A Fine Balance: Weighing an Eagle

Weighing a wild bird can be a challenge, but it is an important way for rehabilitators to monitor a bird’s health. We can see if she’s losing weight (which may indicate the bird is not eating enough, or has internal parasites), or if she’s gaining too much weight by eating too much. Watch a video of VINS staff weighing a bald eagle.

Birds must be calm enough to lay perfectly still on the scale so you can get an accurate reading. The handler must be able to completely let go of the bird and trust that the bird will lie still at least long enough to get a reading on the weight.

Weighing raptors presents a special challenge. Not only do you have to calm the bird (usually by covering their head), but you’ve got to watch out for those knife-like talons, which can really get to thrashing!

One of our newest patients is so large, he must be weighed on a special scale. Luckily, calming this giant is made so much easier by using a leather hood for his head. Once we tie that hood on, the eagle becomes so calm, he falls asleep! Imagine that: a powerful bald eagle asleep like a babe in my arms. Once he’s in his relaxed state, laying him down on the scale is a cinch. See for yourself in our video of this bald eagle’s weighing.

Our bald eagle’s weight is spot-on. We weigh him about twice a week to keep tabs on him. He’s eating well and will be moved into our flight cage soon. Read more about this special patient here.

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