Virginia.gov

VDGIF/Norfolk Botanical Garden Eagle Cam: 05/01/2008 - 06/01/2008

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, May 29, 2008

“Biopsy Details”

The biopsy was performed by the Southeastern Cooperative Wildlife Disease Study lab at the University of Georgia. This research collective is funded by the wildlife agencies from 15 states (including Virginia) and the territory of Puerto Rico as well as federal agencies involved in wildlife health issues.

The pictures below are taken from the tissue samples collected during the initial examination of the eaglet. Specialized dying techniques allow normal cells (blue) to be differentiated from inclusions formed by the avian pox virus (pink). These inclusions, called Bollinger Bodies are diagnostic of avian pox.

The scale bar shown in the upper right hand corner indicates 20 microns (or micrometers). it would take 10,000 microns to equal one centimeter. To put it in familiar terms the 20 micron bar is equivalent to about 79/100,000 of an inch!

Photo Courtesy of SCWDS

Wednesday, May 28, 2008

“Biopsy Results”

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.

In addition to the imaging scans and biopsy, The Wildlife Center of Virginia has also run blood panels that will detect environmental contaminants such as exposure to heavy metals or pesticides. A previous blood test for lead exposure came back negative. Although there is no indication of any such issues, eagles and other predators are susceptible to these contaminates in the food chain. When these results are available they will be posted as well.

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.

“Biopsy Results”

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.

Monday, May 26, 2008

“May 26th Update”

The Virginia Wildlife Center continues to provide regular updates as to the care of the Norfolk Botanical eaglet. The latest information is not promising.

An MRI was performed on Saturday May 24th. The procedure took approximately 20 minutes. To keep the eaglet still the bird was anesthetized for the duration of the test. This detailed imaging test revealed that the mass has grown into the sinus cavity and has at least some involvement with the underlying bone. The eaglet suffered no ill effects of the procedure and continues to feed well. In fact, the eaglet has more then doubled its body weight since admission, now weighing in at about 4 1/2 pounds! This is typical as eaglets at this age are experiencing their most rapid growth rate.

The finding that the mass is involved with the sinus and underlying bone structure is serious. At this point the mass is limited to the left sinus cavity and the eaglet remains vigorous. Final prognosis and determination of the course of treatment will require the biopsy results (expected on May 28th or 29th). The Virginia Wildlife Center is committed to providing the best care possible to the eaglet. Given the aggressive nature of the mass and the finding that it has invaded the underlying tissues, the prognosis at this point is not promising, but no determination has yet been made. We will continue to provide updates as they are received.

Sunday, May 25, 2008

“Update from VA Wildlife Center”

The Virginia Wildlife Center is doing an excellent job in providing us all information regarding the eaglet's condition. A definitive diagnosis and course of action will require the information gathered from the tests that the Wildife Center is performing as well as the biopsy. Results from the biopsy are expected in the upcoming week. As always we will continue to post updates as new information is received.

From the Virginia Wildlife Center:
The eagle is doing well, with no significant changes from Friday. The bird continues to eat very well; on Friday the eagle ate six large mice (two mice at each of three feedings). We plan to introduce fish to his diet today.
The bird was anesthetized on Friday for radiographs, which were unremarkable other than the mass on the beak. Bloodwork (complete blood count) was performed to make sure that there was no underlying infection. We plan to perform another blood test (serum biochemistry) in the next couple of days to better evaluate organ function. [This is just routine bloodwork; we do not anticipate any abnormalities]. Based on the radiographs, the soft-tissue mass does not appear to involve the sinuses; however, it has distorted the wall of the beak.
We are taking the eagle to Augusta Medical Center in Fishersville on Saturday afternoon for an MRI. This form of imaging will give us more information regarding just how invasive and destructive this mass is to the underlying tissue.

Friday, May 23, 2008

“Eaglet Admitted to Wildlife Center of Virginia”

The Wildlife Center has provided the following initial information regarding their care of the Norfolk Botanical Garden eaglet. As more information becomes available we will pass it long.

"The baby Bald Eagle arrived at the Wildlife Center at about 7 p.m. on Thursday. The bird was assigned a patient number – 08-887 – and given a preliminary physical examination by Drs. Dave McRuer and Mark Ruder.

The eagle weighed in at one kilogram and was in good body condition. Of concern is a soft tissue mass on the left side of the upper beak. The eagle was given fluids and antibiotics and was fed three mice – which it ate vigorously.

Later today the Wildlife Center veterinary staff will take radiographs of the eagle. The Center is also working to arrange a CT scan of the eagle’s head at another medical-care facility...

