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Rescued eagle flies again after receiving new feathers from Jurong Bird Park

Rescued eagle flies again after receiving new feathers from Jurong Bird Park

Dr Ellen Rasidi tests the fit of a donated secondary feather on the eagle's right wing. (Photo: Jurong Bird Park)

SINGAPORE: A rescued eagle that was found with burnt wing and tail feathers was able to take to the skies again and return to the wild following a painstaking procedure carried out by Jurong Bird Park veterinarians. 

The process, called imping, involved replacing more than 50 feathers on the bird's wings and tail, the park said in a news release on Wednesday (Jan 26). 

A member of the public on Jurong Island had reported the injured changeable hawk-eagle to the authorities on Jan 7. 

The bird was subsequently rescued by the National Parks Board (NParks) and found to be unable to fly due to burnt feathers on both its wings and tail.

The animal was taken to Jurong Bird Park’s avian hospital for examination and treatment the following day and was assessed to be in good health, aside from the damaged feathers.

“While birds will naturally grow new feathers through their molting cycle, it could take up to 12 months for the eagle to fully regrow its feathers and be able to fly again,” the park said.

“The veterinary team decided to imp its wings and tail feathers to help speed up the bird’s release into the wild.”

BAMBOO CHOPSTICKS

The process involves joining what remains of the old or damaged feather to a replacement feather.

This is done by inserting a thin piece of material – known as an imping needle – into the shaft of both feathers and using an adhesive to secure it.

Bamboo chopsticks were used as imping needles in this process, the park said.

“When the bird molts, the new feathers that grow would naturally push the imped feathers out,” it added. “The process is painless for the bird as feathers are made of keratin, the same material as human hair and nails.”

Similar feathers, preferably those from a donor of the same species, are used. In this case, the park received two sets of donor wings taken from other rescued birds of the same species that had died due to severe injury or diseases.

SIMILAR TO HAIR EXTENSIONS

Dr Ellen Rasidi, a veterinarian at the park, compared the process to a human getting hair extensions.

“However, unlike hair extensions, we have to be extra meticulous in ensuring that each individual replacement feather is carefully trimmed, measures and arranged in the right position to match the patient’s original feather length and orientation as much as possible,” she said.

“Each feather is shaped differently and fixing them in incorrect angles may affect the aerodynamics of the bird’s flight.”

She added that feathers are “not only essential for a bird to fly, but also help regulate their body temperature, act as camouflage and protect them from water”.

“Without sufficient feather coverage, this bird would not have been safe to be released into the wild despite its otherwise good health,” she said.

The bird's feathers were successfully imped on the afternoon of Jan 20 and it was released by NParks the next day.

“It adapted to its new feathers without a problem, taking off back into the wild shortly after its carrier was opened,” said Jurong Bird Park.

A real-time satellite tracker was also attached to the bird’s tail, allowing it to be tracked and monitored after release. It does not have to be recaptured for data processing.

“Since its release, the hawk-eagle has flown about 10km from its release site.”

Jurong Bird Park said its avian hospital sees about 200 wild birds every year brought in by NParks or the Animal Concerns Research and Education Society (ACRES).

Most of these birds are successfully released back into the wild, it added.

Source: CNA/ga(zl)

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