Wild Sarasota Spotlight: eagle etiquette

The bald eagle, a Florida native, and its relative, the golden eagle, are always a special sight to spy in the sky. While you may be elated to have an eagle encounter, there are a few key tips of eagle etiquette to adhere to when birding to ensure the comfort and continued conservation of these species.

Read on to learn proper eagle decorum and how you should interact with eagles. Or, for more on eagles’ natural history and conservation story, watch our Wild Sarasota webinar: Eagles of Florida.

Eagle Etiquette
Bald eagle populations declined to 487 nesting pairs in 1963 due to habitat loss, hunting, and pesticide use. Conservation measures were implemented and they are now heavily watched and regulated. Image credit: UF/IFAS

Once threatened with extinction due to hunting and the spread of pesticides that impaired reproduction, eagles remain elusive and an exciting find. Because of this history, there are various protections in place to ensure populations persist. Federal laws like The Bald and Golden Eagle Protection Act, The Migratory Bird Treaty Act, and The Lacey Act protect eagles, so it’s always important to be aware of eagle nests and activity in your area and make sure you know what is ill-eagle.

Minimize noise, never cut down trees or snags that hold eagle nests, and otherwise avoid disturbing these awe-inspiring birds. Collection of eagle samples like feathers is also prohibited by law without a federal, state, and/or tribal permit.


What to do When Watching

There are a few things to keep in mind when eagle watching, so keep the following in mind for your viewing pleasure and the observed eagle’s comfort.

  • Recommended viewing distance: minimum 330 feet, which increases with any unusual activity
    • Use binoculars or a telephoto lens/scope to enhance your viewing experience
  • Always limit noise
    • Avoid yelling, honking, door slamming, or dog barking. Always keep your pets at home
  • Don’t agitate eagles or try to make them move or stand

If an eagle looks at you, then you are disturbing their peace. This is your signal to move on or back away.

Remember, you are entering their space. Always give wildlife the space they deserve and educate others to do the same.


Citizen Science
Bald eagle nests (aeries) are reused annually so make sure to report new nests for maintenance. Image credit: Katherine Clements; Oscar Scherer State Park active nest circa April 2020

You can be a part of conservation efforts. While there are experts in the field of eagle protection and management, their job would be much more difficult without the support of citizens.

  • Report a previously undocumented bald eagle nest. Email the location and photos to BaldEagle@MyFWC.com
  • Report bald eagle violations or dead or injured individuals to FWC’s Wildlife Alert Hotline at 888-404-3922 or contact a local rehabilitation center.


Learn More

Join us for an eagle walk at some of the Sarasota County Preserves. Check the Sarasota County Parks, Recreation, and Natural Resources Event Guide and at UF/IFAS Extension Sarasota County EventBrite registration.

Watch our Wild Sarasota webinar on Eagles of Florida

.Read a synopsis of this series, with a list of all related posts http://blogs.ifas.ufl.edu/sarasotaco/2021/08/02/wild-sarasota-series/.

Posted: January 11, 2022

Category: Natural Resources, Recreation, Wildlife
Tags: Bald Eagle, Eagles, Pgm_EcoNR, Wild Sarasota, Wildlife

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