February 7, 2023: What happened to HD’s foot?

What happened to HD’s foot? On February 3, several sharp-eyed volunteers and fans noticed that one of his toes appeared to be injured. We talked with Dr. Laura Johnson and Master Bander Dave Kester about the injury.

What’s going on?
February 7, 2023: HD's foot.

February 7, 2023: HD’s foot

It isn’t easy to diagnose a condition based on photos, but Laura told us that it looks like an injury (possibly a constriction or bite) caused a loss of blood supply to HD’s toe and nailbed. We first noticed the injury after he came into the nest with a squirrel. As cute as they look to us, squirrels are notorious for being fast, hard biters – potentially risky prey even for an experienced raptor like HD. We haven’t seen any string or twine on HD’s toes or in the nest.

What might happen next?

We’re not sure what will happen next. HD’s talon might fall off. Whether it regrows has everything to do with how much damage there is to the germinal cells from which the talon emerges. But there is no evidence of swelling in the rest of the toe proximal to the injury and the rest of the foot looks good. Laura thought we could be cautiously optimistic that the incident won’t have a significant impact on him; Dave told us that his first hawk had similar damage to her hallux claw. Smackers did not lose her talon and eventually the scab broke off to reveal beautiful new skin beneath. We’re crossing our talons for the best possible outcome.

We’re also watching HD very closely. At this point, he appears to be healthy and is still eating, bringing materials into the nest, and helping to get everything ready for eggs. While we haven’t seen a successful copulation yet – like DM2, HD seems a little shy – his eagletect instincts are on point! Both eagles seem to be shifting their focus from sticks to soft materials as they move into the final stages of nest bowl prep and egg cup construction.

We’ll keep everyone posted. Thanks to our camera operators and eagle council for keeping us on top of everything.