Bald Eaglet #14-0867

May 23, 2014
August 20, 2014
Rescue Location
Essex County, Virginia
Cause of Admission/Condition
Nest destroyed in tornado/Multiple fractures sustained
Former Patient
Patient photo

Last Updated Jump to patient updates

On May 22, severe storms rolled through eastern Virginia. In Tappahannock, Virginia, a small tornado touched down and destroyed an eagle’s nest containing two eight-week old eaglets. The eaglets were found the following morning and were picked up by the DGIF eagle biologist. The birds were transported to the Wildlife Center later that same evening.

Dr. Kristin Britton, the Center’s veterinary intern, examined the eaglets when they arrived. Eaglet #14-0866 was bright and alert, but radiographs confirmed that the young bird sustained a left humeral fracture. The eaglet also had blood in its mouth, and an abrasion on its beak.

Eaglet #14-0867 was not standing in the transport crate when Dr. Kristin began her assessment; radiographs revealed that eaglet had a right pelvic fracture. The birds were stabilized and treated with pain meds, fluids, anti-inflammatories.

On the morning of May 26, the veterinary team will take eaglet #14-0866 to surgery to try to repair the left humeral fracture. Dr. Kristin anticipates that the surgery could be difficult due to the location of the fracture – the humerus is fractured near the shoulder joint.

Bald Eagle #14-0867 will be cage rested for several weeks. The pelvic fracture is well-aligned, and should be able to heal on its own. The eagle is able to use both legs, but is now spending most of its time lying down in its enclosure in the Center’s holding room. Both eaglets weigh about 4.3 kg.

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Patient Updates

Bald Eaglets #14-0867, 14-0649, and 14-0650 were successfully released at the Chincoteague National Wildlife refuge on Wednesday, August 20. More than 150 individuals were in attendance, including wildlife rehabilitators Linda Vetter and Gay Franzee and the owners of the campground where Bald Eaglets #14-0649 and #14-0650 were originally found in May.

President Ed Clark released all three of the eaglets. The first bird released was Bald Eaglet #14-0867. Prior to release, all three birds were fitted with GPS transmitters. However, the transmitter on Bald Eaglet #14-0867 was not functioning and had to be removed. After the eagle was released, it flew over a nearby grove of trees and then faded from sight.

Bald Eagle #14-0650 was released next. The bird flew in two large, high circles over the release area before it perched in a stand of tall trees.

Bald Eagle #14-0649 was last to be released. Two days before its release, the bird flew into the ceiling of its flight pen during exercise, causing a superficial laceration to its scalp and some loss of feathers. As soon as the bird was released, it circled once high above before it flew into the distance and out of view.

Access to the tracking data from the GPS transmitters that were placed on Bald Eagles #14-0649 and #14-0650 will likely become available on the Wildlife Center’s Eagle Tracking page during the week of August 25.

Triple Bald Eagle Release at at Chincoteague National Wildlife

Bald Eagles Released at Refuge Jay Diem video,

Bald Eagles Released at Refuge Jay Diem photo gallery,

Bald Eaglets #14-0649 and #14-0867 have been flying well during the past few weeks. On August 13, the two birds were assessed for release – and were declared ready to go next week.

Dr. Dave assessed Bald Eaglet #14-0650’s flight in A3, and determined that this eaglet will likely be ready for release next week. The bird has recovered very well from the shoulder injury – and has been flying the length of the A3 enclosure and is able to fly to all the high perches.

The three young birds will be released by Wildlife Center president Ed Clark at the Chincoteague National Wildlife Refuge on Wednesday, August 20 at 11:00 a.m. The release is open to the public; those wishing to attend the release are asked to meet at the Herbert H. Bateman Educational and Administrative Center (visitor center), located at 8231 Beach Road, Chincoteague, VA 23336. Those planning on attending the release should RSVP to

The birds can be seen on the Center’s Critter Cams.

On Monday, August 4, one of the Center’s rehabilitation externs entered the A3 flight pen to exercise Bald Eagle #14-0650. While flying, the eagle bumped into a wall of the flight pen and fell to the ground. The bird was able to stand, but did not try to fly to a perch.

