Ecological Services
Northeast Region
Bald Eagle Management Guidelines and Conservation Measures More Resources

Measures to Avoid Disturbing Nesting Bald Eagles During Recreational Activities

These activities will not disturb eagles if conducted during the non-nesting season. The nesting season is generally from mid-December to June for the Chesapeake Bay area (DE, MD and VA) and as late as January through July in the northern states. The non-nesting season is from August through mid-December or mid-January. The following measures only pertain to the nesting season.

See Bald Eagle Natural History and Sensitivity to Human Activity (link to subpage 9) for additional information.

Non-motorized recreation and human entry (including hiking, camping, fishing, hunting, canoeing)

Stay at least 330 feet (100 meters) from the nest if you walk, bike, canoe, camp, fish, or hunt near an eagle nest during the breeding season and your activity will be visible or can be heard from the nest.

None of these activities near a nest, would disturb the eagles if the activity cannot be seen or heard from the nest.

Off-road vehicle use (including snowmobiles)

Stay at least 330 feet (100 meters) from the nest. In open areas, where there is increased visibility and exposure to noise, stay at least 660 feet (200 meters) from the nest.

Motorized watercraft use (including jet skis/personal watercraft)

  1. Do not operate jet skis (personal watercraft) or airboats within 330 feet (100 meters) of the nest,
  2. Avoid concentrations of noisy vessels (e.g. commercial fishing boats and tour boats) within 330 feet (100 meters) of the nest, except where eagles have demonstrated tolerance for such activity, and
  3. For all motorized boat traffic within 330 feet (100 meters) of the nest, minimize trips and avoid stopping in the area, particularly where eagles are unaccustomed to boat traffic.

Other Guidelines

Back to the introduction

Bald and Golden Eagle Protection Act

National Bald Eagle Management Guidelines

Permit regulations to authorize limited "take" of bald eagles or their nests (pdf)

Bald eagle natural history and sensitivity (pdf)

Management at a Glance

Two factors most influence an eagle's response to human activity:

  1. The activity's visibility from the eagle nest and;
  2. The regular occurrence of similar activities near the nest.

General recommendations to avoid disturbing nesting bald eagles:

  1. Keep distance between the activity and the nest (distance buffers).
  2. Maintain forested or natural areas between the activity and the nest tree (landscape buffers).
  3. Avoid certain activities during the nesting season (timing buffers).


Last updated: May 22, 2013