Buddy's Medical Updates


On January 29, Buddy received his annual examination. Annual exams include a complete work-up – physical examinations, radiographs, fecals, and blood work – a complete blood count is done in-house, and a chemistry panel is sent to an outside lab.
On exam day, Buddy was caught-up and brought into the hospital to be anesthetized for his radiographs and examination with Dr. Rich, the Center’s veterinary fellow. Overall, Dr. Rich declared Buddy to be in good shape!  Weighing in at 3.20 kgs, Buddy is at a healthy weight. Blood work and radiographs were all within normal limits.
The only thing of note Dr. Rich found was that Buddy continues to have cysts in the pecten of both of his eyes. Regular Buddy-followers may remember that this issue was first noted in December 2011 during an annual examination [see December 2011 report]. At that time, veterinary fellow Dr. Miranda noted several round, fluid-filled areas within the pecten. The pecten is the “nourishing” part of a bird’s eye, and is not responsible for sight.
This time around, Dr. Rich noted that “the cysts do look different – they are larger, but are now only in one portion of each eye. Previously they were smaller and throughout the eye. One cyst appeared deflated, so it is possible they are in some sort of cycle of enlargement and bursting.”  It’s unlikely that this will negatively affect Buddy – as the veterinary team noted in 2011, inflammation and congenital causes can be ruled out, which just leaves these cysts as “idiopathic” – meaning they are just there, and we don’t know why!  The veterinary team will check Buddy’s eyes again in six months.  
Buddy’s beak was also coped while he was in-hand for his annual examination. As usual, Dr. Rich took one to three millimeters off of the upper and lower portions of Buddy’s beak. Buddy will continue to be coped every six weeks.


Buddy is scheduled for a dremmel session every six weeks. All dremmel sessions are performed on Buddy while he is awake, and they typically last no more than five minutes. At each session, Dr. Dave or Dr. Rich typically dremmels about 2-3 mm off of the tip and sides of the upper and lower beaks.

2011 Medical History

December 14, 2011

On Monday, December 12, the Kjellstrom & Lee construction crew needed to get into Buddy’s enclosure to replace a pipe in Buddy’s swimming pool. Since Buddy needed to vacate the enclosure for the crew to get work done, the veterinary staff decided that they may as well get a bit of “work” done on Buddy himself at the same time and brought him down to the clinic.

Dr. Dave coped Buddy – a bit early, but preferable to having to catch the eagle up again in two weeks’ time. Dr. Dave dremmeled Buddy’s beak and shaved off two to three millimeters off of the lower beak, and one to two millimeters off of the top of the beak. The next dremmel session is scheduled for late January 2012.

Center vets also gave Buddy his annual physical exam, which included blood work and a series of radiographs. Buddy appears to be in good health, and the vet staff found no significant findings on in-house blood work or radiographs.

When Dr. Miranda performed an eye exam on Buddy, she did find something unusual – in both of his eyes, there are rounded, fluid-filled areas within the pecten. The pecten is the “nourishing” part of a bird’s eye, and is not responsible for sight. These type of cysts on a bird’s pecten could be congenital, the results of an infection, or just “idiopathic” – meaning it just happens, and we don’t know why!  In Buddy’s case, the veterinarians could easily rule out a congenital cause – Buddy’s eyes are examined every year, and these cysts were not present before. The team could also rule out infection, as there are no other parts of Buddy’s eyes that look abnormal, and all blood work is within normal limits. That just means that we’re not quite sure why his eyes look like this – but there’s no cause for concern. The vets will check Buddy’s eyes again in six months.

Buddy will actually be staying in his “old house” for a couple of days while the work in his eagle palace continues.

November 15, 2011

Buddy's beak trims have occurred about every five to six weeks throughout this summer and fall -- late August, mid-October, and most recently, November 14. Each time, Dr. Dave has been trimming Buddy's upper and lower beak about 2-3 millimeters to ensure that the beak fits together more snugly. Buddy continues to remain awake and hooded for each of these dremmel sessions.

