Bald Eaglet #15-0733

Admission Date: 
May 14, 2015
Location of Rescue: 
King George County, Virginia
Cause of Admission / Condition: 
Fractured wing
Placed as education bird at New Mexico Wildlife Center
Patient Status: 
Patient Archive

On May 14, a hatch-year Bald Eaglet was rescued by an animal control officer in King George County. A private citizen suspected the young bird fell out of its nest the week before; the eaglet was seen on the ground for about a week before it was rescued. The bird was taken to a nearby permitted wildlife rehabilitator, who found that the bird had a fractured left wing. The eaglet was transported to the Wildlife Center of Virginia that same evening.

Dr. Meghan Feeney, the Center’s veterinary intern, examined the eaglet when it arrived. She found the bird to be thin, and noted that the bird had an open fracture of its left wing, with the radius exposed. Open fractures can be very difficult to treat, particularly if the bone has been exposed for any significant length of time. In this bird’s case, the bone did not appear to be necrotic, indicating that it likely wasn’t exposed to the air for a significant amount of time. Dr. Meghan took radiographs of the eaglet’s wing, and found that both the ulna and radius were fractured and displaced. Blood work revealed that the eagle was anemic.


Dr. Meghan flushed the wound and splinted and bandaged the eaglet’s wing. The following morning, she took the eaglet to surgery to insert a pin into each fractured wing bone. Approximately one to two millimeters had to be shaved off of each end of the exposed, fractured radius, to “freshen” the bone and promote healing.

Surgery went well, and the eagle recovered successfully in the Center’s holding room. In the days following surgery, the eaglet appeared to be quiet and weak, and did not eat on its own. Radiographs were taken on May 22, one week after surgery, on which Dr. Meghan noted an area of irregularity on the end of the bird’s radius [closest to the humerus]. At this point in the eagle’s life, its bones are growing and calcifying, which makes it difficult to interpret this anomaly in the bird’s bone. The eaglet may have damaged the growth plate of the radius in the fall, or the bone may continue to grow and may calcify normally. Additional radiographs will be taken on May 29.

The staff continues to hand-feed the eaglet each day, though the eaglet has not gained weight. The bird’s prognosis remains very guarded.

Your special donation will help the Center to provide specialized veterinary medical care to this Bald Eagle … and all of the patients admitted in 2015. Please help! 


October 7, 2017

Bald Eagle #15-0733 is going to his new home next week! On Monday, October 9, a dedicated Wildlife Center supporter will be picking up the eagle and will drive the bird halfway to his new home; she’ll meet up with a New Mexico Wildlife Center person in Arkansas who will drive the bird the rest of the way. We look forward to hearing about this bird’s training and new education career!

July 18, 2017

The U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service permits were approved for Bald Eagle #15-0733; this means that the bird is one big step closer to going to his new home! At this point, it's been too hot to fly the eagle commercially to the New Mexico Wildlife Center; it's likely that the Center will need to wait until fall to ship the bird, unless alternative arrangements can be made through a private airplane pilot or a long road trip!

May 29, 2017

Earlier this year, Bald Eagle #15-0733 received clearance from the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service (USFWS) for placement at an educational facility. The immature Bald Eagle will be going to the New Mexico Wildlife Center to be a glove-trained education bird. The New Mexico Wildlife Center has applied for permits with USFWS; once all paperwork is finalized, the bird will go to his new home.

June 27, 2016

During the past three months, the rehabilitation staff has continued to exercise Bald Eagle #15-0733. The bird's flight capabilities have not changed much during this time period; the bird is not able to fly all that well, and often flies low to the ground. While the eagle's initial injury may be causing permanent flight deficits, there is also a chance that the limited flight is due to the number of broken feathers the eagle has. At this time of year, many eagles are molting; Bald Eagle #15-0733 has several new feathers growing in. The staff will continue to give the eagle time to complete a molt this year, and will assess the bird's flight when it has a full set of feathers.

March 16, 2016

During the past two months, the rehabilitation staff exercised Bald Eagle #15-0733. Despite daily exercise sessions, the eagle continued to have poor endurance and was often unable to make no more than five to seven passes from end to end. Interim wildlife rehabilitator Kendra noted that Bald Eagle #15-0733 was frequently flappy while flying, unable to maintain height, and often grounded after only a few passes.

On February 11, Center staff decided to move Bald Eagle #15-0733 to A2 in hopes that the bird and its enclosure-mate Bald Eagle #15-1339 would both improve in separate flight pens.

