The greatest threats to wild eagle populations are human made. With no natural predators, interactions with humans are the most dangerous threat eagles face. Collisions with cars or electrical lines cause injury to many eagles. Still more dangerous is lead they may encounter in the environment as a result of human recreational activities like hunting and fishing.

Lead Poisoning

Lead is extremely dangerous for eagles because of their powerful digestive system. If an eagle ingests even a tiny fragment of lead, powerful stomach acids will break down the lead, and it will be released into the blood stream. Once in the blood stream lead damages the nervous system and organs leading to motor control problems and ultimately organ failure. The impact on the nervous system and motor control can also be the cause of other injuries an eagle might suffer such as collisions with cars or power lines. Even a tiny amount of lead is lethal to an eagle within days. To help protect eagles and other wildlife, consider switching to lead-free fishing tackle and ammunition.

What percentage of injured eagles are affected by lead poisoning?


Every year, hundreds of eagles die from lead poisoning. In the years 2010 through 2012, 25-30% of bald eagles admitted to The Raptor Center were found to have lead toxicity.

This brief video shows the devastating affects of lead poisoning in eagles. Thanks to SOAR for all their work.

Wind Turbines

Are wind turbines a threat to eagles?


While there have been cases of eagles being killed by wind turbines, the overall impact of wind turbine collisions on eagle populations is small compared to other threats that eagles face in the wild. Proper siting and reduction in blade speed over the years of wind farm development have lessened the impact of wind farms on many bird species. A major cause of eagle collisions with turbines seems to be that eagles are in pursuit of prey and can be struck by a blade. Ensuring that the area near turbines do not provide a regular food source for eagles is one way to deter collisions. Many birds and bats that are active at night have more difficulty than eagles in navigating near wind turbines. Regulatory agencies and the wind energy industry work hard to put in place mitigation efforts to reduce avian and bat mortality. Lighting and reduced blade speed can play a part in reducing these collisions.

What is an eagle take permit?


Recognizing that some human impacts on eagles may be unavoidable, the US Department of the Interior created something called an ‘eagle take’ permit to ensure that such impacts can be managed and regulated to ensure the conservation of wild eagle populations. An eagle take permit is site specific and may be granted by the US Fish and Wildlife Service to permit the incidental ‘take’ (injury, death or disturbance to nests) of a certain limited number of eagles based on assessments of the local eagle population and habitat use near a project. Any eagle deaths (or harms) in excess of the permitted number at that site would open the door to prosecution under federal law.

Do wind turbines need an eagle take permit?


An eagle take permit is not required for a wind turbine project to proceed, however, if harm to eagles results, the company would then be subject to prosecution. The eagle take permit process itself requires that mitigation procedures to limit potential harm to eagles be put in place, as well as mandatory data collection and regulatory oversight of the project.

What are the National Eagle Center’s positions on Lead and Wind Energy?

Read Our Position on Lead
Read Our Position on Wind Energy