Bald Eagle #17-2705

Admission Date: 
December 2, 2017
Location of Rescue: 
Charles City County, VA
Cause of Admission / Condition: 
Wing fracture; lead toxicity
Patient Status: 
Patient Archive

On December 1, a citizen in Charles City County saw a mature Bald Eagle on the ground, unable to fly. The Virginia Department of Game & Inland Fisheries was called, and an officer responded to the scene and was able to capture the eagle and take it to a permitted wildlife rehabilitator in the area. The following morning, the rehabilitator noted a wound on the eagle's wing; it appeared as though the eagle self-inflicted the wound during the night in the crate. A local veterinarian treated the bird before it was transported to the Wildlife Center and admitted as patient #17-2705 -- the 52nd Bald Eagle admitted in 2017.

Dr. Alexa, one of the Center's veterinary interns, examined the male eagle when he arrived. The eagle was bright and alert and was in fairly good body condition. Dr. Alexa was able to palpate a right ulnar fracture in the bird's wing, as well as soft tissue swelling around the fracture site. She also noted the small open wound over the eagle's left carpus [wrist]. Blood was drawn for analysis and a lead test; lead results came back at 0.23 ppm, which is at a level requiring treatment. 

Radiographs revealed a spiral fracture of the bird's right ulna; Dr. Alexa placed a bandage on the eagle's right wing to stabilize the fracture. She carefully sutured the wound on the bird's left wing, and started a course of chelation therapy. Chelation therapy consists of an injection of CaEDTA twice daily for five days; this “chelator” will bind to the lead to take it out of the blood – essentially “scrubbing” the blood clean. The bird was placed in the Center's holding room. 

The veterinary team will continue to provide chelation therapy through December 7 and will check the eagle's wing bandage daily. 

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


April 6, 2018

During the past couple of weeks, the staff has continued to critically evaluate Bald Eagle #17-2705’s flight in the A3 flight enclosure. Unfortunately, the bird has not been improving overall; the eagle struggles to maintain height after flying a few passes and also has poor stamina. After several flights, the eagle had a pronounced wing droop.

The staff discussed the case this week and reviewed the last set of radiographs. The eagle had a notably enlarged heart, which likely affected the conditioning and stamina of the bird. The eagle’s wing fractures had healed, though based on how they had healed, the old fractures likely affected the mechanics of the wing in flight. On April 4, the veterinary team made the difficult decision to humanely euthanize the bird.

March 26, 2018

The rehabilitation staff have continued to exercise Bald Eagle #17-2705 daily during the past couple of weeks. Just within the past week, the eagle has started to show signs of slight improvement. The eagle’s stamina has increased, and the bird is able to maintain height when flying for more than a couple of passes. The bird is now flying about 10 passes perch-to-perch, though the bird’s right wing typically droops after the exercise session. The eagle will need to continue to improve and increase stamina to be able to be released.

March 12, 2018

Bald Eagle #17-2705 has continued to struggle during daily exercise in the past week. The rehabilitation team reports that the eagle has a pronounced wing droop and cannot maintain height; the bird quickly becomes overexerted when flying.

On March 12, the veterinary staff took another series of radiographs to monitor the eagle’s injuries. Dr. Ernesto noted some issues in the eagle’s right elbow, which is likely contributing to the bird’s flight issues. He also noted that the eagle’s heart was enlarged; this is likely due to lead toxicity, and could indicate permanent damage that prevents the bird’s release.

The team will give the eagle more time in a flight enclosure and will continue to monitor the eagle closely during the next three weeks.

March 6, 2018

On March 1, Brie and Dr. Peach imped Bald Eagle #17-2705. Unfortunately, the eagle’s flight has not improved following the procedure. The bird does not gain height when flying and has exhibited a right wing droop during and after exercise. The rehabilitation staff will continue to exercise the bird, but if the wing droop persists, the veterinary staff will take radiographs on March 12 to look for potential causes for the bird’s poor flight.

February 27, 2018

The rehabilitation staff has been monitoring Bald Eagle #17-2705 in flight pen A3; the eagle’s damaged and missing feathers are preventing the bird from flying well enough to begin daily exercise. 

On February 27, rehabilitator Brie and veterinary fellow Dr. Peach will measure the eagle for an imping procedure. Imping is the process of transplanting intact feathers from a donor bird of the same species to a recipient in need of new feathers. This is done by fitting and gluing new transplant feathers into the trimmed original bases of the broken or missing feathers on the recipient bird.

