For Bald Eagles, I think most people know you can’t directly harm them. But I do receive questions about what activities can be done around Bald Eagles and especially their nests – Bald Eagles are quick to abandon a nest in the presence of disturbance. The MBTA provides protection from harming an eagle or a nest with eggs or young. The Bald and Golden Eagle Protection Act provides additional protection during the breeding season as well as the nest.
According to the Bald and Golden Eagle Protection Act, it is unlawful to disturb eagles during the breeding season. In this case,
“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.”
To minimize the risk of disturbing eagles, the guidelines suggest a buffer between a nest and the activity, but it depends on the category activity, according to the guidelines. For example, Timber Operations and Forestry Practices list a distance of 330 feet from the nest at any time. They suggest avoiding harvesting operations within 660 feet of the nest during the breeding season.
The management guidelines are downloadable from the link provided below in the Resources. If you have questions about Bald Eagles and their protection, contact the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service at their Bloomington Field Office.
Photo Credit: Dave Menke/USFWS
Brian MacGowan, Extension Wildlife Specialist
Department of Forestry and Natural Resources