...The eaglet is now being housed in a fake nest in a small enclosure. The eaglet will be fed a mixture of cut-up mice and fish two to three times daily."

Thursday, May 22, 2008

“Eaglet Removed for Care”

This morning the eaglet was removed from the nest and examined by the Dept. of Game and Inland Fisheries wildlife veterinarian. The growth on the left side of the eaglet's bill was sizable, and appeared to have grown over the last few days. The eaglet underwent a general examination and tissue samples were taken from the growth for lab analysis. The eaglet appeared to be well fed and was alert and active during the procedure.

The growth is partially blocking the left naris (nostril) of the eaglet and seemed to be deforming the bill. The rapid expansion of the growth coupled with concerns over potential breathing and feeding problems led to the decision that the eaglet be removed for care at the Wildlife Center of Virginia. The veterinarian and biologists from DGIF and William & Mary concurred that hopes of survival for this chick without intervention were limited. Removal of the chick from the nest was not a decision made lightly.

Unfortunately the examination did not provide a clear diagnosis, although the growth did not present as a tyopical case of Avian Pox. The tissue sample taken will help with a definitive conclusion and will inform the course of treatment. Updates as to the eaglet's condition will continue to be posted to this site as information becomes available.

The adult eagles may continue to visit the nest site for the next few days, but they will resume a non-breeding pattern of behavior quickly. The eagles will most likely remain in the general vicinty of the Norfolk Botanical Garden but may start to wander a bit more widely. While the removal of the eaglet was stressful for the eagles, they are resilient and will adjust quickly.

“Today's Procedure”

Later this morning, at approximately 9:00am the eaglet will be removed from the nest for examination by the Dept. of Game & Inland Fisheries wildlife veterinarian. Many have asked if the young bird will be returned to the nest following the examination. This decision will be made based on the veterinarian's assessment of the bird's condition, and prospects for recovery.

All things being equal we would prefer to leave the bird with it's parents. However should the health needs of the eaglet and its parents require it, the eaglet may be removed to receive appropriate care. Following recovery the bird would then be released back into the wild.

At this point no decisions have been made, we'll have to see what we learn later this am.

Monday, May 19, 2008

“Growth Noted”


A growth has been noted on the bill of the eaglet at the Norfolk Botanical Garden. This was first noted by a local photographer and by a researcher from William & Mary CCB on the 16th of May.

The growth, located on the left side of the upper mandible, has grown quickly and is now quite visible. A growth such as this generally indicates a diagnosis of Avian Pox, although this cannot be confirmed without examination and further diagnostics (such as a biopsy). 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). Course of treatment generally consists of supportive therapy if needed. At this point the eaglet seems otherwise healthy, feeding and appearing alert. Avian pox posed no human health hazard.

On Thursday morning a tree climber will retrieve the eaglet from the nest and the DGIF wildlife veterinarian will examine the eaglet and perform a biopsy, taking a small sample of the affected tissue. This will help to confirm the diagnosis and inform any other decisions.


Monday, May 12, 2008

“Growing Fast”

At just a little over two weeks old, the eaglet is doing well and growing fast! Its second down has grown in, giving it a woolly gray appearance. The eaglet's coordination is much improved and it is now able to move about the nest and hold its head up. Indeed, it has been so mobile that the female has occasionally "herded" it back into the nest bowl.

The flight feathers will begin to emerge over the next two weeks and will appear as dark quills along the edge of the wings. The eaglet will attain its maximum growth rate at about 3-4 weeks of age, adding as much of 1/4 of a pound in body weight daily! These eagles are excellent providers, and the young bird has plenty to eat to fuel this spectacular growth.

We're experiencing another bout of wild and windy weather today but the eagles are riding it out with no problems. Once the nest stops tossing about we'll capture some updated images of the eaglet and post to this page

Friday, May 02, 2008

“Doing Well”


Despite the severe weather that struck our region on April 28th the eaglet and its parents are ll doing fine. The Norfolk Botanical Garden was never subjected to the tornadoes that struck other parts of Southeastern VA, although winds did gust up to 45 mph with heavy rain. The adults were able to keep the young eaglet safely tucked away and dry.

The eaglet is already growing rapidly and is now able to hold up its head for longer periods of time. We frequently see its light grey head poking up over the rim of the nest bowl. Both the male and female are feeding the eaglet, tearing off small bits from the fish the male is bringing into the nest. By the middle of next week the eaglet will have a second down grow in, replacing the natal down that it hatched with.