VDGIF/Norfolk Botanical Garden Eagle Cam: Latest Bald Eagle News

The Virginia Department of Game and Inland Fisheries, in partnership with the Norfolk Botanical Garden and WVEC, is providing a rare glimpse into the life of two bald eagles and their offspring!

Thursday, July 10, 2008

“Latest Bald Eagle News”

This report was filed by Dr. Dave McRuer, Director of Veterinary Services at the Wildlife Center of Virginia:
On July 8, I took pictures of the eaglet’s beak to send to Dr. Avery Bennett for review before surgery [scheduled for July 12 at the Wildlife Center]. The lesion was very dry, much reduced in size, and certainly didn’t appear to be giving the bird any problems. After a careful review of the images, Dr. Bennett outlined his surgical plan to debulk the lesion and then to decide on the best method of closing the resulting “hole” in the side of the beak. Options to straighten the beak would then be considered.
On July 9, when the Center’s veterinary staff went to examine the eaglet, they found that the lesion had fallen off on its own – it was nowhere to be found! The eagle’s immune system was obviously doing its job and taken care of the lesion on its own. Underneath the spot where the mass had been was a beautiful bed of granulation tissue, indicating both the end of the mass and recovery by the body.

We took new x-rays of the bird’s head to determine the status of the internal mass. Although soft tissue doesn’t show up incredibly well with this modality (hence the original trip to Augusta Medical Center for the MRI), we could not find any trace of the internal lesion. All in all, great news for the eagle.
The next step is to determine what to do with the crooked beak. I’ve brought Dr. Bennett up-to-date on the latest news about the mass and have been chatting with him about various options. These would include a tension device to bring the beak back into alignment; shaping the beak under general anesthesia and then continuing to keep it short in order to reduce the deviation in the beak; or doing nothing at all surgically and continuing supportive care (feeding) to see if the deviation in the beak will correct itself. Dr. Bennett will be traveling to Virginia later this week as planned.
Whatever technique is used, full correction of the beak will ultimately depend on symmetrical growth of the keratin beak from the growth plate. If that growth plate has been permanently damaged, the beak may continue to have altered growth for the rest of the bird’s life. This may be a viable option for a captive bird, but certainly not for a wild one. Time will tell.