Bald Eagle #23-0749

April 24, 2023
Rescue Location
King William County, Virginia
Cause of Admission/Condition
eagle fight
Current Patient
Patient photo

Last Updated Jump to patient updates

On April 23, two Bald Eagles were seen fighting in King William County, Virginia. One bird flew off and was unable to be caught, but the second large eagle was found down on the ground with several wounds on her face and feet. The bird was taken to Tidewater Wildlife Rescue for stabilization, and transported to the Wildlife Center of Virginia for treatment the following day.

The Center’s veterinary team examined the bird – likely a female, based on size – upon admission and found that the bird was in good body condition, weighing in at 4.50 kg. The eagle had small abrasions around her feet and left eye, with some mild bruising and swelling; the veterinary team also found two small puncture wounds on the outside of the bird’s left leg. Most significantly, the eagle had a very swollen, fractured toe on her right foot. Blood work indicated that the eagle had subclinical amounts of lead in her system.

The veterinary team carefully cleaned the eagle’s wounds and stabilized the bird’s toe fracture using a ball bandage, which allowed the bird’s foot to maintain its natural perching shape. The eagle received fluids, pain medications, anti-inflammatories, and started a course of oral chelation therapy.

Three days after admission, the veterinary team anesthetized the eagle to surgically debride the wounds on the bird’s left leg; they were able to successfully “freshen” the edges of the wound and apply sutures. Within the next week, the eagle was stable enough to move to a small outdoor enclosure, where she continued another round of oral chelation therapy while receiving bandage changes on her toe every few days.

On May 19, the eagle moved to flight pen A3, one of the Center’s largest flight spaces for Bald Eagles. The veterinary team added a splint to the bird’s toe to help stabilize it, though overall they were pleased with the progress of the healing fracture.

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Patient Updates

During the past month, Bald Eagle #23-0749 has continued to make slow but steady progress. On September 21, the eagle was moved to the Center’s A3 flight pen. Rehab staff report that the bird still has a number of damaged feathers on both her left and right wing, however, her new tail feathers are growing in well and her right-wing droop is no longer present.

Despite the damaged wing feathers, the eagle has made great strides in her ability to stay flighted for longer periods of time. The bird was previously struggling to make 5-6 passes during exercise sessions, but over the past week, has shown increased strength and is now able to comfortably make 10-14 passes before becoming exhausted.

On October 23, veterinary staff entered the eagle’s enclosure to check on her feet and feather quality. They noted that the eagle had some small lacerations on the bottom of her right foot; while the lacerations are relatively minor, vet staff will closely monitor the foot to make sure they don’t worsen.

For now, Center staff will continue to exercise the eagle daily and monitor the condition of her feathers and feet.

During the past two months, Bald Eagle #23-0749 has continued her rehabilitation in the A1 enclosure. After several weeks of laser and physical therapy, the rehab team reported that the range of motion in the eagle’s right wing had improved. The bird’s flight was also showing signs of improvement during daily exercise sessions.

On July 31, the rehab team increased the eagle’s flight regimen to 10-15 passes. Though the eagle’s flight had improved,  she still struggled to maintain height after 5-6 passes in her enclosure. The eagle has a number of damaged feathers and is currently molting, the process by which old feathers fall out and new feathers grow in their place; it’s possible that this is impacting the eagle’s flight. Rehab staff also continued to observe a right-wing droop during exercise sessions.

For now, the rehab team will continue to exercise the bird daily and closely monitor her feathers and right wing.

During the past three weeks, Bald Eagle #23-0749 has continued to recuperate in the Center’s A1 flight pen. During daily exercise, rehabilitation staff report that the bird is able to complete between 6-10 passes of the enclosure. Her physical stamina has improved during recent weeks, but a noticeable right wing droop has been observed following exercise sessions. Repeat radiographs performed on June 26 showed thickening of the soft tissue surrounding the bird’s right patagium – a condition previously noted upon the eagle’s admission, and likely the result of an older injury in the wild. In addition to regular physical therapy, veterinary staff began a laser therapy regimen on June 30 to help improve the wing’s mobility and range of motion.

That same day, veterinary staff drew blood from the eagle for an uncommon – but not unheard of – procedure. A different eagle patient recently admitted to the Center was in need of a blood transfusion. While any bird could serve as a blood donor (at least for the first transfusion), the best results come from a donor of the same species. Bald Eagle #23-0749 was transitioned indoors for the procedure, anesthetized, and 49 mL of blood was drawn by the veterinary staff. While the procedure was successful, the transfusion recipient did not ultimately survive treatment. Bald Eagle #23-0749 recovered uneventfully from the anesthesia, and was transitioned back into the A1 flight pen that same day.

For now, the bid will continue to exercise daily, and is receiving physical therapy and laser therapy three times per week.

Bald Eagle #23-0749 has been slowly improving during the past month. On June 5, the eagle was transferred to the Center’s A1 flight pen. Within this large enclosure, she receives daily exercise with the rehabilitation staff and is currently able to complete 5-10 passes before showing signs of exhaustion.

On June 10, the eagle received her final dose of oral chelation therapy medication, and subsequent blood tests returned within normal limits. During a daily foot and feather check, rehabilitation staff noted a moderate level of feather lice on June 19, and topical anti-parasitics have been administered each day during daily treatments.

While the swelling associated with the fractured toe on her left foot has improved over time, the wound is still bandaged and is being managed by veterinary staff. On June 23, repeat radiographs will be taken to assess the fracture and develop future plans of care. For now, Bald Eagle #23-0749 will remain in the A1 flight pen under close observation.