(And before anybody reaches rhapsodic heights of delirious joy at the notion of a majestic bald eagle, let me explain one major fact here: Bald eagles are ill-tempered, aggressive snots.)
When I met John to get the bird, he said he thought it might have been shot. The wing was bloody. Rather than me fighting the bird to get it into one of my boxes for transport home, he told me to just keep the storage box he had it in. He said it was feisty, evidenced by the sides of the box bowing as it fought to escape.
Once I was home with the bird, my nephew and niece-in-law came to help me set up a box for my Christmas guest and examine the injured wing. We worked by flashlight, as we were attempting to keep the BE’s stress levels as low as possible and make the transfer from the small storage box to the larger box easier for us.
First thing I always do with raptors is restrain the feet, so I reach for his feet—properly gloved, of course. I grab the feet and pull the bird out of the small box. Foot size and general body size indicate male. First thing the BE does is whack me in the mouth with the “wrist” of his right wing. Then I ease off a glove to examine the wings. He jerks his head around as I reach for the right wing and grabs my finger in his beak. Hey, it’s my fault—I took off the glove. But there’s no way to properly examine a bird with gloves on. Occupational hazard.
My nephew is getting ready to freak out: “What do I need to do? Do you want me pry him loose?”
I let my hand go limp and tell my nephew to flip the flashlight against his body. As soon as the light’s gone, the BE relaxes his grip slightly and I can jerk my finger from his beak. No serious damage done—just a small scrape. I finish examining his wings. He has a fresh wound on his left wing, still bleeding.
We get him in the larger box, and I leave him alone for the night. Can’t get him to the vet until Thursday, since tomorrow’s Christmas Day.
Christmas Day, he glares at me when I ease into the room where his box sits and take a few photos before tossing a couple of fish in for him, to see if he’ll eat. Not while I’m watching, by God, so I leave the room and wait an hour or so before checking back. Yep, he’ll eat. Nothing wrong with his appetite!
His box falls apart as I attempt to pick it up. He’s pooped under and around the edges of the puppy pad, and his poop has destroyed the box. I vent my frustration loudly as I go get my large crate. Cardboard boxes are better, as they deaden sound and block disturbing visual stimuli, which is why I always ask people to use cardboard boxes when they bring me birds. But I used my last two boxes creating a “holding cell” for this bird Christmas Eve, so…crate it is…dammit…
My niece meets me at Smalley’s to man the camera while we examine the eagle, as I know from experience that I won’t be able to hold this bird with one hand and snap pix with the other. After a very short wait, vet Richie Hatcher helps me move the crate into the exam room, where vet tech Autumn Parker asks if I want to go ahead and “suit up” for x-rays before we commence getting the bird out. Good thinking! Then the fun begins…
The BE wigs out and flails his wings around wildly when I reach in for his feet, but I get him out, with a death grip on those big ol’ feet. He then slaps me about the head and shoulders with his wings, starting the left wing bleeding again in the process, and smearing blood all over my neck. Meanwhile, my niece has taken cover behind a chair and all you can see is her arm holding the camera over its back. Oh what fun, right?