What Federal Protections Do Birds of Prey Have?

by OBDK on June 28, 2021

Birds of prey include birds like hawks, owls, and eagles. These birds are threatened by human actions like wildlife trade, pollution, and urbanization that’s led to habitat loss. These birds are indicator species. This means that by watching them and checking in on how their population is doing, we can learn more about what is going on within an ecosystem.1


Birds of prey receive protection by at least one federal law, and usually by many state and local laws too.2&3 These are: 


  • The Migratory Bird Treaty Act – makes it illegal to possess or kill any native migratory bird or any of its parts. 

  • The Bald Eagle Act – makes it illegal to kill or disturb bald eagles and golden eagles, as well as their nests and trees. 

  • Endangered Species Act – provides protection for species that are considered threatened or endangered.3


One or more permits are required from at least one or all of these acts.3  For example, under the Migratory Bird Treaty Act, it’s illegal to kill or possess hawks or their parts unless you have a permit from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.2 It also makes it illegal to destroy a nest that young birds rely on for survival. Violations of this law, depending on the action, can result in fines between $15,000 and $250,000 or jail time between six months and two years.4


Permits given out by the USFWS are: 

  • Special Purpose Possession Permit 

  • Eagle Exhibition Permit 

  • Endangered Species Permit3 


These regulations are in place to keep birds protected, as they’re such important members of our environment. If you want to read more about the Migratory Bird Treaty Act, read our blog on it here

  1. https://www.ifaw.org/animals/birds-of-prey

  2. https://www.aphis.usda.gov/wildlife_damage/reports/Wildlife%20Damage%20Management%20Technical%20Series/Hawks-and-Owls.pdf

  3. https://sciencetrek.org/sciencetrek/topics/birds_of_prey/facts5.cfm

  4. https://www.ojairaptorcenter.org/raptors-and-the-law