Thursday, May 10, 2012

Harmon's Radiographs

Harmon did a lot of catching up yesterday - sleeping and eating ALL day long! Dad brought more food than one little chick could possibly eat and Mom fed the little eaglet as much as she could. Now that things have stabilized a bit, we thought we would share a bit more about Harmon’s visit to The Raptor Center (TRC).

Harmon arrived at TRC very depressed, slightly dehydrated and exhausted. The wing that had been entrapped was swollen and bruised and there were puncture wounds on the eaglet’s back. Perhaps the most important step we took was to stage our treatment and diagnostics so as not to cause excessive stress.

We tended to the most critical things immediately –rehydration and wound care. The puncture wounds were infested with maggots, which were removed immediately as they can do tremendous tissue destruction in a very short time. Over the next 24 hours, Harmon’s wounds were treated and retreated, medications for pain and inflammation were given as well as food, and further diagnostics were done. Blood was drawn to check for infection and he was also checked for parasites.

Radiographs taken on Saturday showed no fractures, although the wing was still a bit swollen (note arrows on radiograph showing right wing with increased white areas). Harmon was eating well, although we never fed him when he could see human faces due to the risk of imprinting.

Imprinting is a critical development time in which the chick “learns who it is” and bonds to its parent, developing lifelong behavior patterns.

A very interesting thing to note on Harmon’s radiographs - like all very young chicks, his bones are only partially formed. The radiographs show that the joints are not formed yet (compare to radiographs of an eagle chick that is 1 month older). At this stage, normal chick bones are very soft, almost rubbery. This might have saved him from being hurt even worse while struggling.

Another characteristic of young animals is their amazing capacity to build new tissue (ie – growth). When injured, this capacity is turned towards healing, which accounts for our ability to get Harmon back to the nest so quickly. With his wounds sealed over, the swelling in his wing gone and his energy returned, we knew the best place for him was back with his parents.


  1. I love reading this semi-technical stuff! Thanks so much for sharing your findings and explaining them for us! Harmon is one lucky little eaglet. Hope he goes on to have a very successful life even against the many odds that he will encounter growing up.

  2. Thank you for the medical information. Harmon was lucky that his bones were not fully formed, and probably made him more pliable to conform to the hole he was in! We are all told not to humanize nature's wildlife, but I think it goes against our grain as humans not to care for every living thing - and you did such a great job. Many, many eagle hugs.

  3. People on MNBound ustream chat keep saying that a blood test was done with the results that Harmon is a 'he'. In this post you refer to Harmon 9 times as a male. I can't find any confirmation by someone who knows that Harmon is male. Dr. Ponder referred to Harmon as male in her interview. So, has there been a confirmation or does everyone refer to Harmon as male simply because of the name?

  4. Interesting - thank you. What was the likely cause of the puncture wounds?
    Thank you also for saving this little guy's life.