July 8, 2011

Buddy had another beak trim on July 8. Dr. Dave reports, "Buddy was VERY good today for coping. We performed the procedure awake and there was very little struggling while the dremmling was occurring. Also, not as much "chattering" compared to past events. He was just as feisty going to and from the pen. The lower beak fit under the upper beak but barely indicating that this is an appropriate coping time. Several millimeters were taken off the margins on both sides on the upper beak and the tip was trimmed back about 3 millimeters. The lower beak was trimmed back about 2-3 millimeters so that it fit more naturally under the upper beak. It was noticed today that the beak is developing more yellow colouration indicating that Buddy is getting closer and closer to maturity."

June 7, 2011

On Friday, June 3, Buddy was brought into the WCV clinic for his monthly dremmel session. Dr. Dave once again did the beak coping while Buddy was awake and hooded.  According to Dr. Dave, “The upper beak seemed to cross over the lower beak more than in the past, however, the rehabbers report that he was still eating and manipulating his food without any trouble. Approximately three to four millimeters were taken off of the upper left beak and about two millimeters was taken off of the upper right.  The lower beak was slightly overgrown and I removed two to three millimeters from the tip and curved the edges so there were no sharp points. The tip of the upper beak was taken back by three millimeters to decrease the overall length.” The next dremmel session is scheduled for early July.

April 18, 2011

Buddy came into the hospital on April 15 for his monthly beak trim. According to Dr. Dave, approximately two millimeters were taken off the end of Buddy’s lower beak and one to two millimeters were dremmeled off of the side of the upper beak. Coping was once again performed without anesthesia, so the procedure went very quickly. Modifications are still needed for Buddy’s new hood though – so Dr. Dave’s thumb doesn't end up getting chomped on quite so much! Buddy also received a West Nile vaccination while he was inside for his dremmeling procedure. All of the Center’s education raptors are vaccinated each spring against the West Nile virus – this killed vaccine is given about four to six weeks before mosquito season starts.

March 21, 2011

Buddy came into the hospital on Friday, March 18 for his monthly dremmel session – this time, Dr. Dave wanted to try the beak-trim while keeping Buddy awake. Education Coordinator Kelly Rourke made a custom-fitted hood for Buddy to wear during the trim to reduce stress as well as to keep Buddy’s eyes protected.  Dr. Dave reports:  “We tested the new hood out today and determined that the chin strap is attached too far forward. This doesn't allow us to open the mouth without Buddy biting my thumb. Kelly  will be modifying the hood for the next session.   We did use an older hood and coped the beak while Buddy was awake. Once he had accepted that my thumb was not leaving his mouth, he was quiet and accepted the procedure. Three millimeters were taken off of the end of the top beak. Several millimeters were taken off of the edges of the bottom beak. In the end, the lower beak fit nicely under the top beak. The procedure was fairly quick –only about three minutes -- and Buddy seemed miffed but tolerated the procedure well.” The next beak trim is scheduled for mid-April; the plan is to continue the dremmel sessions while Buddy is awake. 

February 25, 2011

On February 18, Buddy received his monthly beak trim as well as his annual "check-up" from the staff veterinarians. Each of the Center's education raptor receives a thorough physical exam once a year. Buddy's radiographs and blood work all looked great. Dr. Dave McRuer dremmeled Buddy's upper and lower beak; a moderate amount was trimmed. This was done under anesthesia this time, since Buddy was already anesthetized for his annual radiographs. The next dremmel session in March will be attempted with Buddy awake.      

January 11, 2011

On January 6, Buddy was brought in to the Wildlife Center hospital for his monthly beak trim.   Dr. Dave McRuer reports,  “As per prior plans, coping was done under anesthesia so that more of Buddy’s beak could be trimmed. Approximately 3-4 mm was removed from the tip of the lower beak. Approximately 3 mm of keratin was removed from the right side of his upper beak and only 1 mm was removed from the left side. After coping, the lower beak was easily able to close and not touch the tip of the upper beak.” Buddy’s next coping is scheduled for the second week in February.

2010 Medical History

December 6, 2010

On December 2, Buddy came in for another routine beak trim. This time, however, the plan was to dremmel Buddy’s beak while he was awake, rather than anesthetizing him. While Buddy wasn’t exactly pleased with this new procedure, things went well for a first attempt at doing this awake. About 2 millimeters were taken off each side of the upper beak and about 2-3 millimeters were dremmeled off of the bottom beak.   While it’s only been four and a half weeks since the last dremmel date, Buddy’s beak, especially the lower beak, has grown a little faster than expected. While the plan is to still do a majority of future beak trims without anesthesia, Buddy will be anesthetized for the next dremmel session – scheduled for the week of January 3 --  so that a greater amount of overgrown beak can be trimmed off. This should  allow for the February and March trims to be done while Buddy is awake.  In the meantime, education coordinator Kelly Rourke will work on making a new hood for Buddy to help protect his eyes during these dremmel sessions. This hood will be made just to Buddy’s size, as the current eagle hood is a little large for him.

