Bald Eagle FAQs

Florida Fish & Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) & U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service (USFWS)

How can I make sure that a bald eagle's nest will not be impacted by a new project?
The FWC and USFWS encourage all permit applicants and regulatory officials to utilize the FWC nest locator before permitting or starting any project that has the potential to impact a bald eagle's nest, i.e. land clearing, construction, etc. This database does not take the place of an on-the-ground survey, but it is an excellent place to start. Check here to see if the eagle's nest is documented; if not then please report it to the database. The FWC eagle web site features a technical assistance page, a list of construction and other activity types that may disturb nesting bald eagles, and links to the state and federal bald eagle management plans. You may also check nest locations on the St. Johns County Bald Eagle Map.

What do I do if a project may need an eagle permit?
If an eagle or eagle nest may be affected by the proposed project it may be necessary to obtain both a federal and state eagle permit. More information on state and federal permit requirements can be found on the FWC eagle permitting web site. Regional Biologists and the FWC eagle plan coordinator are also available to provide additional assistance as necessary. The USFWS eagle permit coordinator or the USFWS Bald Eagle Biologist may also be contacted if you have questions about the federal eagle permit.

Will there always be a need for both a federal and state eagle permit?
Ultimately the goal for FWC and USFWS is to have a single permitting process. In the interim, applicants may be required to obtain both FWC and USFWS eagle permits.

What are the federal permitting regulations?
There are two new federal permitting regulations under the Bald and Golden Eagle Protection Act. The regulation set forth in 50 CFR § 22.26 provides for issuance of permits to take bald eagles and golden eagles where the taking is associated with but not the purpose of the activity and cannot practicably be avoided. Most take under this regulation will be in the form of disturbance, with avoidance and minimization measures, mitigation and monitoring are generally required. Inactive nests, as defined by FWC, are defined by the absence of eagle activity for a period of 5 years. The regulation at 50 CFR § 22.27 establishes permits for removing eagle nests. Nests may only be removed in cases of safety emergencies, public health and safety, when a nest prevents the use of a human-engineered structure, or when it provides a net benefit to eagles. Only inactive nests may be taken, except in the case of safety emergencies. Inactive nests are defined by USFWS by the continuous absence of any adult, egg, or dependent young at the nest for at least 10 consecutive days leading up to the time of take. Please visit USFWS Questions and Answers, for more information.

Since the bald eagle is no longer a listed species, is it still being protected by state and federal laws?
Yes, the bald eagle is still protected by both state and federal eagle laws. The Florida eagle rule, F.A.C. 68A-16.002, outlines that it is illegal to disturb or take an eagle in Florida. There are two federal eagle laws, the Migratory Bird Treaty Act (MBTA) and the Bald and Golden Eagle Protection Act (BGEPA). For more information about the federal eagle laws please visit the USFWS bald eagle web site.

Will previously issued state and federal permits still be honored by FWC and/or USFWS?
Yes, under part (1)(c) of F.A.C. 68A-16.002 Bald Eagle (Haliaeetus leucocephalus), FWC permits issued under imperiled species regulations or Biological Opinions or permits issued by the USFWS under the Endangered Species Act will be honored. The USFWS also has a permit available to extend the authorization granted under a previously issued Biological Opinion, however there is specific issuance criteria under 50 CFR § 22.28.

When was the bald eagle removed from the state and federal endangered species list?
The FWC removed the bald eagle from the state list of threatened species and adopted a rule to protect eagles (F.A.C. 68A-16.002) in May 2008. The FWC has also released a state Bald Eagle Management Plan which has guidelines to use when conducting any project within 660 feet of an eagle's nest. The bald eagle was removed from the federal list of endangered species in August 2007. There are also federal National Bald Eagle Management Guidelines available through the USFWS. The state and federal eagle management plan guidelines are not law. The plans provide guidance to help people avoid violating state and federal eagle laws.

What is the current population status (both nationally and in Florida) of the bald eagle?
The current nesting population of the bald eagle in the lower 48 states is estimated at 10,000 pairs. The numbers for the 2008/2009 nesting survey represent an estimated population of between 3,565 and 5,360 (breeding adults, non-breeders, subadults, and young produced in 2009). Florida is home to more nesting pairs than any state other than Alaska and Minnesota.

What has contributed to the recovery of the Florida eagle population?
The Florida bald eagle population and their nests have been protected through science-based land management, regulation, public education and law enforcement. Since the ban of the pesticide Dichloro-Diphenyl-Trichloroethane (DDT) in 1972 Florida's eagle population has increased more than 300 percent. In addition, the rehabilitation and release of injured and orphaned bald eagles back to the wild have also contributed to their recovery in Florida.

Will bald eagles in Florida still be monitored?
The documented nesting population of bald eagles in Florida will continue to be monitored to obtain the information needed to determine the population trend. The FWC eagle nesting territory survey is conducted annually from November to March using airplanes. In 2009, FWC re-designed the survey so that each nest is visited once every three years. By doing this we are able to focus on a sub-sample of nests (which statistically represent the entire state) and get complete information about productivity and nest status. This information is critical to ensure we are meeting the conservation objectives of the Bald Eagle Management Plan. Visit the FWC eagle nest database web site, for more information.