017
Rescue Location
Stafford, Virginia
Cause of Admission/Condition
Found on the ground
Former Patient
Patient photo

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On May 16, a female young adult Bald Eagle was admitted to the Wildlife Center. The eagle was found on the ground by an animal control officer in a landfill in Stafford, VA. This bird was unable to fly and would fall over when approached.

On presentation, patient #17-0968 was quiet and laying flat in the crate. The bird had a mildly thin body condition, a slightly decreased heart rate, and fresh bloody abrasions on her head, lower left and right mandibles, both carpi (wrists), and the tip of the left wing. All of the bird’s primary feathers were tattered, particularly on the left wing, and most of the tail feathers were in blood. The bird was also covered in dust and dirt from being on the ground in the landfill.

Radiographs revealed an enlarged heart but no other significant findings. Blood work was unremarkable, and a test for lead in the blood showed very low levels. The vet staff administered pain medication and fluids. It’s possible the bird suffered head or spinal trauma from a collision or fight, or the bird could have ingested a toxin (e.g. pesticides).

The morning after admission, the eagle was much brighter and feistier. Blood work was repeated to ensure nothing was missed during the initial analysis. The bird’s lead levels remained low and no other abnormalities were noted. Blood will be sent to an external lab to test for organophosphates. Until then, the bird will be given supportive care and will be assessed daily.

Your special donation will help the Center to provide care to this Bald Eagle … and all of the patients admitted in 2017. Please help!

Patient Updates

Bald Eagle #17-0968 was successfully released at Caledon State Park on October 9 in front of a crowd of about 85 people. The rain cleared and the sun came out for the release – and attendees saw four other Bald Eagles in the area. After Wildlife Center president Ed Clark released the bird, the eagle flew off and banked around the release site before gliding over some trees and out of sight.

Bald Eagle #17-0968’s flight has been improving during the past two weeks, and wildlife rehabilitator Brie feels that the bird is ready for release. The Bald Eagle will be released on Monday, October 9 at Caledon State Park [11617 Caledon Rd., King George, VA]. The release will take place at 1:00 p.m. and will be open to the public; those planning on attending should RSVP to Release attendees should park near the picnic shelter area; use the large white tent as a landmark.

Throughout July and early August, Bald Eagle #17-0968 recovered and self-exercised in flight pen A2. The bird’s carpal injuries healed well, and by mid-August, the bird was ready for more active daily exercise with the rehabilitation team. By early September, the eagle was flying about eight to 10 passes during each exercise session, though struggled to gain altitude during flight. On September 9, the eagle was moved to flight pen A3, where the bird could have a little more space during exercise. As of September 20, wildlife rehabilitator Brie reports that the eagle is flying about 11-15 passes during each session and that the bird’s height during flight is improving, though still needs more improvement to be able to be released.

The veterinary staff have been monitoring Bald Eagle #17-0968’s injured wings. Both carpi remain swollen but appear to be healing gradually.

On July 3, the veterinary staff drew fluid from the carpus joints on both wings and will perform cytology; the tests will help determine if there is a bacterial infection causing the swelling that will require a course of antibiotics.

The staff will move the eagle into a larger enclosure [A2]; Dr. Ernesto hopes that allowing the bird to fly more will help to reduce some of the swelling around the wounds. For the time being, staff will refrain from actively exercising the eagle.

On May 28, Bald Eagle #17-0968 was moved to a larger outdoor enclosure, allowing staff to better assess the bird’s flight. Unfortunately, while housed in a larger pen, eagle #17-0968 injured his carpus (wrist) on each wing.

"Bumpers" are applied to an eagle’s wing when it is housed in outdoor enclosures to limit injuries to the carpi; bumpers are composed of layers of protective padding and duct tape, secured along the wrist joint. In this case, the bumpers did not prevent the injuries.

On June 8, the veterinary team surgically debrided the wounds and took radiographs to check for more severe injuries. Radiographs showed soft tissue swelling but no broken bones. The vet staff prescribed a course of antibiotics and pain medication, as well as wound treatment every three days. The rehabilitation staff moved the bird to a smaller outdoor enclosure to limit movement.

Bald Eagle #17-0968 was moved to an outdoor enclosure on May 21 and has been eating more consistently on its own.

Test results show that the bird was exposed to pesticides [organophosphates], but the test does not identify a specific chemical. It’s unclear if the exposure caused any of the eagle’s symptoms upon presentation at the Center.

The veterinary team will continue to monitor the eagle’s attitude and appetite.