Bald and Golden Eagle Protection Act
The State of Maine and the U. S. Fish and Wildlife Service (Service) can proudly celebrate a collaborative effort to recover the bald eagle, our national symbol. More than 500 pairs currently nest in the State, and bald eagles are once again a common sight to the people of Maine. As with all species removed from the Federal list, the Service continues to work with State agencies and conservation partners to periodically assess the bald eagle population, monitor contaminants, and work with the public to conserve a growing eagle population. Maine residents take pride in recovering the bald eagle and often refer to this achievement as a conservation success.
A large raptor (bird of prey), the bald eagle has a wingspread of 5½ to 8 feet. Adults have a dark brown body and wings, white head and tail, and a yellow beak. In flight, the bald eagle often soars or glides with the wings held at a right angle to the body. Juvenile bald eagles have mottled brown and white plumage, gradually acquiring their dark brown body and distinctive white head and tail as they mature. Bald eagles generally attain adult plumage by 5 years of age. Adults weigh 8 to 14 pounds, occasionally reaching 16 pounds in Alaska. Those in the northern range grow larger than those in the south, and females are somewhat larger than males. Bald eagles are a North American species that historically occurred throughout the contiguous United States and Alaska. After severely declining in the lower 48 States between the 1870s and the 1970s, bald eagles have rebounded and re-established breeding territories in each of the lower 48 States except Vermont. The largest North American breeding populations are in Alaska and Canada, but there are also significant bald eagle populations in Florida, the Pacific Northwest, the Greater Yellowstone area, the Great Lakes States, and the Chesapeake Bay region. Bald eagle distribution varies seasonally. Bald eagles that nest in southern latitudes frequently move northward in late spring and early summer, often summering as far north as Canada. Most eagles that breed at northern latitudes migrate southward during winter, or to coastal areas where waters remain unfrozen.
Bald eagles can live 15 to 25 years in the wild, and even longer in captivity. Most are capable of breeding at four or five years of age, but in dense populations they may not start breeding until much older. A pair typically mates for life and builds a huge nest in the tops of large trees near rivers, lakes, marshes, or other aquatic areas. Nests are often re-used year after year, with additions to the nests made annually. Nests are often 4 to 6 feet wide and may weigh up to 1,000 pounds. Although bald eagles may range over great distances, they usually return to nest within 125 miles of where they were raised.
Golden eagles breed in Maine as recently as 1998 a majority of historic site have not been used for over 13 years. However, golden eagle have been known to migrate across parts of our State. For more information about eagle migration in the Northeast please visit: Center for Conservation Biology
Bald Eagles were removed from the endangered species list in June 2007 because their populations recovered sufficiently. Although the bald eagle is no longer protected under the Maine Endangered Species Act (MESA) and the Federal Endangered Species Act (ESA), it continues to be protected under the Migratory Bird Treaty Act (MBTA) and the Bald and Golden Eagle Protection Act (Eagle Act) and associated regulations. When the Bald Eagle was de-listed, the Service proposed regulations to create a permit program to authorize limited take of Bald Eagles and Golden Eagles where take is associated with otherwise lawful activities. The bald eagle has also been removed from the State of Maine endangered species list. Click here for more information from the Maine Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife.
In many ways, the MBTA and Eagle Act are less restrictive than the protection bald eagles received under State of Maine and Federal endangered species acts. For example:
If a landowner or developer believes that their project will take or disturb bald eagles, the Maine Field Office staff helps find solutions that allow people and eagles to coexist. Most often conducting activities outside of the nesting season allows projects to proceed. We have hired a full-time Eagle Act coordinator for the Northeast Region to support the field offices with complex projects that may require permits. Our emphasis is on customer service, and we have been quick to respond to requests by State agencies, municipalities, developers, and the public for assistance on Eagle Act issues. The Maine Field Office receives many requests by concerned Maine citizens that we adhere to the national guidelines and policies related to the MBTA and Eagle Act. In summary, we believe the Eagle Act provides a flexible, predictable approach to allowing development to proceed and to protect our national symbol.
For details about the Bald and Golden Eagle Protection Act and Migratory Bird Treaty Act please visit: The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Migratory Bird Web site