November 1, 2010

On November 1 Buddy was brought into the Center's clinic for another dremmeling procedure -- Buddy's monthly beak trim. As was anticipated with this new schedule, a smaller amount needed to be trimmed from Buddy's beak.   If these trims are done more frequently, the veterinary team hopes that the procedures could be done without anesthetizing Buddy. As part of this transition, Buddy was given less anesthesia for the November 1 dremmeling, and the vet staff encountered no problems. Buddy's next beak-trim will be in about four weeks -- likely the week of November 29.

October 1, 2010 by Dr. Dave McRuer

On October 1 we had a very successful dremmeling. We only allowed four weeks to pass since the last dremelling. This resulted in less growth and a less traumatic experience. Only one small blood vessel was damaged on the lower beak. Several mm of keratin was removed from the right and left side of the upper beak along the margins. Approximately 3 mm was dremmeled from the tip of the upper beak. This was a much quicker dremmeling; our plan is to repeat in four weeks to avoid excessive growth and vascular expansion.        

When Buddy was anesthetized for the dremmel procedure, Center vets worked to get a Buddy "footprint".  Learn more! 

September 6, 2010

On Friday, September 3 Buddy was brought back into the clinic for a beak trim. All three of the Center's veterinarians participated in the procedure -- Drs. Kelly Flaminio, Dave McRuer, and Miranda Sadar Both Buddy's upper and lower beak were trimmed during the short procedure. The vets also gave Buddy a physical examination -- his body condition was generally good, and there was no evidence of any continuing problems with his feet. Buddy did have some flat flies; treatment is underway. Dr. Dave now feels that it would be best to bring Buddy in for coping [beak trims] more frequently -- every four weeks. This will reduce the amount of the beak that needs to be trimmed in each session. It is also possible that these copings could then be done without the need to anesthetize Buddy.                    

July 19, 2010

On July 19 Buddy was brought into the veterinary clinic for a beak trim. He was generally bright and alert. Center veterinarians found that his beak was overgrown on both the upper and lower parts. The upper beak was curved to the left and the lower part couldn't fit under the upper part. About 3 mm was trimmed off of the front part of the lower beak; the upper beak was also trimmed back about 3 mm. There was slight but temporary bleeding on the lower beak.   The next dremmeling will probably be scheduled for early September -- in six weeks, rather than the recent eight-week interval.                    

May 19, 2010

On May 18 Buddy was brought into the clinic for coping -- his beak-trimming procedure, and his first since mid-March. The procedure went smoothly. For the past few weeks, Center veterinary and rehabilitation staff have also been keeping an eye on a  small cut on the pad of Buddy's right foot.  As a precautionary measure, and to help keep the foot clean, the foot was bandaged; to reduce exposure to moisture, Buddy's large water tank was also emptied.  Yesterday's examination found that the foot had healed. So ... no more bandages. And Buddy's "swimming pool" has been refilled.                          

Additional Information from Dr. Dave McRuerApril 2010

#08-0887 went from December 22 to March 19 between beak-trimming procedures, raising a question about the rate of growth of his beak. At this point, I cannot say for sure whether the beak growth has slowed down or whether the eagle has adapted to the crossed beak.    We used to schedule a dremmel procedure every six weeks. We now wait until the bird's actions show us that it's time to trim. Our rehabilitation staff are very observant when it comes to how this eagle eats. When morsels of food become difficult to manipulate, or when the bird is having trouble tearing the prey, the vet staff is told immediately and a beak-trim is promptly scheduled. Lately, we've been going longer between sessions. Earlier in his treatment at the Center, we marked the beak and then measured beak growth. To verify that beak growth has slowed, we'd have to conduct a similar procedure -- scarring the beak around the growth plates and then watching the marks advance. As this presents a risk of doing further damage to the growth plate for the beak, I'd rather avoid this option if possible.

