Emaciated bald eagle receiving critical care at World Bird Sanctuary

Missouri

VALLEY PARK, Mo. – Bald eagles are the symbol of our country. Now, just a few days after the Fourth of July, a bald eagle is receiving critical care at the World Bird Sanctuary.

“It’s a good sign that he or she is still with us to be honest because this is pretty severe all the things that we have,” said Dr. Allison Daugherty, the sanctuary’s house veterinarian.

Two days ago, a very sick bald eagle was found in St. Charles County along the Mississippi River. It couldn’t fly or even stand. Dr. Daugherty says it is emaciated, dehydrated, and has both feather lice and skin mites.

“He’s literally a bald eagle right now. He’s lost all his feathering over his head. His skin is crusting,” she said.

The vet team discovered severe anemia in the eagle and decided it needed a blood transfusion. Luckily, they had a donor right in the hospital — another bald eagle recovering after being struck by a vehicle.

“We knew this was still calm in hand. It wouldn’t overly stress this bird out to be a donor. We actually had the perfect donor here in-house,” said Daugherty.

But even with the necessary blood in hand, the vet team had to get creative to ensure the sick eagle would benefit from it as fast as possible.

“What I placed was an intraosseous catheter, an IO catheter. I placed that directly into the bone to get the blood into him rather than placing an intravenous catheter into the vessels,” Daugherty said. “Because he was so weak, and his blood pressure was so low it was hard to get into the vasculature.”

While the cause of the sickness has yet to be officially determined, the vet team is monitoring for lead toxicity, a common problem for raptors and vultures in our area.  

“They’ll get into stuff. They’ll eat stuff. They’re scavengers,” Daugherty said. “This bird in particular, this bird that’s very sick with us, was found eating a fish. It’s probably was a fish that was down because he can’t hunt very well. So who knows if it had some lead sink or something like that.”

They don’t know what the future will hold, but they are hopeful that their fast actions will give this bald eagle a chance to once again soar.

“The fact that we were able to get that blood transfusion into him so fast. The fact that he tolerated it so well. No signs of any kind of transfusion reaction. The fact that he’s still with us this morning and he’s tolerating his food and keeping his liquid diet down. Those are all good things. But this is a very day by day, very slow, very guarded prognosis type of patient,” said Daugherty.

The care that this bald eagle and all the birds at the World Bird Sanctuary receive is made possible because of donations. If you can make a contribution, visit www.worldbirdsanctuary.org/donate/.

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