Bald Eagle #15-0733 continued to fly poorly throughout the month of February and into March. On March 14, veterinary staff performed a feet and feather check and noted that the bird had lost some of its imped feathers—two on each wing and three from the tail.

The staff plan to continue daily exercise sessions and monitor for signs of improvement.

January 29, 2016

After several weeks of rest following imping, Bald Eagle #15-0733 was started on daily exercise in flight pen A3 (along with Bald Eagle #15-1339) on January 28.

Rehabilitation intern Kendra reported that the eagle had poor stamina and maneuvering the first two days of exercise, but this is not unexpected as the eagle becomes re-accustomed to the larger enclosure. The staff will continue to exercise the eagle daily.

January 4, 2016

On December 24, Bald Eagle #15-0733 was brought into to the Wildlife Center’s hospital for his imping procedure. Seven feathers [five primaries and two secondary feathers] were replaced on the left wing and four feathers [two primaries and two secondary] were replaced on the right wing. The team also replaced eight tail feathers. During the procedure, the team also noted that the eagle had a several flight feathers in “blood”, indicating that these feathers were growing in on their own.

Bald Eagle #15-0733 recovered well from anesthesia after imping and was placed in flight pen A3 to rest. Since the eagle is growing in new feathers and has newly imped feathers, the Center staff will delay starting #15-0733 on daily exercising sessions.

December 21, 2015

Bald Eagle #15-0733 has remained in the FP4 flight pen during the last month. On December 17, one of the Center’s A-pens [A2] became available, and the young eagle was moved to the larger enclosure. Since Bald Eagle #15-0733 is now in a larger flight pen and the likelihood of causing feather damage is minimized, the veterinary staff scheduled the eagle’s imping [feather replacement] procedure for December 24.

After the veterinary staff finish replacing the eagle’s damaged feathers with those from the donor bird, Bald Eagle #15-0733 will rest in A2 to ensure that the new feathers are secure. Once the Center staff confirmed that the feathers are remaining in place, the bird will begin daily flight conditioning.


November 19, 2015

During the past two months, Bald Eagle #15-0733 has remained in a small enclosure. On November 10, the young bird was moved to a slightly larger enclosure – FP4.

Earlier this fall, the staff noted that the young bird had sustained some damage to his flight feathers; this makes it challenging to assess the bird’s long-term prognosis. While the young eagle may have permanent flight deficiencies due to his badly fractured wing, it’s difficult to know for sure without monitoring the bird’s flight with a full set of flight feathers. The veterinary staff will plan an imping procedure on the Bald Eagle, during which “donor” feathers will be transplanted onto the eagle’s broken feather shafts. The Raptor Center in Minnesota provided a set of immature eagle feathers for the imping procedure.

September 10, 2015

Bald Eaglet #15-0733 still has not been seen flying much. Repeat radiographs performed on September 7 were largely unremarkable and shows that the fracture site continues to heal. The staff noticed that the bird had many broken tail and wing feathers and decided to move Bald Eaglet #15-0733 to the A3 tower to prevent further damage to the feathers.

On September 9, the veterinary staff did more “eagle shuffling”. Moving Bald Eaglet #15-0733 to the A3 tower, freed up space in the larger portion of the enclosure; the staff decided to shift Bald Eagle #15-1261 to A3 to give its cage-mate, Bald Eagle #15-1348, more room to exercise in preparation for release.

Staff will continue exercising Bald Eagle #15-1261 in the coming weeks, along with its enclosure-mates, Bald Eaglets #15-1312 and #15-1339. Currently all three birds are making seven to ten passes end-to-end.

August 28, 2015

The four young Bald Eagles in flight pen A3 have been doing well during the past month. Three of the young eaglets -- #15-1261, #15-1312, and #15- 1339 -- have gradually started flying. At first, they made short flights to the swinging perches, but soon the short flights were replaced by longer flights up to the tower and flights from end-to-end in the flight pen. All birds are eating well and are maintaining weight.

Bald Eaglet #15-0733 has not been seen flying much – the bird tends to remain on the A-frames and ground perches in the flight pen. This young eaglet had a severely fractured wing when he was admitted in May; while the eaglet may need additional time for flight conditioning, it’s also possible that he will not be able to fly well enough for release.

Within the next day, Bald Eaglet #15-1261 will be moved to flight pen A2, and will share space with eaglet #15-1348. By splitting eagles into smaller groups, the rehabilitation staff will be able to safely exercise the birds to prepare them for release.

