What poisoned an American bald eagle in Bucks County?

by duceditor

Call him an ill eagle.  

A critically sick American bald eagle was saved by residents and police after it was spotted in distress in a field near woods on Pidcock Creek Road in rural Solebury on Sunday. 

The bird, America’s national symbol, lay flat on the ground, barely moving, its wings askew, too weak to move. The call for help came about 2:30 p.m. after locals and a passing motorists spotted the eagle, said Solebury Police Detective Cpl. John Koretzky. 

Sgt. Kevin Edwards and Officer Anthony Viruet-Melendez arrived, carefully approached the immense bird, and gently wrapped it in a sheet, and later a blanket. 

Sgt. Kevin Edwards, of the Solebury police, helps rescue an American bald eagle from a field along Pidcock Creek Road. The bird is in critical condition from lead poisoning, possibly from eating lead-tainted fish that swallowed lead fishing sinkers.

“He tried to fight a little bit to get out, but he was really, really weak,” Edwards told CBS10. 

The officers called Aark Wildlife Rehabilitation and Education Center in Chalfont, which agreed to take the eagle and examine it, if it was brought to them.  

“A passing motorist agreed to transport the eagle to the Aark Foundation,” Koretzky said. 

At Aark, the bird was determined to be in bad shape, and it was transferred to the Radnor Veterinary Hospital, specializing in birds. Blood work showed the bird is suffering from lead poisoning. 

Video excerpt shows the American bald eagle on the ground near the edge of a field where residents found it, and police helped rescue the bird.

“The bird was quite moribund,” said Dr. Len Donato, an avian specialist who treated the eagle at the vet hospital.   

The eagle was treated with a chelator, a medicine which binds the ingested lead so the bird can excrete it and return to health. Response to the first two treatments is encouraging. 

“This morning he was rather energetic. He looked like a different bird,” Donato said. 

The prognosis for recovery is “fair.” 

“He should get better, but it’s not a slam dunk,” he said. 

The eagle was returned to Aark on Tuesday, where treatments will continue and rehabilitation will proceed in a few weeks, said executive director Leah Stallings. She said lead poisoning is common in bald eagles. The birds feed on smaller prey that have consumed lead. 

“Like fish, who (swallow) lead fishing sinkers,” she said. 

Eat enough lead-tainted fish, or other animals, like deer, and it can be fatal for an eagle. 

The unnamed eagle, on the mend at the Aark Wildlife Rehabilitation and Education Center in Chalfont, Bucks County on Tuesday, May 23, 2023.

Despite size and strength, weeks of intensive care are needed before the lead is cleansed from the eagle. It will be more weeks for the bird to regain its strength. 

“Depending on how that goes, we will return him to his nestmate and child,” said Stallings, who added that the eagle’s nest is on an undisclosed private property in the township. 

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“The female is still there, taking care of the chick,” she said. 

 As for the sick father, “Oh, he’s doing really well today,” she said. “He’s not perching yet, but these birds do a lot of sitting on the ground. Right now, he’s bright-eyed and standing on his own.”  

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