Ecological Services
Northeast Region
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More Resources

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)

Legal Protections for the Bald Eagle Management at a Glance

The Bald and Golden Eagle Protection Act

The Bald and Golden Eagle Protection Act (16 U.S.C. 668-668c) (pdf-13KB) prohibits anyone without a permit from "taking" bald eagles, including their parts, nests or eggs, and identifies penalties for those actions.

A violation of the Act can result in a fine of $100,000 ($200,000 for organizations) and imprisonment for one year for a first offense. Penalties increase substantially for additional offenses, and a second violation of this Act is a felony.

The Migratory Bird Treaty Act

The MBTA (16 U.S.C. 703-712), 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 expanded the Act 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."

State laws and regulations

Most states have their own regulations or guidelines for bald eagle management. Some states may continue to list the bald eagle as endangered, threatened or of special concern. If you plan activities that may affect bald eagles, we urge you to familiarize yourself with the regulations and/or guidelines that apply to bald eagles in your state.

Your adherence to the Guidelines does not ensure that you are in compliance with state laws and regulations because state regulations can be more specific or restrictive than these Guidelines. If you are planning activities that may affect bald eagles, we recommend that you contact both your nearest Service field office and your state wildlife agency for assistance.

In addition to immediate impacts, this definition also covers impacts that result from human-induced alterations initiated around a previously used nest site during a time when eagles are not present, if, upon the eagle's return, such alterations agitate or bother an eagle to a degree that injures an eagle or substantially interferes with normal breeding, feeding, or sheltering habits and causes, or is likely to cause, a loss of productivity or nest abandonment.

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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: March 8, 2016