Bald Eagle Regulations and Guidance
The Bald and Golden Eagle Protection Act (Eagle Act)
Enacted in 1940, and amended several times since then, the Eagle Act prohibits anyone, without a permit, from 'taking' bald or golden eagles, including their parts, nests, or eggs, where:
Take means pursue, shoot, shoot at, poison, wound, kill, capture, trap, collect, destroy, molest, or disturb.
Disturb means to agitate or bother a bald or golden eagle to a degree that causes, or is likely to cause, based on the best scientific information available, (1) injury to an eagle, (2) a decrease in its productivity, by substantially interfering with normal breeding, feeding, or sheltering behavior, or (3) nest abandonment, by substantially interfering with normal breeding, feeding, or sheltering behavior.
Permits are issued for a wide variety of activities including: non-purposeful take (disturbance), scientific research, conservation education, Native American religious purposes, threat to human/eagle health and safety, damage caused by eagles, and nest removal. For more information, see our Permits Page.
The Eagle Act provides criminal penalties for persons who “sell, purchase, barter, trade, import, or export, or offer for sale, purchase, barter, or trade, at any time or in any manner, any bald eagle (Haliaeetus leucocephalus), or any golden eagle (Aquila chrysaetos), or the parts, nests, or eggs of these birds.” A violation of the Eagle Act can result in a fine of $100,000 ($200,000 for organizations), imprisonment for one year, or both, for a first offense. Penalties increase substantially for additional offenses, and a second violation of this Act is a felony.
National Bald Eagle Management Guidelines
Recommendations are based on several decades of behavioral observation, science, and conservation measures to avoid and minimize adverse impacts to bald eagles. Adherence to the Guidelines will benefit individuals, agencies, organizations, and companies by helping them avoid violations of the law.
National Bald Eagle Management Guidelines - 2007 (PDF 148KB)
Eagle Guidance for Wind Energy Development
Up-to-date Eagle Conservation Plan Guidance can be found on the national U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Wind Energy Development Information website.
The Migratory Bird Treaty Act (MBTA)
Bald and golden eagles are also protected under the provisions of the MBTA. The MBTA prohibits the taking of any migratory bird or any part, nest, or egg, except as permitted by regulation. The MBTA was enacted in 1918; a 1972 agreement supplementing one of the bilateral treaties underlying the MBTA had the effect of expanding the scope of the MBTA to cover bald eagles and other raptors. Implementing regulations define "take" under the MBTA as "pursue, hunt, shoot, wound, kill, trap, capture, possess, or collect." A variety of permits are available from the Migratory Bird Permit Office. Compliance with the Bald and Golden Eagle Protection Act meets the requirements for compliance with the MBTA.
State Laws and Regulations
Most states have their own regulations and/or guidelines for eagle management. Some states continue to list the bald eagle as endangered, threatened, or of special concern. If you plan activities that may affect eagles, we urge you to familiarize yourself with the regulations and/or guidelines that apply to eagles in your state. Federal laws do not supersede state laws. Compliance with state and local laws is required to be in compliance with federal law.
Can’t find what you need? Have a recommendation for information that would be helpful on this page? We appreciate your feedback.
April 9, 2012