Rescued bald eagle is huge, but why isn’t its head white?

An officer with the Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency helped rescue a bald eagle last week after receiving reports of an injured raptor near a popular reservoir.

“Justin Pinkston picked up this injured bald eagle from Douglas Lake and transported it to the University of Tennessee College of Veterinary Medicine, [which] is treating it for a fractured femur,” the TWRA stated Thursday via Facebook.

It’s not clear how the eagle became injured, but a vehicle strike is possible.

The image shared by the TWRA, showing a large eagle being held by Pinkston, might have some wondering why the eagle’s head is not white. (Some on social media misidentified the bird as a golden eagle.)

The TWRA explained that despite the eagle’s size, it’s still a juvenile, and added: “Bald eagles usually get their white heads when they are between four and five years old.”

Surgery goes well

According to Danielle Tarbert, assistant clinical professor of zoological medicine at the UTCVM, the eagle underwent what appears to have been a successful surgery on Friday.

The surgery, to repair the broken femur (thigh bone) with stabilizing pins, lasted 1.5 hours. The accompanying x-ray image, showing the pins, was provided by the UTCVM.

Sandra Harbison, spokeswoman for the UTCVM, told FTW Outdoors that the female eagle weighs 8.8 pounds. Harbison said it’s too early to tell if she’ll recover sufficiently to be released back into the wild.

In good hands

The UTCVM has vast experience treating birds of prey and recently performed cataract surgery on Challenger, billed as the country’s “most famous bald eagle educational ambassador.”

Challenger was blown from his nest as a chick in 1989 and cared for briefly by good samaritans. The male eagle was ultimately deemed “unreleasable” because he had become habituated to people.

Challenger is trained to free-fly, however, and as part of his ambassador duties he has conducted flyovers at several major spectator events.

They include the World Series, NFL Pro Bowls, NCAA football championships, the Daytona 500, and a presidential inauguration.

They grow so fast

A wingspan measurement of the newly rescued eagle was not provided to FTW Outdoors. But at 8.8 pounds the young raptor is hefty when you consider that adult bald eagles typically weigh between 6.5 and 14 pounds.

Bald eagle x-ray after surgery to repair broken femur.

In fact, juvenile bald eagles often appear larger than adults because they boast longer wing and tail feathers, according to the Audubon Center for Birds of Prey.

From the Cornell Lab of Ornithology: “Immature Bald Eagles spend the first four years of their lives in nomadic exploration of vast territories and can fly hundreds of miles per day. Some young birds from Florida have wandered north as far as Michigan, and birds from California have reached Alaska.”

Comeback story

Bald eagle numbers, once depleted to where sightings across North America were considered rare, rebounded impressively after the use of DDT was banned in 1972, and thanks to Endangered Species Act protections between 1978 and 2007.

However, bald eagles still face many human-related threats, which include vehicle strikes.

Story originally appeared on For The Win