Brie and Dr. Peach plan to imp the eagle later in the week; this procedure will hopefully help the eagle fly better and move through the rehabilitation process.

February 21, 2018

On February 19, Bald Eagle #17-2705 was moved to flight pen A3 in preparation for exercise and flight conditioning. Wildlife rehabilitator Brie noted that several of the eagle’s feathers are broken; the eagle will likely need to be “imped” at some point prior to release. Imping is the process of replacing broken, missing, or damaged feathers with matching feathers from a donor bird. The rehabilitation staff will monitor the eagle’s initial flight attempts in the coming days; the imping procedure may need to be done so that the eagle can adequately fly to get in shape for release.

Keep an eye on Critter Cam 3 -- this eagle will sometimes be featured on that channel!

January 22, 2018

Bald Eagle #17-2705 was brought into the Center’s clinic for a set of follow-up radiographs on January 20. Dr. Monica found that the eagle’s fractured wing had healed nicely. The bird was moved into one of the Center’s C-pens, which has enough space for the eagle to stretch his wings and make short hops from perch to perch, but it still small enough to restrict the eagle’s activity.

The eagle is eating well; once the bird has had time to get used to stretching and using his wing again, he’ll be moved to a larger flight space to continue to recover.

January 9, 2018

The veterinary team has been monitoring Bald Eagle #17-2705’s pox lesions daily; the lesions appear to be improving. On January 3, the Bald Eagle was moved to a small padded enclosure outside, in hopes that being away from the hospital would encourage the eagle’s appetite. The eagle started eating after he was moved.

Follow-up radiographs indicated that the eagle’s fractures are healing slowly; additional radiographs will be taken on January 13.

January 1, 2018

On December 22, Dr. Alexa noted a suspicious lesion on the side of Bald Eagle #17-2705’s beak during treatments. On closer examination, there was an additional small lesion on the other side of the eagle’s mouth as well. Dr. Alexa suspected avian pox – a virus often transmitted by mosquitoes. The Center has recently treated a screech-owl with avian pox; the virus could also be transmitted through contact with an infected surface.

Dr. Alexa took samples of the lesions and was able to confirm avian pox. The eagle was moved into the Center’s isolation room to continue treatment.

On December 30, the veterinary team took additional radiographs to check on the eagle’s healing wing fracture; radiographs showed good callus and bone healing of the original fracture, but unfortunately, Dr. Alexa noted a new spiral ulnar fracture near the original fracture. This was likely self-inflicted; this particular eagle has been difficult to manage in a small space. The team moved the bird to a larger padded space after re-wrapping the injured wing.

The bird’s pox lesions are improving, and the eagle is eating well.

December 21, 2017

Bald Eagle #17-2705 was moved to a crate in a small outdoor enclosure on December 14 in hopes that being outdoors would stimulate the eagle to eat on his own. It appears that the move worked; the eagle began eating a diet of rats soon after the move.

The veterinary team was pleased with the eagle’s radiographs on December 16 and began a regimen of physical therapy every three days to start to stretch and strengthen the eagle’s wing. An additional lead test was performed on December 19; even though the last recheck was “low”, lead levels can sometimes increase again since the heavy metal is stored in the bones and can move back into the bloodstream. This time, the level came back at 0.052 ppm, which is just 0.002 ppm above the lead machine’s “low” level. Dr. Ernesto does not anticipate that the eagle’s lead levels will rise again; it appears as though the first round of chelation therapy worked.

The eagle will continue to receive physical therapy until he is ready to move into a larger enclosure for observation.

December 13, 2017

Bald Eagle #17-2705 finished his course of chelation therapy last week; results from a re-check lead analysis were “low”, indicating that the first course of treatment worked. The eagle has been gradually getting brighter, though the staff have had to intermittently hand- and tube-feed the eagle to ensure he’s receiving adequate nutrition. 

The veterinary team noted an abscess developing on the eagle’s fractured wing; on December 9, the eagle was taken to surgery to lance and drain the abscess. Radiographs taken that same day indicate that the eagle’s fractured ulna is healing. 

The staff will continue to carefully monitor the eagle in the coming weeks. Additional radiographs are scheduled for December 16.