Colorado Ecological Services
Mountain-Prairie Region
Graphic button showing the 8 state mountain prairie region

Colorado ES

 

Migratory Birds and Eagles

Raptors, or birds of prey, and the majority of other birds in the United States are protected by the Migratory Bird Treaty Act, 16 U.S.C. 703 (MBTA). Eagles are also protected by the Bald and Golden Eagle Protection Act, 16 U.S.C. 668 (Eagle Act). 

The USFWS administers the Migratory Bird Treaty Act, which states that it is illegal to take, possess, import, export, transport, sell, purchase, barter, or offer for sale, purchase, or barter, any migratory bird, or the parts, nests, or eggs of such a bird except under the terms of a valid permit issued pursuant to Federal regulations.

Birds protected by the MBTA include all birds covered by the treaties for the protection of migratory birds between the United States and Great Britain (on behalf of Canada, 1916), Mexico (1936), Japan (1972), and Russia (1976), and subsequent amendments.  Species protected under the Migratory Bird Treaty Act can be found here.

More information on migratory bird permits can be found here

For infrastructure (or facilities) that have potential to cause direct avian mortality (e.g., wind turbines, guyed towers, airports, wastewater disposal facilities, transmission lines), we recommend locating structures away from high avian-use areas such as those used for nesting, foraging, roosting or migrating, and the travel zones between high-use areas. If the wildlife survey data available for the proposed project area and vicinity do not provide the detail needed to identify normal bird habitat use and movements, we recommend collecting that information prior to determining locations for any infrastructure that may create an increased potential for avian mortalities.

Ferruginous hawk in flight. Credit: Rick Bohn/USFWS

Ferruginous hawk in flight. Credit: Rick Bohn/USFWS

The USFWS also administers the Bald and Golden Eagle Protection Act. This Act and its subsequent amendments prohibit the take, possession, sale, purchase, barter, offer to sell, purchase or barter, transport, export or import, of any bald or golden eagle, alive or dead, including any part, nest, or egg, unless allowed by permit.  The Act defines "take" as "pursue, shoot, shoot at, poison, wound, kill, capture, trap, collect, 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."

Removal or destruction of active nests (i.e., nests that contain eggs or young), or causing abandonment of an active nest, could constitute a violation of the MBTA, the Eagle Act, or both statutes. Removal of any active migratory bird nest or any structure that contains an active nest (e.g., tree) where such removal results in take is prohibited. Therefore, if nesting migratory birds are present on or near a project area, project timing is an important consideration during project planning. As discussed below, the Eagle Act provides additional protections for bald and golden eagles and their nests.  For additional information concerning nests and protections under the MBTA, please see the Fish and Wildlife Service’s (Service) Migratory Bird Permit Memorandum, MBMP-2.

Additional Protections for Eagles

The Eagle Act protections include provisions not included in the MBTA, such as the protection of unoccupied nests and a prohibition on disturbing eagles. Specifically, the Eagle Act prohibits knowingly taking, or taking with wanton disregard for the consequences of an activity, any bald or golden eagle or their body parts, nests, chicks or eggs, which includes collection, possession, molestation, disturbance, destruction, or killing. The term “disturb” 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” (50 CFR 22.3 and see also 72 FR 31132). 

The Eagle Act includes limited exceptions to its prohibitions through a permitting process. The Service has issued regulations concerning the permit procedures for exceptions to the Eagle Act’s prohibitions (81 FR 91494), including permits to take golden eagle nests which interfere with resource development or recovery operations (50 CFR 22.25). The regulations identify the conditions under which a permit may be issued (i.e., status of eagles, need for action), application requirements, and other issues (e.g., mitigation, monitoring) necessary in order for a permit to be issued. 

For additional recommendations specific to Bald Eagles please see our Bald Eagle information web page

Golden Eagle in flight. Credit: Tom Koerner/USFWS

Golden Eagle in flight. Credit: Tom Koerner/USFWS

Guidance

The following guidance is applicable to migratory birds, and in particular raptors.  We recommend that the following guidance be incorporated into projects to reduce impacts to migratory birds. 

