Species of Concern
Bald Eagle (Haliaeetus leucocephalus)
Wyoming Distribution by County
Albany, Big Horn, Campbell, Carbon, Converse, Crook, Fremont, Goshen, Hot Springs, Johnson, Laramie, Lincoln, Natrona, Niobrara, Park, Platte, Sheridan, Sublette, Sweetwater, Teton, Uinta, Washakie, Weston
The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (Service) removed the bald eagle, except in portions of Arizona, from the list of threatened and endangered species under the Endangered Species Act (16 U.S.C 1531 et seq.). However, the protections provided to the bald eagle under the Migratory Bird Treaty Act, 16 U.S.C. 703 (MBTA), and the Bald and Golden Eagle Protection Act, 16 U.S.C. 668 (Eagle Act) remain in place. The term “disturb” under the Eagle Act is defined as: “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” (72 FR 31156).
Adult eagles establish life-long pair bonds and build large nests in the tops of large trees near rivers, lakes, marshes, or other wetland areas. During winter, bald eagles gather along open water to forage and night roost in large mature trees, usually in secluded locations that offer protection from harsh weather. Bald eagles often return to use the same nest and winter roost year after year.
Habitat loss and human disturbance remain as potential threats to the bald eagle's continued recovery. Because bald eagles are particularly sensitive to human disturbance at their nests and communal roosts, protective buffers are needed around these areas.
The Service has developed National Bald Eagle Management Guidelines to advise land managers when and under what circumstances the protective provisions of the MBTA and Eagle Act may apply to their activities. Please note that in more open habitats typical to Wyoming, in addition to the general recommendation in the national guidelines, additional conservation recommendations may also be necessary (our Wyoming specific recommendation are described below).
For infrastructure (or facilities) that have increased potential to cause eagle mortality (e.g., wind turbines, guyed towers, airports, waste water disposal facilitates, transmission lines, etc.), we recommend locating the infrastructure outside of areas with high levels of eagle use (i.e., away from areas used for nesting, foraging, roosting or migrating) and outside of eagle travel corridors between such high-use areas. If the wildlife survey data available for the proposed project area and vicinity do not provide the detail needed to determine normal bird habitat use and movements, we recommend collecting that information prior to determining locations for infrastructure with increased potential for causing eagle mortalities. We also recommend contacting the Service’s Wyoming Ecological Services office for project specific recommendations.
When the proposed infrastructure and facilities do not pose an increased risk of direct mortality, we recommend using the following general guidelines for work within Wyoming in order to avoid disturbing eagles and adequately protecting their habitat:
- Conduct surveys within 0.5 mile of proposed activity for eagle nests and/or roosts during the appropriate time of year. Contact the Service’s Ecological Services Wyoming Field Office if your project will occur within 0.5 mile of a known nest or roost to determine the potential impact of your activity to nesting and/or roosting bald eagles.
- Avoid project-related disturbance and habitat alteration within 0.5-mile of bald eagle nests from the period of early courtship to post-fledging of chicks (January 1 through August 15).
- Avoid disturbance within 0.5 mile of communal winter roosts from November 1 to April 1.
- Avoid construction of above-ground structures within 0.5-mile of bald eagle nest sites and communal winter roost sites. Below ground structures (e.g., pipelines, buried power lines, fiber optic lines) may be sited closer as long as construction occurs outside of the active nesting or roosting season and will not result in the loss of alternate nest sites or roost trees.
A protective buffer for foraging areas (i.e., a linear length of river) will also be needed if the proposed activity may preclude use of foraging areas (e.g., extensive human activities on or near the water).
In Wyoming, the nesting season occurs from February 1 to August 15 and bald eagle nest buffers should receive full implementation during this time period. For some activities (construction, seismic exploration, blasting, and timber harvest), a larger buffer around the nest may be necessary.
Sensitivity to disturbance by roosting and nesting bald eagles may vary between individual eagles based on topography, density of vegetation, and intensity of activities. Modification of protective buffer recommendations may be considered where biologically supported and developed in coordination with the Service’s Wyoming Ecological Services Field Office.
Please contact the Service’s Wyoming Ecological Services Field Office if you have any questions regarding the status of the bald eagle, permit requirements, or if you require technical assistance regarding the MBTA, Eagle Act, or the above recommendations.
U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. 2007. National Bald Eagle Management Guidelines. United States Department of Interior, Fish and Wildlife Service, Arlington, Virginia. 23 pp. [Online version available at <http://www.fws.gov/migratorybirds/>]