For identification purposes, most of the eaglets’ protective wing “bumpers” have remained the same:

#15-0733 – baby ducks
#15-1312 – purple
#15-1339 – black
#15-1261 – peacock [formerly “angry birds”]

July 15, 2015

On July 15, the veterinary staff moved Bald Eaglets #15-0733 and #15-1261 from the tower area to the main flight area of A3. Blood work for Bald Eaglet #15-1261 has improved, and Bald Eaglet #15-0733’s wing has continued to heal well.

This recent move means that four eaglets are now being housed together. They can be identified on Critter Cam by their colorful, protective “wrist” bumpers:

Bald Eaglet #15-0733: rubber duckies
Bald Eaglet #15-1261: angry birds
Bald Eaglet #15-1312: purple
Bald Eaglet #15-1339: black

All of the birds are eating well and are in good body condition. 

June 30, 2015

Bald Eaglets #15-0733 and #15-1261 were introduced to one another last week; the two young birds appear to be getting along well. Both are eating and gaining weight.

On Friday, June 26, Bald Eaglet #15-0733 was brought into the Center’s hospital and anesthetized for follow-up radiographs. Dr. Helen and Dr. Meghan were pleased to see a significant improvement of the bird’s healing wing fracture. The eaglet is also doing very well with physical therapy – there is a notable improvement in the bird’s range of motion after each physical therapy session. The team is currently measuring the degrees of wing extension with the new goniometer, and hope to see continued improvements in the coming weeks.

Also on June 26, Bald Eaglet #15-1261 had a complete blood count performed, which revealed a high white blood cell count. This could indicate an underlying infection, so the eagle began a course of antibiotics. After both birds were done with their diagnostics, they were moved to the A3 tower – a 12' x 14’ loft area that overlooks the main flight portion of the A3 flight pen.

Tune in to the Wildlife Center’s Critter Cams – Eagle Cam will be streamed occasionally throughout the week. #15-0733 is wearing “baby duck bumpers” – protective “wrist” guards with a pattern of baby ducks. Bald Eagle #15-1261 is bumperless.


June 24, 2015

Bald Eaglet #15-0733’s daily physical therapy sessions have gone well during the past week. During each physical therapy session, one of the veterinarians extends the eagle’s wing to stretch the muscles and ligaments in the wing. Patagial massage is also done each session; the vets are often able to work out knots in the leading edge of the eagle’s wing. Every three days, physical therapy is done under general anesthesia, so the vets can extend the wing even more without causing the eagle pain. On June 18, Hospital Cam viewers were able to watch a physical therapy session on cam.

The veterinary team have ordered a replacement goniometer; this tool will allow the vets to more precisely measure the extension of the eagle’s wing as physical therapy continues. So far, the team feels that the bird’s range of motion and extension has improved.

On June 22, the young eaglet gained a roommate – fellow eaglet #15-1261. The two birds will spend two days getting to know one another while the new eaglet remains in a crate. After an introduction period, the eaglets will be allowed to interact directly, and they will likely be moved to a bigger space.


June 12, 2015

Follow-up radiographs of Bald Eagle #15-0733’s healing wing were taken on June 4; they revealed that a callus was continuing to form over the fracture sites. Dr. Meghan noted, however, that the bird’s wing was severely contacted. The bird’s bandage was removed to allow the young eagle to extend its wing; daily physical therapy sessions were scheduled.

During the next week, the young eagle’s wing started to show minor improvements during daily physical therapy sessions and on June 10, Bald Eaglet #15-0733 was moved to an outdoor C-Pen [C6]. Staff also began offering a chopped plate of mice at night, and the bird began eating on its own. The eaglet is now gaining weight, but the veterinary staff will continue to hand-feed it once a day.

While the bird is doing well outside and is bright, alert, and responsive, if the eaglet’s wing extension does not greatly improve, it will be non-releasable. The Bald Eaglet’s prognosis is fair to guarded.


June 2, 2015

Bald Eaglet #15-0733 was anesthetized for radiographs on May 29. Dr. Meghan found that calluses were forming on both wing fractures, though there were signs of osteomyelitis [bone infection] in the bird’s ulna. No evidence of synostosis [fusion of the two bones] was noted, though this will be monitored with additional radiographs as the wing continues to heal. Both pins were removed from the eaglet’s injured wing; Dr. Meghan found some discharge on the pin that was removed from the bird’s ulna. Samples were sent to an outside laboratory for analysis.

Blood work was also performed, which showed a high white blood cell count, likely related to the changes seen in the bird’s ulna. The eaglet began a course of antibiotics.

Additional radiographs and blood work will be performed on Thursday, June 4. The staff continue to hand-feed the eaglet.