Bald Eagle

Bald Eagle

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(Haliaeetus leucocephalus). Patient Number 24-41.

Date of admission: March 15, 2024.
Reason for admission: Neurologic.

Patient History:

Bald eagles were a relatively rare species throughout the mid-to-late 1900s— being the frequent victim of trapping, shooting, and poisoning. Vast improvements in the treatment and protection of Bald eagles led to their removal from the Endangered Species list in 2007. Continuing threats to Bald Eagle populations include lead poisoning from ammunition in 'hunter-shot' prey, and collisions with motor vehicles and stationary structures (i.e. power lines, and buildings).

The bald eagle’s range extends across most of North America, including most of Canada, all of the continental United States, and northern Mexico. Northern populations will migrate south during the winter months while southern populations are year-round residents. In Canada, from November until late February, one to two thousand eagles congregate in the Squamish, British Columbia region. The bald eagle is important in many Native American cultures. It is often considered a sacred bird and its feathers are central to many religious and spiritual customs.

Bald eagles typically nest in large forested areas, preferring tall coniferous or deciduous trees adjacent to large bodies of water. Bald eagles frequently avoid heavily developed areas when possible. Fish of various types constitute the centerpiece of the bald eagle diet; however, they have been known to eat other available food sources such as birds, reptiles, amphibians, invertebrates, and small mammals.

Bald eagles are considered master nest builders, and their creations typically range 5 to 6 feet in diameter and 2 to 4 feet tall. Once the nest is built the female will have a clutch of 1-3 eggs and will incubate for 34-36 days. Bald eagles do not hatch with white heads. Their heads only turn white once they have reached sexual maturity, generally at five years of age.

This bald eagle was found on the side of the road about 20 minutes south of Nanton, AB, acting oddly and unable to fly. The incredibly dedicated birders who found her managed to get her into a carrier and took her to the SAVE clinic in Okotoks, who called us and held the eagle in a secure location until our driver was able to pick her up.

Most eagles that are found grounded are affected by high levels of lead poisoning, which is almost always fatal. However, for once, this eagle is only showing low levels of lead in her blood! The most likely cause of her injury was head trauma from a vehicle strike, and she appears to be recovering well in care. We will be taking x-rays soon now that she is more stable to ensure there are no broken bones or other concerns, and if everything is clear she will be moved to our brand-new Runway enclosure for flight testing and release prep.