The eagle was caught up and brought into the Center’s hospital for a physical exam and radiographs. The veterinary team found some boney changes in the eagle’s left shoulder – suggesting that the eagle injured itself about a week ago. While the eagle was still flying during that time, it’s likely that the bump into the wall on Monday aggravated the injury, and it became painful.

The eagle was given an injection of an anti-inflammatory medication and was placed back in flight pen A3 for observation. The rehabilitation staff confined the eagle to one-third of the enclosure with hanging shade cloth. The team will continue to observe the eagle, and additional radiographs are scheduled for August 11.

Bald Eaglets #14-0649 and #14-0867 are flying well in A1. The Wildlife Center staff will be coordinating with USFWS officials at Chincoteague to schedule a release date in mid-August. If #14-0650 is not ready for release in mid-August, a second release will be scheduled later this fall.

On July 22, the rehabilitation staff caught up two Bald Eaglets — #14-0649 and 0867 – and moved them to flight pen A1. Bald Eaglet #14-0650 remains in flight pen A3. Dividing the three birds up into two flight pens will allow the staff to more safely exercise the large birds in preparation for release.

The eaglets are doing well with their transmitters – all three have had no issues after last week’s fitting. Now that each eaglet has a little more space, a formal exercise program will begin. The eaglets should be released sometime in August; the staff should know more next week.

On July 16, DGIF biologist Jeff Cooper came to the Wildlife Center to band and fit Bald Eaglets #14-0649, 0650, and 0867 with GPS transmitters. Each eaglet was weighed and measured prior to being fitted with a transmitter. The transmitter fitting went smoothly, and the three eaglets were returned to flight pen A3. The Wildlife Center will have access to the transmitter tracking data and will share updates after the eagles’ release.

During the next few weeks, the Wildlife Center staff will begin to prepare the eaglets for release. Depending on flight pen availability, the eaglets will likely be split up so they can be exercised and conditioned safely without running into one another. The staff will work with USFWS to determine when in August the three eaglets will be released in Chincoteague.


Bald Eaglets #14-0649, 650, and 867 are doing well in the Center’s A3 flight pen. The birds are eating well and their flight feathers are in good condition. The birds can often be seen on a variety of high perches via Critter Cam.

Current weights:
BAEA #14-0649: 4.15 kg
BAEA #14-0650: 3.65 kg
BAEA #14-0867: 3.82 kg

These three eaglets will be released together in Chincoteague, likely in early August. Each of the birds will be fitted with a GPS transmitter and will be a part of an ongoing research study being undertaken by VDGIF. DGIF biologists were particularly interested in returning the eaglets to Chincoteague for monitoring.

DGIF biologist Jeff Cooper has been fitting Bald Eaglets with transmitters during the past few years; in 2011, Bald Eagle “NX” was fitted with a transmitter, and Wildlife Center website visitors can still track her movements. Last summer, one of the Wildlife Center staff members had the opportunity to assist DGIF biologists with this study.

The DGIF study looks at the data received from these Bald Eagles to determine the range and behavior of Bald Eagles in Virginia’s coastal plain. Migratory behavior is studied as biologists are able to see how far Bald Eagles move in the winter season. The data is also used to discover communal roost sites of Bald Eagles. Additionally, the data plays an important role in modeling how these birds use airspace. By looking at heights at which the eagles fly, average distances, and other specifics, biologists are able to relate this eagle behavior to real-life issues, such as airstrike data.

The three eaglets at the Wildlife Center will be fitted with their transmitters several weeks prior to release; this is tentatively scheduled for the week of July 14.

The four Bald Eagles in flight pen A3 are all doing well. Eaglets #14-0649 and 0650 are becoming more adept at flying in the enclosure; Bald Eaglet #14-0867 joined the two eagle siblings in the main part of the flight enclosure on June 20. There have been some minor eagle scuffles as the three young eagles figured out the “pecking order”; eagle #14-0649 seems to be the main instigator. All were noted to be in good health during their bi-weekly foot and feather check on June 23.

