A Guide to Dealing with Aggressive Raptors
Birds of prey, also called raptors, include hawks, eagles, falcons and owls. Each spring and summer, the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) receives reports of raptors diving at people. These incidents, which are usually caused by hawks, have happened in both urban and suburban areas. Most of these events occur during the nesting season and near an active nest where there are chicks or eggs. The raptors dive at people who come too close to the nest. The birds view those people as threats to the nest and the babies. In many cases, the birds dive at people but don’t make contact. However, there have been injuries from these birds when they do make contact. Reports show that the birds may dive at people as far as 150 feet away from their nests.
All Florida raptors are protected under the federal Migratory Bird Treaty Act and under Florida law. This means the birds themselves, their nests, and their eggs are protected by federal and state law. Inactive nests (no young or eggs present) of non-listed hawks can be removed without a permit (Rule 68A-16.003). Nests of Eagles, Crested Caracara, Snail Kite, American Kestrel, and Ospreys in Monroe County cannot be removed under this rule. If the hawk nest is active with eggs or chicks in the nest, removal permits are needed from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS).
What can be done without a permit?
- Avoid areas near the nest, if possible. If you must go through the area, carry an open umbrella or wear a hard hat.
- Temporarily erect a shade structure to obstruct the birds’ view of people and pets.
- Planting shrubbery can also provide cover for pets and birds visiting feeders.
- Sometimes you may be able to use an air horn to deter birds that start to dive.
- During the non-breeding season, trim branches to eliminate perches and help resolve recurring issues.
- Eliminate attractants that may attract prey such as rodents into your yard. Items like unsecured garbage, fallen bird seed and pet food are common household attractants that may entice prey species onto your property.
Who do I contact for a permit?
FWC biologists can help with some of these issues. If a hawk nest is active (contains eggs or flightless young), a permit is required from the USFWS. In severe cases, permits may be issued by USFWS to directly remove birds, nests, and young. Call your local FWC regional office for more information.
Nest and/or bird removal permit application and contact information
Active Nest Permit:
For an active nest removal permit, you must apply for a USFWS permit. Further information on the Federal Migratory Bird Depredation Permit can be found on the USFWS Web site:
Contact the USDA Wildlife Services (866-487-3297) if you do not have access to the internet or have permit questions.