March 19, 2010

Eagle #08-0887 was brought into the Center's clinic today for another beak-trimming procedure and for his annual examination. The bird's condition was generally excellent. The small wounds he suffered in early February have healed well, although a small, more recent cut was found above one eye. His feet were in good condition [raptors in captivity frequently develop foot issues]. A blood sample was taken, and he received his annual vaccination for West Nile Virus. While under anesthesia for the beak-coping, #08-887 was also fitted with his new custom-made anklets.    

February 3, 2010

On February 2, Center wildlife rehabilitator Suzy Doell noticed a small amount of blood on #08-0887's head. The eagle was brought into the Center's clinic and examined by Dr. Elizabeth Daut. She found three small superficial wounds along the ridge above the bird's right eye, and a couple of scabs on old wounds on the face. It appears that these wounds were suffered when #08-0887 stuck his head through the chain-link fence in his enclosure. Dr. Daut cleaned out the three small wounds and applied an antibiotic ointment. She also has prescribed three days of treatment with an anti-inflammatory drug. The eagle was moved back up to one of the Center's large flight pens while some alterations were made to his enclosure -- including placing protective netting around the lower part of the chain-link fence. Those repairs have been made and #08-0887 has been moved back to his spot between Junior [the Golden Eagle] and Scarlette [the Red-tailed Hawk].        

2009 Medical History

December 22, 2009 by Dr. Dave McRuer, Director of Veterinary Medicine

Eagle #08-887 was brought into the clinic for a dremeling procedure on Tuesday, December 22. The bird's upper beak had actually worn a small grove in the lower beak, although this did not affect the bird's ability to eat.  The dremmel was used to shorten the length of the lower beak  and reduce the height of the beak on the left rostral surface. The height of the adjacent margin on the upper beak was also reduced bilaterally. The length of the upper beak was also shortened.

December 17, 2009

by Dr. Dave McRuer, Director of Veterinary Medicine There is little to report on the health status of Bald Eagle 08-0887 this month other than he’s happy and healthy. On most mornings the eagle can be found in the top right corner of his enclosure on a hemp rope-wrapped perch sunning himself in the morning rays. The eagle will frequently fly down to the front perch for a visit but often returns to the top perch for more basking time. 08-0887 is the best behaved bird on the block this time of year. Junior, the Golden Eagle in the next pen, is going through his annual “build-a-nest” phase and is very vocal whenever anyone walks by. Scarlette, the Red-tailed Hawk on the other side of 08-0887, is in a similar mood, and screeching is the order of the day. If I were 887, I’d be investigating the local noise by-laws! The beak continues to grow and be dremmeled every 6-8 weeks. We are nearing procedure time again but the bird is still eating without difficulty. No other medical issues have been observed to date. The eagle’s feet are in great condition which is always great news. In captivity, the rough keratin papilla on the bottom of the feet often become quite worn, and ulcers or “bumblefoot” may occur. This is not the case with this bird. His weight is also maintaining itself which again is a good sign in a captive bird. In summary, 08-0887 is a quiet, content eagle with a great demeanor. I foresee a bright education career in his future!

November 3, 2009 by Dr. Dave McRuer, Director of Veterinary Medicine

On physical exam, it was noticed that 887's beak was starting to show signs of wear on the bottom left aspect of the beak. This wear was caused from the upper right edge of the beak moving across the surface due to the asymetrical growth pattern. The decision was made to dremmel. The dremmel was used to shorten the length of the lower beak  and reduce the height of the beak on the left rostral surface (closer to the tip). The height of the adjacent margin on the upper beak was also reduced bilaterally. The length of the upper beak was shortened to create normal confirmation. Finally, the dremmal was used to cosmetically remove chaffed beak material around the original wound site. The eagle woke from anesthesia without incident and is expected to eat this evening without difficulty.


September 19, 2009

On September 19, #08-0887 was brought into the clinic for a coping procedure by Drs. Dave McRuer and Elizabeth Daut. This beak-trim occurred during NESTI Day at the Wildlife Center, and several participants took videos of the procedure. Those videos have been posted on the NESTI Forum, including videos by Chris Murphy and Ann Shirley.