This week, Critter Cam watchers will be able to distinguish between the three eaglets by the colorful duct tape on the protective wing bumpers each eaglet is wearing:

#14-0649:  rainbow bumpers
#14-0650:  polka dot bumpers
#14-0867:  owl bumpers

The adult Bald Eagle #14-0261 appears to be doing well. The staff will move this eagle to a separate flight pen for flight conditioning as soon as there is another A-pen available.

Bald Eagle #14-0867 was anesthetized for radiographs on Saturday, June 14, to check the healing progress of the bird’s fractured pelvis. Dr. Kristin noted that the fracture was well-calloused, although was displaced — meaning that the pelvic bone was not perfectly aligned. The bird appears to be bearing weight evenly on both legs, and does not have trouble maneuvering its legs, so the veterinary staff are optimistic about recovery.

The rehabilitation staff added a variety of higher perches to the tower of A3; the eagle quickly hopped to the A-frame perch when it was returned to its enclosure. As long as the young eagle appears to be doing well with a variety of perches, the tower doors will be opened later this week and the eagle will join Bald Eagle #14-0261, Bald Eaglet #14-0649, and Bald Eagle #14-0650.

On June 3, Bald Eaglet #14-0866 died during its morning treatments. Dr. Rich suspects that the stress of healing a significant fracture, the bird’s lack of appetite, and a possible systemic infection were too much for the bird to overcome.

Bald Eagle #14-0866 continues to heal after its wing-repair surgery. The young eagle showed a decreased appetite following surgery; the veterinary staff began tube-feeding the eaglet on May 29. The rehabilitation staff also offered the eaglet a diet of chopped rat. Throughout the weekend, the eaglet appeared brighter and began eating some of its meal on its own; the veterinary staff continue to supplement the bird’s diet with tube-feeding.

Blood work on May 30 revealed that the eaglet is still anemic – the bird’s red blood cell count has remained unchanged since admission. The eaglet continues to receive iron injections. Radiographs will be performed on June 9 to assess how the fractured wing is healing.

The eaglet’s sibling, Bald Eagle #14-0867, has been perching and eating well. The eaglet’s course of pain medication finished on June 1; the team will observe the eaglet to see if its behavior or appetite changes. On the afternoon of June 2, the staff will move the young bird to the tower of flight pen A3. The eaglet will have a limited selection of low perches so that it remains fairly quiet during this period of healing.

On May 26, Bald Eaglet #14-0866 was taken to surgery to repair its left humeral fracture. Dr. Krisitin Britton, the Center’s veterinary intern, inserted a long pin into the length of the bone to stabilize the fracture. Two additional pins were inserted into the bone at each end of the humerus, to provide stabilization through an external fixator. The veterinary team bandaged the wing carefully and placed a body wrap on the eaglet to restrict movement.

The bird recovered from anesthesia after surgery, although more blood was found in the bird’s mouth. This is likely an indication of internal trauma sustained from the fall. Once the bird’s mouth was cleaned, it was placed in an oxygen chamber overnight.

The following morning, the eaglet was bright, alert and responsive. The body wrap was removed and the Bald Eaglet was able to hold its wing in a normal position. The incision site also looked clean, healthy, and had minimal swelling. Bald Eaglet #14-0866 was returned to its oxygen chamber and then offered a meal of chopped rat. The bird ate very little on its own and had to be hand fed the rest of its meal.

On May 28, the Bald Eaglet was examined and mild swelling was noted at the pin site, but otherwise the bird’s left wing appeared to be healing well. The eaglet was again hand fed by the Center’s rehabilitation staff. When Bald Eaglet #14-0866 was checked that afternoon, it had regurgitated all of its meal. The veterinary and rehabilitation staff will continue to closely monitor the eaglet’s attitude, appetite, and pin sites and will recheck radiographs on May 31.

Bald Eaglet #14-0867 has shown steady improvement since it was admitted to the Center. On May 24, the eaglet was found resting sternal in its enclosure, but was able to stand and use both feet. Two days later, the eaglet was observed perching and showed an improved appetite. The staff will monitor the bird’s ability to use its right leg and will recheck radiographs next week.