Cause of Growth on Norfolk Botanical Garden Eaglet Confirmed

Richmond, VA - The Virginia Department of Game and Inland Fisheries (VDGIF) received confirmation today from the Southeastern Cooperative for Wildlife Disease Study (SCWDS) in Athens, Georgia, that the cause of the growth on the Norfolk Botanical Garden eaglet is avian pox.

Avian pox is a viral disease that is contracted by any number of birds. The disease is generally spread through mosquitoes but may be spread from bird to bird (especially by birds in very close contact). Symptoms include warty nodules on the featherless parts of the skin which can become enlarged resulting in impairment of vision, breathing and feeding. Avian pox poses no human health hazard.

The eaglet was removed from the nest on Thursday, May 22, 2008, to be examined by VDGIF Wildlife Veterinarian Jonathan Sleeman. Nuckols Tree Care Service used a bucket truck to retrieve the eaglet and lower it to the ground. Dr Sleeman examined the young bird and took a tissue sample from the growth on the eaglet's beak and sent it to SCWDS. Concern that the growth was beginning to deform the young bird's beak and that it may eventually inhibit breathing led to the bird being transported to The Wildlife Center of Virginia in Waynesboro, where it is being treated. The bird is currently receiving supportive care, and the VDGIF and Wildlife Center of Virginia veterinarians are discussing various treatment options for this mass.

Treatment consists of a regime of antibiotics to fight secondary infections, antifungal drugs to prevent secondary fungal diseases common to raptors in captivity, and medications to help boost the immune system. In addition, treatment will likely involve surgery, which means there will be a protracted recovery period. The extent to which this lesion has affected the development of bone and beak tissue will have to be evaluated in deciding if the eventual release of the bird is possible. At this point the eaglet seems otherwise healthy, feeding and appearing alert. It is anticipated that treatment will last until the clinical signs have abated or until all reasonable treatment options have been exhausted. The young bird will not be returned to the nest. If treatment proves successful, with no long-term deterioration of bone and beak, and the bird poses no health concerns to other wild eagles, it will be released back into the wild.

Many people followed the progress of the Norfolk Botanical Garden eagles through the EagleCam hosted by WVEC TV 13 in Norfolk. VDGIF Biologist Stephen Living maintained a blog on nest activities in what proved to be an eventful season this year. Living will update the blog to reflect this latest development. The blog can be reached by going to

 About Virginia Department of Game and Inland Fisheries (VDGIF) VDGIF is responsible for the management of inland fisheries, wildlife, and recreational boating for the Commonwealth of Virginia. They provide scientific knowledge about the eagles for the Garden staff and on the VDGIF blog. For information about eagles and other Virginia wildlife visit

About The Wildlife Center of Virginia (WCV) The Wildlife Center of Virginia is an internationally acclaimed teaching and research hospital for wildlife and conservation medicine located in Waynesboro. Every year, about 2500 animals - ranging from Bald Eagles to chipmunks - are brought to the Wildlife Center for care. Additional information about the Wildlife Center is available at

About Norfolk Botanical Garden 2008 marks the Garden's 70th Anniversary year celebrating seven decades of promoting the enjoyment of plants and the environment through beautiful gardens and education programs. NBG recently received accreditation by the American Association of Museums placing the Garden in the top 5% of museums in the U.S. The accreditation is a national recognition of a museum's commitment to accountability and public service, its high professional museum standards, and its excellence in education and stewardship. The Garden is managed by the Norfolk Botanical Garden Society in cooperation with the City of Norfolk. Now recognized as a Virginia Historic Landmark, it also is listed on the National Register of Historic Places.

About WVEC WVEC-TV is the ABC affiliate serving the Norfolk, Virginia area, including Virginia's Eastern Shore and northeastern North Carolina. They host the live video stream on their website, making it possible for thousands of national and international bird watchers to have a rare look inside a Bald Eagle nest.