On April 19, a young Bald Eagle was found grounded on the beach in Cape Charles, on the Eastern Shore of Virginia. The eagle had recently been eating a rotting beached whale and was quiet and unable to fly when she was found. Wildlife rehabilitator Jodie Sokel was able to capture the bird and provided supportive care until the eagle was transported to the Wildlife Center of Virginia the following day.
The person who found the eagle, Marina, is a wildlife photographer and had been following the young bird for a week. Thanks to Marina’s zoom lens and photography skills, she was able to see that the bird had a green leg band [K62]. Social media connections put Marina in touch with the Audubon Center for Birds of Prey in Florida; the center treated and released the hatch-year bird on March 25, 2023, in Pasco County [north of Tampa]. Marina first saw the young eagle in Virginia on April 10.
Photos of the young Bald Eagle, courtesy of Marina Pierce:
Dr. Marit, one of the Center’s veterinary interns, examined the Bald Eagle at admission on April 20. The eagle was bright and alert, but very thin, with a body condition score of 1.5/5. No fractures or significant injuries were found on examination, and radiographs were within normal limits. A blood lead test revealed a lead level of 0.101 ppm; while this amount of lead is considered “subclinical”, no level of lead is safe to have in the body. Dr. Marit and team gave fluids to the young eagle and started the bird on a course of antifungals and oral chelation therapy to remove the lead from the bird’s system.
On April 23, the Bald Eagle was moved to a small outdoor enclosure. Once the course of oral chelation therapy is complete and another lead test is performed [scheduled for April 26], the eagle will likely be moved to a larger space with other Bald Eagle patients. The team will continue to monitor the bird’s appetite closely to ensure the bird is eating well and gaining weight. At this point, there is no singular apparent cause of admission. The young bird may have had difficulty finding adequate food; the lead levels and potential GI upset from eating the rotting whale may also have contributed to the eaglet’s deteriorating condition at the time of rescue.