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Juvenile bald eagle released in Cape Coral 

July 7, 2017
By MEGHAN McCOY ( ) , Cape Coral Daily Breeze

A slow maneuver from a carrier cage resulted in a juvenile bald eagle taking its time once exiting the enclosure before spreading its wings and taking flight towards the trees at the Cape Coral Sports Complex Friday afternoon.

"It makes you feel really good that this guy made it," said a smiling Ruth Parks, a CROW volunteer.

She said she rescued the injured eagle after most likely one of its first flights. Once the eagle took flight this time, she clapped, saying it's been "gone a long time."

Article Photos


CROW Marketing Manager Brian Bohlman and CROW volunteer Ruth Parks carry a juvenile bald eagle to the release destination at the Cape Coral Sports Complex.

Clinic for the Rehabilitation of Wildlife Dr. Heather Barron said the eagle arrived at the hospital on March 30 after being found in a median in Cape Coral unable to fly away, but otherwise bright and alert. She said most likely the cause of injury was being hit by a car.

"We did some blood work and some X-rays. The only abnormality that was found was that he had fractured his left humerus, or arm bone, very close to the shoulder joint. Because it was so close to the shoulder joint, that really made it an injury difficult to reduce surgically. Because there was not a lot of displacement with the two ends of the bone, we decided to go with conservative management and just do bandaging because the fracture was so close to the shoulder joint it would have made it very difficult to repair surgically," Barron said.

The juvenile bald eagle spent several weeks in a body wrap with the wing immobilized. Throughout that time the eagle did periodic physical therapy with CROW staff stretching the wing out to make sure the joints had good range of motion.

Following those several weeks, the juvenile bald eagle was put in the large flight enclosure at CROW where it practiced its own physical therapy.

After doing some recheck X-rays, Barron said they found some concern in the eagle's air sacs, which are part of its respiratory system. They were not looking clear.

"Interestingly in birds, the air sacs actually communicate with that arm bone, or humerus bone. There were also some changes in the bone that made us concerned that there might be some infection starting," Barron said. "We actually went in and took some samples from the respiratory system, just to make sure he wasn't getting any kind of infection. In particular, raptors can be very predisposed to a fungal infection, called asperigillosis. We wanted to make sure he wasn't developing those problems."

CROW staff took a biopsy from the air sacs, and did a cultural insensitivity, which revealed there were no infections. Barron said there was probably some inflammation from the original trauma.

In addition to secondary infections, Barron said another area of concern was that the shoulder joint might be affected, but luckily in the very large flight cage she was able to see the juvenile was flying very well.

"Otherwise he had healed uneventfully," she said. "The latest set of X-rays has shown that the fracture has healed very well."

Part of the reason why the eagle was in rehab for three months, Barron said, was due to its age. She said it was not usual that the eagle took 12 weeks to heal.

"Out in the wild the parents really don't teach the babies to hunt. That is something instinctual that they learn on their own. A lot of times what the parents do for the young is to continue to help support them with food while they are learning those hunting skills," she said. "So, basically we had to recreate that artificially here."

Staff did a lot of live prey testing with the eagle while at CROW. Barron said they wanted to make sure the juvenile was capable of catching things like fish, or rodents.

"He has shown himself to be both a proficient hunter and now has become a very proficient flyer," she said. "We wanted to make sure that he had obtained his full athletic capabilities before we released him."

While the juvenile was at CROW, it resided in the large flight enclosure with two other injured juvenile bald eagles. This bald eagle was the last to be released.

"Being housed with others of their kind definitely helps in terms of learning appropriate communication with each other. Just learning how to deal with others of their same kind," Barron said. "Although they didn't fight, you could definitely see little tiffs going on occasionally where they all wanted the same piece of food. It was a good educational experience for all of them to be in there together. It's just like out in the wild they would still be hanging out with their parents, or with their clutch mates for a while. They got good socialization."

Eagles are not sexually dimorphic, so a lot of times Barron said they go by the size to determine if a male, or female. Females are traditionally a little bigger than males because it is the females that lay the very large one, two or three eggs.

"That's probably why the female is a little bigger to allow her to carry the eggs," Barron said.

As of Friday the juvenile bald eagle weighed 2.9 kilograms, which is usually more consistent with a male.

"This was a very young bird, so some of that may be simply that we have not reached full adult weight yet," Barron said.

"We suspect when the bird was found in late March, it was probably a bird that had fledged not very long before that. It's probably a really young bird," Barron said. "Newly fledged from the nest and it turned out the world was a little tougher than he thought it was going to be."



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