August 7, 2009 by Dr. Dave McRuer, Director of Veterinary Medicine

This week, it was time for another coping on the Norfolk eagle’s beak. The lower jaw had grown out substantially since the previous coping and the upper beak appeared slightly more laterally displaced. That said, this certainly hasn’t stopped the little guy from eating! I’ve included several pictures of #08-887 before the coping. Several focus on him in his current enclosure; others are close-up shots of his beak from different angles. The coping went very well and the recovery from anesthesia (using Sevoflurane……wonderful stuff for eagles) was uneventful -- just how we like it!

June 10, 2009 by Dr. Elizabeth Daut, Veterinary Fellow, Wildlife Center of Virginia

During the week of June 1, the Center rehab staff noticed that #08-887 seemed to be a bit disinterested in his food. We also noticed that the bird's upper beak seemed to be a bit too long, which might have been causing some discomfort. On Saturday, June 6, the eagle was brought into the clinic; the vet team trimmed a few millimeters from the tip of the eagle's upper beak. Since that dremmeling, #08-887 has continued to be a somewhat "finicky" eater. While he devoured a quartered rat given to him on Sunday [June 7], he has been less interested in mice meals that past couple of days. The Center rehabbers plan to tempt him with a fish this evening. 

June 12, 2009 

On the evening of June 10,  Wildlife Center rehabilitators left fish for #08-887's dinner. According the rehabbers, the eagle ate about 90 percent of it. For the time being, #08-887 has been relocated from one of the Center's large flight pens to a smaller outdoor enclosure.   In the two large flights pens are two Red-tailed Hawks [in Pen A-1] and a Turkey Vulture [in Pen A-2]. These birds are being exercised as part of their pre-release rehabilitation.

May 14, 2009

by Dr. Dave McRuer, Director of Veterinary Medicine at the Wildlife Center of Virginia Patient #08-887 was examined today, and the deviation between the top and bottom beaks was starting to become larger. The decision was made to cope [trim] the beak before problems in eating occurred. The Bald Eagle was brought into the clinic and anestheized with Sevoflurane [no problems]. Approximately 3 mm was shaved from the left side of the tip of the beak and the right side of the upper beak at the tip. The marks placed on the upper beak some weeks ago to assess growth were all fairly uniform [as has been true in past observations], yet the beak deviation continues.   

April 1, 2009 by Dr. Dave McRuer, Director of Veterinary Medicine at the Wildlife Center of Virginia

The eagle's beak was now so long that it would not fit under the upper beak. The eagle is compensating by twisting the lower jaw to the left, so that the upper and lower beak will unite. To correct this problem, the eagle was brought to the hospital on the morning of April 1 and anesthestized with Sevoflurane. Approximately 5 mm were taken off the tip, and 1-2 mm off of the left side, of the lower beak. After approximately 15 minutes the eagle woke up without complications. 

March 23, 2009

The Norfolk Bald Eagle was examined in one of the Center's large flight pens on March 23 by Dr. Dave McRuer, the Center's Director of Veterinary Medicine, with the assistance of Wildlife Rehabilitator Tracy Marshall. The determination was made that an additional trimming/dremmeling was not necessary at this time. The next formal evaluation is scheduled for April 13.

February 28, 2009 by Dr. Dave McRuer, Director of Veterinary Medicine at the Wildlife Center of Virginia

On Wednesday, February 25, the veterinary team examined Eagle #08-887 to assess his general health and to determine if a dremmeling procedure was in order.   The vets found that the beak had grown to the point where the lateral right edge of the upper beak almost touched the left edge of the lower beak, necessitating a beak trim. This dremmeling procedure was undertaken, and the beak was again scored to assess growth. The next dremmeling procedure, based on the beak's rate of growth, has been scheduled for March 23.

January 13, 2009 by Dr. Dave McRuer, Director of Veterinary Medicine at the Wildlife Center of Virginia

#08-0887 was brought into the hospital again on January 8 to further assess and dremmel the lower beak. Marks made on the beak more than a month and a half ago indicate that the whole beak is growing outwards, and there does appear to be less curvature than several months ago. Approximately 3mm were shaved off the distal aspect of the lower beak and 5mm taken off the tip of the upper beak. The lower beak currently fits nicely under the upper beak. The next dremmel date is set for February 6. 887 continues to fly around in one of the Center’s largest eagle flight pens.

2008 Medical History