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After injury, rehabilitated bald eagle is returned to the wild

MEMPHIS, Tenn. — Thursday afternoon it was  just a few steps, a few flaps of his wings and the beautiful bald eagle was once again soaring the sky

"You can't help but get a little emotional about it, " explained Dr. Felicia Knightly, senior veterinarian at the Memphis Zoo.

"It's situations like this you hold on to the success. Being able to see this bird come in the condition that he did and then see him today," she explained.

It was a fulfilling day for Knightly.  She worked to nurse the male bald eagle, she estimates is around 8- years-old, back to health.

Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency wildlife officer Tim Ward got a call about the eagle on train tracks in Lauderdale County on March 9.

"He had his wing spread out and he was just kinda laying tilted down. You could tell he was kinda sluggish I guess you could say," explained Ward.

Ward soon learned he had a new task ahead.  "The big thing for me was how was I going to do this? How was I going to accomplish picking him up and transporting him?"

He was able to get the bird to the Memphis Zoo, the next hurdle was figuring out what was wrong with him.

"This bird was at first a mystery," said Knightly.

There were no obvious, outside wounds but he looked weak.

Doctors didn't know how long the eagle had been injured.

Dr. Knightly and her team took x-rays, discovering an unusual problem in his esophagus.

"We found that there were all these bones impacted and blocking the ability for him to either bring it up or swallow it down and I think that was the problem and I think all that material was really causing him to be systemically ill," she said.

After some time to heal, the majestic creature now back where he belongs and appearing to be better than ever. "He's very strong, very feisty."

In this bird's road to recovery, Dr. Knightly believes there is a lesson to be had for everyone.

"Take a minute, appreciate what's around you. This to me is a great message just to remind people that your life is bigger than what you do every day if you take a step back think about what might be around you and I'm super excited to be part of that in just this little way."

The zoo says on average they help rehabilitate three eagles a year.

In 2007 bald eagles were removed from the Endangered Species list due to ongoing conservation work.