Feb. 23, 2024

AZGFD offers tips for viewing etiquette

PHOENIX — For wildlife enthusiasts and outdoor recreationists, there are few sights more thrilling than observing bald eagles raise their young during the nesting season.

But eagle nests and young eagles are sensitive to nearby human activity. Too much disturbance by humans can cause a nest to fail, or result in a premature fledging and injury, or death to an eaglet that can’t fly or defend itself.

Bald eagle nestwatchers, people who are stationed at nesting areas near high-use recreation areas to collect behavioral data and educate the public, started monitoring nesting areas Feb. 2. During that first week, they observed multiple human-eagle conflicts at different nesting locations:

People flying drones into the immediate nest area, presumably to get a better view/photos.

Photographers, and/or groups of photographers, hiking into nest areas to get closer photos despite closures being in place.

A group of hikers going under a nest tree and flushing the incubating adult bald eagle and then hanging around for more than 30 minutes, causing the eggs to be unattended for the entire period.

A boat entering a water closure and posting up under the eagle nest. The group was overly loud, flushed the adult from the nest, and a raven swooped in and ate one of the eggs.

Outdoor recreationists and other members of the public are urged to ensure their presence and behavior do not have a detrimental effect on eagles or their future use of the area. Below, the Arizona Game and Fish Department (AZGFD) offers some tips on bald eagle viewing etiquette to help ensure a successful eagle breeding season — and a wildlife legacy for future generations:

Enjoy from a distance. Bald eagles should always be viewed from outside the seasonal closures, which are marked with signs and/or buoys. In the absence of a closure, watch from a distance using a spotting scope, binoculars or telephoto camera lens.

No drone zones. Bald eagles are highly territorial and may react to drones as avian predators. For the safety of the bald eagles, their nesting attempt, and your drone, keep the drone grounded while in bald eagle habitats.

The bald eagles will let you know. If you are too close, bald eagles will intently focus on you while not taking care of their young, hunting or feeding. If you are extremely close, they will vocalize and/or circle the area frantically. It is important to leave the area quickly as bald eagles should never be forced to leave their nest or prevented from attending to their eggs or young.

Learn from the nestwatchers. Many areas have nestwatchers monitoring bald eagle nesting attempts. If you encounter a nestwatch team, please follow any guidance provided and take a moment to learn about bald eagle conservation in Arizona.

If you see It, report it. You can help by reporting any harassment or shooting of bald eagles. Call AZGFD’s Operation Game Thief hotline at 800-352-0700 or U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Law Enforcement at 480- 967-7900.

For more information, visit the Arizona Game and Fish Department’s website or

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