Bald Eagle #20-2906

August 16, 2020
November 3, 2020
Rescue Location
Suffolk, Virginia
Cause of Admission/Condition
Potential fight with another animal
Former Patient
Patient photo

Last Updated Jump to patient updates

On August 15, an adult Bald Eagle was rescued in Suffolk, Virginia after being found on the ground and was unable to fly away. A local permitted wildlife rehabilitator stabilized the eagle’s condition, and on the following day it was transferred the Wildlife Center of Virginia for assessment and treatment.

Dr. Cameron, one of the Center’s veterinary interns, examined the eagle during an initial physical exam. While no bone fractures were noted, many bruises and abrasions were revealed, including a puncture wound to the eagle’s right shoulder. The wound was found to be infested with maggots, and the eagle’s very poor body condition lead the veterinarians to believe the bird may have been grounded for some time.

The remainder of the eagle’s physical exam was within normal limits. Blood work was unremarkable, and the eagle had subclinical levels of lead that would not require treatment. Radiographs revealed a swelling of the soft tissues near the puncture wound on the eagle’s right shoulder, but were otherwise unremarkable as well. Based on these findings, the veterinary team suspects the eagle may have been in a fight or territorial dispute with another bird.

The veterinary team cleaned and disinfected the eagle’s puncture wound, administered fluids and pain medications, and began a daily regimen of supportive care and monitoring while the eagle remained in the Center’s indoor holding area.

By August 25 the veterinary staff noted that while the eagle’s puncture wound had remained infection-free, the wound was not closing on its own. To expedite the recovery process, veterinary intern Dr. Sarah performed surgery that day to suture the wound closed. During daily checks afterwards, the sutures were observed to have held in-place, no swelling or signs of infection were seen, and the eagle’s overall condition had improved.

On August 28 the bird was transitioned to a small outdoor enclosure in the Center’s C-Pens. During the coming weeks, the veterinary and rehabilitation teams will continue to monitor the eagle’s status, and evaluate the bird’s preparedness for physical conditioning in a larger flight pen.

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Your donation will help provide care to this young Bald Eagle and approximately 4,000 other patients that the Wildlife Center will help this year.


Patient Updates

Bald Eagle #20-2906 was successfully released at Hoffler Creek on November 3, 2020. President Ed Clark and wildlife rehabilitator Dana Lusher [Nature’s Nanny Wildlife Rehabilitation] were on hand to release the bird back to the wild.

Photos and video from Dana Lusher: 


Photos from Michael Lemke: 

Bald Eagle Release in the News: 

Rehabilitated bald eagle returned to wild in Portsmouth on Election Day, WTKR 

Bald Eagle #20-2906 has continued to improve in its overall physical fitness and stamina during the past two weeks. Rehabilitation staff report that the eagle is able to fly more than 15 passes of the large flight pen, and is showing proper form during daily exercise. The eagle’s original injury has fully healed, and based on the results of its most-recent bloodwork, the veterinary and rehabilitation staff believe this eagle is ready to return to the wild!

Before its release, Dr. Karra will attempt to remove the transmitter attached to the top of its central tail feather, as this particular transmitter isn’t communicating with any databases. If Dr. Karra is unable to safely remove the transmitter, the unit will fall off on its own during the eagle’s next molt.

During the coming week, the veterinary staff will be communicating with Virginia’s state eagle biologists to choose a suitable release site.

The Bald Eagles in A3 have been doing well the past couple of weeks and are exercised daily by the rehabilitation team. Before these birds are fully conditioned for release, they will be participating in some research with our state eagle biologist!

On Friday, October 16, state eagle biologist Jeff Cooper came to the Center to apply two small transmitters to the Bald Eagles in A3. These tiny transmitters are solar-powered and, if they function well, will be used to study the movements of eagles that live in close proximity to airfields in eastern Virginia. The overall goal of the project is preventing airstrike; if the transmitters work well, biologists will set up receivers around a particular airfield so that officials are alerted if an eagle wearing a transmitter is in close proximity. At this time, the transmitters are just in the trial phase, which is what our eagles will assist with. We’ll be monitoring the birds to ensure the transmitters stay on while the eagles continue to move, fly, preen, and bathe. The transmitters will be removed before these eagles are released.

Those watching the two birds on Critter Cam are encouraged to take screenshots and share in the moderated discussion — keeping an eye on the transmitters will be very helpful to the staff and Jeff Cooper! The devices are small black ovals, and each eagle has the transmitter clipped onto the top of its central tail feather. Feel free to take a screenshot and upload to the discussion!

During the past week Bald Eagle #20-2906 has been showing decline in performance when exercising. Rehabilitation staff report that the bird is scripted for 10-15 flight passes in the Center’s large flight pen enclosure, but gets very winded and flies to the ground after about 6-8 passes. Veterinary staff checked the bird’s suture site on September 28 and reported that it was healed. Repeat blood tests and a physical exam will be scheduled soon to look further into this development.

Rehabilitation staff have observed that Bald Eagle #20-2906’s physical conditioning has improved since being transitioned to flight pen A3. Initially reported as flying poorly, within four days the eagle showed notable improvement; on September 14, it’s daily exercise regimen was increased to between 5-10 passes of the enclosure. The bird will remain in flight pen A3 and receive daily exercise during the coming weeks. The veterinary staff plan to quickly examine the bird’s suture site during a routine feet and feathers check scheduled for September 28. Critter Cam watchers may see this eagle, along with Bald Eagle #20-2508, on Critter Cam #2!

Bald Eagle #20-2906 has been recovering well during the past week. Several days after applying sutures to the eagle’s puncture wound, Dr. Karra noted the injury was healing very well and showed no signs of swelling or discharge. On September 9, the eagle was transitioned to flight pen A3 alongside Bald Eagle #20-2508, one of the Center’s largest open-air enclosures. The sutures put in place by Dr. Sarah will eventually be safely absorbed by the eagle’s body, eliminating the need for an indoor procedure to remove them. The bird will receive daily flight conditioning, and the rehabilitation staff will monitor the eagle’s physical strength and stamina during the coming weeks.