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Contact information
For information on Wisconsin's rare animals, contact:
Rich Staffen
Conservation Biologist

Bald Eagle (Haliaeetus leucocephalus)



Bald Eagle (Haliaeetus leucocephalus), a bird listed as Special Concern in Wisconsin and Federally protected by the Bald & Golden Eagle Protection Act, prefers large trees in isolated areas in proximity to large areas of surface water, large complexes of deciduous forest, coniferous forest, wetland, and shrub communities. Large lakes and rivers with nearby tall pine trees are preferred for nesting. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service guidance states that human activity should be avoided from January 15 - July 30 within a set distance of a nest, depending on the activity. Please visit the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service's eagle permit pages [exit DNR] for more guidance.

State status

Status and Natural Heritage Inventory documented occurrences in Wisconsin

The table below provides information about the protected status - both state and federal - and the rank (S and G Ranks) for Bald Eagle (Haliaeetus leucocephalus). See the Working List Key for more information about abbreviations. Counties shaded blue have documented occurrences for this species in the Wisconsin Natural Heritage Inventory database. The map is provided as a general reference of where this species has been found to date and is not meant as a range map.

Documented locations of Haliaeetus leucocephalus in the Natural Heritage Inventory Database as of July 2015.

Summary Information
State StatusSC/P
Federal Status in Wisconsinnone
State RankS4B,S4N
Global RankG5
Tracked by NHIY



Bald Eagle  [Photo #10298]

Photo © Karen Laubenstein.

Bald Eagle  [Photo #22658]

Bald Eagle

Photo © A.B. Sheldon.

Bald Eagle  [Photo #22659]

Bald Eagle

Photo © A.B. Sheldon.

Bald Eagle  [Photo #22660]

Bald Eagle

Photo © A.B. Sheldon.

Bald Eagle  [Photo #23572]

Bald Eagle

Photo © A.B. Sheldon.

Bald Eagle  [Photo #22662]

Bald Eagle

Photo © A.B. Sheldon.

Bald Eagle  [Photo #10993]

Immature with some black remaining on head.

Photo © Jack Bartholmai.

Bald Eagle  [Photo #10994]

The Bald Eagle is one of several iconic species strongly associated with lakes and northern forests.

Photo © Jack Bartholmai.

Bald Eagle  [Photo #10995]


Photo © Jack Bartholmai.

Bald Eagle  [Photo #10349]

Photo © Laura Erickson.

Bald Eagle  [Photo #10350]

Photo © Laura Erickson.

Bald Eagle  [Photo #22663]

Bald Eagle

Photo © A.B. Sheldon.

Bald Eagle  [Photo #10004]

Bald Eagle on nest along Sugar River.

Photo by Rich Staffen, WDNR.

Bald Eagle  [Photo #13566]

Immature Bald Eagles.

Photo © Ron Eckstein.

Wildlife Action Plan

Note: the information presented here comes from the 2005 Wisconsin Wildlife Action Plan. The Wildlife Action Plan is currently under revision, so this page will be updated with new information before the end of 2015.

Native community (habitat) associations

The table below lists the natural communities that are associated with Bald Eagle. Only natural communities for which Bald Eagle is "significantly" (score=3) or "moderately" (score=2) associated are shown. Please see the Wildlife Action Plan to learn how this information was developed.

Ecological landscape associations

The table below lists the ecological landscape association scores for Bald Eagle. The scores correspond to the map (3=High, 2=Moderate, 1=Low, 0=None). For more information, please see the Wildlife Action Plan.

This map shows the probability of Bald Eagle occurring in each of Wisconsin's Ecological Landscapes.  Actual scores can be found in the table to the left.

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Landscape-Community combinations of highest ecological priority*

Ecological priorities are the combinations of natural communities and ecological landscapes that provide Wisconsin's best opportunities to conserve important habitats for a given Species of Greatest Conservation Need. The 10 highest scoring combinations are considered ecological priorities and are listed below. More than 10 combinations are listed if multiple combinations tied for 10th place. For more information, please see the Wildlife Action Plan.

* Ecological priority score is a relative measure that is not meant for comparison between species. This score does not consider socio-economical factors that may dictate protection and/or management priorities differently than those determined solely by ecological analysis. Further, a low ecological priority score does not imply that management or preservation should not occur on a site if there are important reasons for doing so locally.

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Conservation actions

  • Continue monitoring and research on Lower Wisconsin River Eagle Syndrome.
  • Continue to work cooperatively with the US Fish and Wildlife Service, US Forest Service, and neighboring states on Bald Eagle conservation and population management.
  • Educate the public regarding Bald Eagle populations and conservation.
  • Evaluate contaminant levels in birds and eggs.
  • Monitor nesting population levels and productivity.
  • Preserve habitat around Bald Eagle nests.
  • Preserving nest trees and alternative nest trees.
  • Promote public Bald Eagle viewing festivals and events, which also bring ecotourism dollars into communities.
  • Time timber harvest activity so as not to disturb nesting eagles.

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Threats and issues

  • Accidental shooting remains an issue.
  • Wind towers, communication towers, electrical transmission lines, and fences are potential threats if placed in or near habitats frequently used by bald eagles.
  • Collision with vehicles while feeding on road kill is a source of mortality.
  • Road building and home construction in the woods is a threat to Bald Eagles.
  • Lead poisoning threatens this species as a result of feeding on animals/carcasses contaminated with lead shot, bullet fragments, or fishing sinkers.
  • PCB's, DDT residues, and agricultural pesticides.
  • Approaching nests too closely during critical nesting periods.

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Last revised: Tuesday, August 11, 2015