that this report may not be published to forums, websites, Facebook or other formats; parts of the report cited must be accompanied by citation and a link to the report on the Hornby Eagles “Our Nature Zone” forum.
Doug and Sheila Carrick and the Hornby Eagles Group (HEG)
Phoenix: Final Report
Contributors: Dr. Victoria Bowes, British Columbia Animal Health Laboratory
; Dr. Helen Schwantje, British Columbia Ministry of Environment
; Maj Birch, Mountainaire Avian Rescue Society
; AJL, Hornby Eagle Group
Thanks to Trudy Chatwin, Rare and Endangered Species Biologist, British Columbia Ministry of Environment. History:
On April 29 2010 one of two eggs on Hornby Island Nest 10 hatched; the eaglet, named Phoenix by cam owners Doug and Sheila Carrick, was viewed by many thousands of people from across the world. She appeared to be a healthy, vibrant bird and was actively flapping and branching by her ninth week. During the following week prey deliveries were suddenly fewer, with no deliveries one day. When feeding resumed the eaglet seemed inappetent and somewhat lethargic; sneezing was noted and Mountainaire Avian Rescue Society (MARS) was contacted. The decision to intervene was made, but on July 14, at 76 days of age, the eaglet collapsed; she died later that evening. Field signs (acute respiratory distress, dyspnea, wing droop) were noted only hours before death.
Phoenix’s body was recovered from the nest on the morning of July 15 2010 and transported to MARS for examination; the following morning her remains were transported to the British Columbia Animal Health Laboratory for necropsy. Examination, Mountainaire Avian Rescue Society (MARS)
The eaglet was examined upon delivery, approximately 24 hours after death. The eaglet was well formed with normal feathering; there were small mites on the body.
Weight: 3.06 kg (6.7 pounds)
Length (beak tip to tail): 83.0 cm (32.6 inches)
Wingspan/wing: 80.3cm (31.6 inches)
Halux length: 4.13 cm (1.62 inches)
Beak length: 5.245 cm (2.06 inches)Necropsy Report British Columbia Animal Health Laboratory:
The eaglet’s general body condition was good, with adequate muscle mass and fat stores and good bone strength. Hydration was mildly reduced. She is confirmed to be female. A small number of fish bones were present in the stomach. Fungal plaques were visible on the cranial thoracic air sacs and numerous firm miliary nodules were present throughout both lungs.
Histopathology: No lesions were present in the brain, heart, liver, kidney or intestines. There were large numbers of granulomas containing fungal hyphae centred on airways.
Parasitology: Negative for intestinal parasites.
Toxicology: Pesticides, heavy metals negative.
Bacteriology: Lung and syrinx cultures were positive for a heavy growth of Aspergillus fumigatus
. No other infections were noted.
Cause of death: Acute Aspergillosis
. Aspergillus fumigatus
is one of many ubiquitous fungal species that live in damp soil and decaying organic matter. These fungi are often associated with agricultural crops and other human activities (e.g. composting) that make nutrients readily available to them.
High relative humidity and warm temperatures promote growth and germination; spores are released into the atmosphere and can be inhaled by birds and other animals (incuding humans). Aspergillosis
is a respiratory infection caused by Aspergillus
fungi; Aspergillus fumigatus
is the species most commonly responsible for infections in wild birds. It can infect free-ranging individuals such as those feeding at heavily contaminated areas (e.g., geese, ducks feeding on contaminated post-harvest grains in fields) or captive birds (e.g. poultry, penguins, parrots and others) living in enclosures where food and/or bedding have become contaminated. Also susceptible are compromised individuals (e.g. oiled birds whose immune systems are stressed) and young birds whose immune systems are not fully developed.
The infection is not transmissible from bird to bird; individuals become infected upon exposure to spores. It can present as a chronic disease, or as an acute and quickly fatal disease. Phoenix’s infection was the acute form. In acute aspergillosis
, birds are usually in good condition and have good-to moderate fat deposits; the disease is often characterized by sudden death of a previously healthy bird.
Acute aspergillosis has been responsible for large-scale mortalities in free-ranging birds of several orders.
Environmental factors can contribute. For example, one autumn outbreak in Steller’s jays in British Columbia was associated with a warm, dry summer. Dust conditions are thought to reduce mucous and other secretions that normally coat the lining of the throat and air passages, interfering with respiratory clearance mechanisms. Treatment
of the non-acute form in the clinical setting involves intensive antifungal therapy and support; prognosis is not good. The acute form is quickly fatal. Frequently Asked Questions Q:
Why is this considered to be an infectious disease?A:
Infectious diseases are illnesses causing symptoms resulting from the entry and growth of a variety of pathogenic organisms, including fungi.
See reference http://www.unbc.ca/nlui/wildlife_diseases_bc/aspergillosis.htm
for a full description of the disease.Q:
Are the people who handled her body at risk of developing aspergillosis? A:
If resistance to infection is impaired, inhalation of Aspergillus
fungi may lead to fungal pneumonia or a serious allergic reaction to the fungus. Typically casual contact with a bird dying of the disease does not present a significant health risk unless the bird carcass is opened and the fungal spores are aerosolized.Q:
How was she exposed to the fungus? Did she catch it from a parent, did she inhale spores, or was one of the foods contaminated? A:
Aspergillosis is not transmitted from bird to bird so it is unlikely she ‘caught’ it from a parent. The source of infection is unknown.
The most likely exposure was through either contamination of the nest site or from an infected prey bird. If the environmental conditions of heat and moisture that promote the vegetative growth of the fungus in organic substrate in the nest are followed by a period of dryness then the fungus will revert to a prolific spore-forming state. These spores are readily aerosolized and can be inhaled in large numbers, easily overwhelming a competent immune system. Q:
Was she weak because her parents are old and did that predispose her to infection?A:
Aside from the infection, she was normally developed, in good condition and had no concurrent illness.Q:
Could she have been saved if removed from the nest sooner? A:
No; Phoenix suffered the acute and quickly fatal form of the disease. Q:
Is the nest contaminated and if so will it have to be cleaned?A:
We do not know this; disturbing the nest is not a good idea at this time. (H. Schwantje). Exposure to the elements should reduce the level of fungus over time. Q:
Are the parents sick too?A:
It is impossible to know without physical examination. According to Doug Carrick and other observers both adults are active, feeding and appear to be well. If the adult birds had been exposed to the fungus at the same time as Phoenix then they should have developed respiratory signs by now since chronic Apsergillosis is almost always progressive disease. Q:
Will her feathers be distributed for ceremonial use and if so why, if this is an infectious disease? A:
In general eagle carcasses that are determined to be free of infectious disease are distributed to First Nations by CWS following the necropsy. In this case it is laboratory policy to incinerate all animal tissues from cases of infectious disease. Q:
If she is to be cremated, could the remains be returned to Doug for internment?A:
No. (V. Bowes)
Resources: The diagnosis of aspergillosis in birds
Seminars in Avian and Exotic Pet Medicine, Volume 9, Issue 2, April 2000, Pages 52-58
Michael P. Jones and Susan E. OroszFungal diseases of birds of prey
. The veterinary clinics of North America. Exotic animal practice, 2003 May;6(2):363-76. S.L. DeemIsolation and Identification of Aspergillus fumigatus Mycotoxins on Growth Medium and Some Building Materials
, Applied and Environmental Microbiology, October 2002Field Manual of Wildlife Diseases: General Field Procedures and Diseases of Birds
. Revised. U.S. Department of the Interior; U.S. Geological Survey. Elizabeth A. Ciganovich, Editor; Phillip J. Redman, Design and layout; Rosemary S. Stenback, Illustrator