Region 6 Migratory Bird Conservation Actions for Projects to Reduce the Risks of Take During the Nesting Season (PDF)

Region 6 Recommendations for Avoidance and Minimization of Impacts to Golden Eagles at Wind Energy Facilities, April 11, 2013

U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Region 6, Mountain-Prairie Region - Outline for a Bird and Bat Conservation Strategy: Wind Energy Projects

U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Region 6, Mountain-Prairie Region - Final Outline and Components of an Eagle Conservation Plan (ECP) for Wind Development: Recommendations from USFWS Region 6

Outreach

Recommended Buffer Zones and Seasonal Restrictions for Colorado Raptors
BCR Grassland Bird BMPs
CPW's burrowing owl survey protocols
CPW's regional energy liaisons and land use specialists

Raptors of Conservation Concern

The Service’s Birds of Conservation Concern (2008) report identifies “species, subspecies, and populations of all migratory nongame birds that, without additional conservation actions, are likely to become candidates for listing” under the Endangered Species Act (16 U.S.C 1531 et seq.).  This report is intended to stimulate coordinated and proactive conservation actions among Federal, State, and private partners. 

Additional Planning Resources

Avian Power Line Interaction Committee (APLIC). 2012. Reducing Avian Collisions with Power Lines: The State of the Art in 2012. Edison Electric Institute and APLIC. Washington, D.C.

Avian Power Line Interaction Committee (APLIC).  2006.  Suggested Practices for Avian Protection on Power Lines:  The State of the Art in 2006.  Edison Electric Institute, APLIC, and the California Energy Commission.  Washington, D.C. and Sacramento, CA.

Edison Electric Institute’s Avian Power Line Interaction Committee and U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.  2005.  Avian Protection Plan Guidelines.

U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. 2013. Eagle Conservation Plan Guidance Module 1 – Land-based Wind Energy Version 2. Arlington, Virginia. 118 pp 

U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.  2000.  Siting, Construction, Operation and Decommissioning of Communications Towers and Tower Site Evaluation Form (Directors Memorandum September 14, 2000), Arlington, Virginia.

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.

Common Questions

Q: I found a baby bird out of the nest or on the ground, what should I do? 

A: In most circumstances, you do not need to do anything except keep cats indoors as young birds often leave the nest intentionally while learning to fly. During this period, the parents will continue to feed and care for the fledgling birds, which may still have some downy feathers. If the baby bird is not feathered or only has downy feathers and if you can easily and safely reach the nest, consider putting the bird back in the nest. Otherwise, contact an authorized wildlife rehabilitator for additional instructions.

Q: What should I do with an injured or dead bird?

A: If the injury is severe enough that it prevents the bird from performing its normal activities, contact an authorized wildlife rehabilitator. However, be aware that some injuries are minor or are not injuries at all. For example, some ducks are unable to fly during the summer because they are molting. And sometimes you might see a bird hopping on one leg... it may look like they only have one leg, but many birds (e.g., shorebirds) will tuck one leg under their body to conserve body heat. Finally, if you know of or suspect an injured or dead bird was illegally shot, poisoned, captured or harmed, or if the bird is an eagle or threatened or endangered species, contact the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Office of Law Enforcement or a conservation officer with the Utah Division of Wildlife Resources.

Q: Can I keep a feather, egg or nest that I found? 

A: The simple answer is no. Most birds are protected by the Migratory Bird Treaty Act which prohibits the possession of birds, parts of birds (e.g., feathers, talons), eggs and nests without a permit. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service may issue permits to institutions like museums and universities for research or educational purposes but rarely issues permits to individuals to keep feathers, eggs and nests. You may keep feathers, wings, parts or entire speciments of species with state-approved hunting seasons, provided the bird was harvested legally. You may also possess feathers or parts of birds not protected by the Migratory Bird Treaty Act as long as you abide by any state regulations; however, it may be difficult determine if the feather is from a protected species - if in doubt, do not keep it.

 

The mission of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is working with Others to conserve, protect, and enhance fish, wildlife, plants and their habitats for the continuing benefit of the American People.
Last modified: August 08, 2019
All Images Credit to and Courtesy of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Unless Specified Otherwise.
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