are birds of prey protected by law

Aggressive raptors — Dos and Don’ts

Most likely, a raptor that is aggressive at this time of year is just attempting to defend its nest. The following advice will help you deal with an aggressive raptor:

  • DON’T leave small pets under 10 pounds exposed outside. When small pets are outside, especially at night, keep them under your supervision or in a covered area.
  • DO take down bird feeders and anything that could give small mammals that raptors frequent a source of food or shelter for a week or two.
  • DO respond to threats and stay away from a nest’s immediate vicinity for three to four weeks. If leaving the area around a nest during breeding is inevitable, wearing an umbrella can lessen your visibility as a possible predator. A walkway or yard can be protected with a tarp or canopy tent.
  • A live nest or any bird should not be harmed in any way. The federal Migratory Bird Treaty Act protects raptors, and any take may result in federal prosecution. Raptors are also protected by state regulation in most states.
  • DO get in touch with your neighborhood wildlife agency if you need help handling a hostile bird on your property. With the exception of eagle nests, inactive nests may be removed without a permit.

During the nesting season, which runs roughly from January to August, a number of raptor species, such as Peregrine Falcons, Red-tailed Hawks, Red-shouldered Hawks, Cooper’s Hawks, Swainson’s Hawks, Northern Goshawks, and Broad-winged Hawks, may exhibit aggressive behavior towards humans. Goshawks are particularly prone to aggressive air-borne diving on intruders. Some species may be more aggressive than others. These birds only behave in this manner to safeguard their young.

Once all of its young have flown and left the nest area, an aggressive raptor will usually cease defending its nest. Generally speaking, you should allow one month for the eggs to hatch into fledglings and an additional two to four weeks for the young to fully leave the area.

Find a bird on the ground? Don’t panic

This time of year, it’s not uncommon to find raptors, like American kestrels and Cooper’s hawks, outside of their ground nests. This is NOT unusual, and it probably shouldn’t worry you. Known as branching or fledging, many young raptors at this stage are old enough to learn how to fly and are not as dangerous as people believe.

The behavior known as “nest jumping” is exclusive to predatory birds. Younger raptors move onto branches surrounding their nest before making their first flight, and they frequently fall If the young raptors are on the ground, their parents will still feed and watch over them, and they may even encourage them to fly or climb back up the tree.

In order to avoid hurting more people than helping, heed the following advice if you come across a fledging on the ground:

  • AVOID picking up the bird and bringing it to a rehab facility. It is not only a disservice to rehab centers and the raptor, but also a disservice unless the bird is clearly injured. For raptors to learn how to fly and capture prey, they must be reared by their parents. Rehab centers are far less capable of doing this. Taking a healthy bird to a rehabilitation facility reduces its chances of survival and adds needless stress to the facility, taking scarce resources away from animals that are actually in need.
  • DO describe the situation over the phone with your local wildlife agency or wildlife rescue center. They can best advise you on how to respond.
  • If the bird is in immediate danger, DO attempt to return it to the tree (i e. in the path of vehicles or other traffic). If not, it is best to leave the bird where it is.

What can be done without a permit?

  • Avoid areas near the nest, if possible. If you must pass through the area, wear a hard hat or carry an open umbrella.
  • Build a temporary shade structure to block the birds’ view of people and animals.
  • Shrubbery planting can also give animals and feeder-visiting birds cover.
  • An air horn can occasionally be used to scare away birds that are about to dive.
  • Trim branches in order to remove perches and assist in resolving persistent problems during the non-breeding season.
  • Remove any lures that could draw in rodents or other prey to your yard. Common household attractants like pet food, abandoned trash, and bird seed can lure prey species onto your property.


Are hawks a protected bird?

Federal and state laws protect all hawks and owls. Shooting can be authorized under depredation permits in specific situations involving public health and safety hazards or seriously affecting a person’s livelihood.

Can you shoot birds of prey?

The Migratory Bird Treaty Act and state laws make it illegal to kill, capture, possess (actual bird or parts of, including feathers), harass, or harm any bird of prey.

Can I keep a hawk feather I found?

The possession of feathers and other parts of native North American birds without a permit is prohibited by the Migratory Bird Treaty Act (MBTA).

What birds are not protected by federal law?

Birds that are considered non-native species such as the House Sparrow and the European Starling are not protected, and many groups of hunted or game birds, including ducks, geese, doves, and many shorebirds are subject to limited protection and can be hunted in season.