Photo credit: JURONG BIRD PARK

Jurong Bird Park gives injured changeable hawk-eagle new feathers to help it fly again

The hawk-eagle has since flown about 10km from its release site.

Amanda Tan

Skills include buying the same jeans in different colours.

Published: 27 January 2022, 12:18 PM

A changeable hawk-eagle was reported injured by a member of the public on Jurong Island on Jan 7.

It was subsequently rescued by National Parks Board (NParks) but was later brought to Jurong Bird Park’s avian hospital for health examination and treatment as its feathers on both wings and tail were burnt, causing it to be unable to fly.


Thankfully, it was assessed to be in good health, aside from its damaged feathers. PHOTO CREDIT: JURONG BIRD PARK


While birds will naturally grow new feathers through their moulting cycle, it could take up to 12 months for the eagle to fully regrow its feathers and be able to fly again. As such, the veterinary team decided to imp its wings and tail feathers to help speed up the bird’s release to the wild.

The native raptor’s feathers were successfully imped about two weeks later, on Jan 20, after receiving suitable donor wings from other reduced specimens of the same species that succumbed to severe injuries or diseases.


Imping is the process of replacing damaged feathers with similar feathers, preferably from a donor of the same species. PHOTO CREDIT: JURONG BIRD PARK


The process involved replacing over 50 feathers on the bird’s wings and tail, using bamboo chopsticks as imping needles to attach the new feathers.

Veterinarian at Jurong Bird Park, Dr Ellen Rasidi, said: “The method for imping is similar to humans getting hair extensions. However, unlike hair extensions, we have to be extra meticulous that each individual replacement feather is carefully trimmed, measured and arranged in the right position to match the patient’s original feather length and orientation as much as possible.

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


The lighter feathers with black bars originate from a bird of the same species with a pale colour morph. PHOTO CREDIT: JURONG BIRD PARK


Apart from a few mismatched feathers on its left wing, the hawk-eagle regained its ability to fly.

After the successful operation, a real-time satellite tracking device provided by NParks was attached to its tail and it was eventually released into the wild on Jan 21.


It adapted to its new feathers without a problem. PHOTO CREDIT: JURONG BIRD PARK


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

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