Giant Steller’s Sea Eagles Receive Medical Exam through Unique Anesthesia-Free Process


Giant Steller’s Sea Eagles Receive Medical Exam through Unique Anesthesia-Free Process

Almost twice as large as a bald eagle, with feet as big as an adult hand and powerful enough to snap a human arm bone, Steller’s Sea Eagles are among the largest and most fierce of the world's eagles. On Monday two Steller’s Sea Eagles at the National Aviary received physical examinations. In most zoos, even a basic exam on a bird this large would be conducted with the use of anesthesia. But thanks to a precision process developed by the National Aviary's veterinarian, Dr. Pilar Fish, and the skills of her team of highly trained veterinary technicians, exams like these are routinely performed on Steller's Sea Eagles without the use of anesthesia.


Even with a highly trained and practiced team, the exam process is no small task.  It takes the coordination of four to six skilled technicians to catch each bird and carefully hold it in place during the exam. Dr. Fish and her team meticulously prepare, even conducing practice drills on smaller birds like bald eagles, to ensure a smooth process, the least amount of stress on the bird and lowest risk of injury to the vet team or eagle.


The exam itself is performed with expert coordination so that it takes about 5 minutes. It includes: placing protective bandages over the talons, drawing blood, checking heart and lungs, a thorough examination of wings, feet, eyes, nose and throat, a reproductive evaluation, and weighing.


Steller's Sea Eagles herald from coastal areas of eastern Russia and surrounding islands of the Sea of Okhotsk and Bering Sea. They are rare to see, mainly because of their habitat, and they occur in small numbers not large flocks. They are considered a threatened species but not endangered. 


The National Aviary houses one male and one female Steller's Sea Eagle. They have lived there since 2005 and 2006 respectively. The male is just reaching reproductive maturity at 7 years old, and the female is 11 years old. 





Robin Weber
Director of Marketing & Communications, National Aviary