colour photo of a bald eagle
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The Bald Eagle (Haliaeetus leucocephalus) is a large, diurnal bird of prey, the only representative of the sea eagle group in North America. The adult Bald Eagle is a widely recognized, with its large size, long wing span, and striking white head and tail contrasting with dark brown body plumage. Bald Eagles are long-lived, capable of surviving for more than 30 years in the wild. Bald Eagles are thought to pair for life unless one mate dies, and may overwinter together. Pairs defend their territories and show a strong fidelity to nest sites, typically using the same nest over successive years.

Bald Eagles are both predators and scavengers, and while they feed primarily on fish, they will also feed on a wide range of bird and mammal species. Bald Eagles typically nest in large supercanopy trees of a variety of species near water in forested landscapes. Confirmed breeding locations are widely distributed across Ontario. Higher densities occur along the Great Lakes shoreline, and the large lake and river systems of northwestern Ontario. Bald Eagles from the Great Lakes region generally migrate south along major river drainage systems, returning to their territory in late winter. However, a number of Bald Eagles regularly overwinter within Ontario, near areas with available food supply.

Protecting and managing species of special concern in Ontario

The protection and management of Species of Special Concern is a key part of protecting Ontario’s biodiversity. Biodiversity—the variety of life on Earth—provides us with clean air and water, food, fibre, medicine and other resources that we need to survive.

The Endangered Species Act, 2007 (ESA) is the Government of Ontario’s legislative commitment to protecting and managing species of special concern and their habitats. A species is classified as special concern if it lives in the wild in Ontario, is not endangered or threatened, but may become threatened or endangered due to a combination of biological characteristics and identified threats.

Government response statements

The management plan for Bald Eagle was completed in September 2014.

Management plans are prepared for the Government of Ontario based on the current scientific knowledge for each species and identify approaches for the management of species of special concern.

This response statement is the government’s policy response (subsection 12(5) of the ESA) to the possible actions identified in the management plan. The response statement summarizes the actions that the Government of Ontario intends to take in response to the management plan and the government priorities in taking those actions. The response also reflects the best available knowledge at this time and may be modified if new information becomes available.

Moving forward to protect and manage Bald Eagle

Bald Eagle is listed as a species of special concern under the ESA. In the past, Bald Eagle populations declined due primarily to human persecution and pesticide use, and when these factors were addressed the population responded favourably. While the Bald Eagle population in Ontario is clearly recovering, the species has some inherent vulnerability. As a top predator feeding primarily upon fish, the Bald Eagle is extremely sensitive to persistent chemical contaminants in aquatic systems that biomagnify through the food chain and concentrate in top predators. Levels of chemicals such as DDT and PCBs have dropped and now have less impacton Bald Eagle reproduction, but residual chemical contaminants such as DDE are still a concern in the Great Lakes. New and emerging persistent chemicals such as the fire retardant polybrominated diphenyl ethers (PBDEs) and perfluorinated compounds (PFCs) are also a concern.

Expanding human populations and associated disturbance can also impact the availability and suitability of habitat for the Bald Eagle. Bald Eagle response to disturbance is quite variable and appears to be affected by several factors, including the timing, type and duration of disturbance, distance to disturbance and degree of habituation.

Management goal

The management goal for Bald Eagle is to ensure that Ontario’s Bald Eagle population continues to recover to achieve a stable or increasing population state at which natural events and human activities will not threaten its health and persistence.

Management objectives and actions

Protecting and recovering species at risk is a shared responsibility. No single agency or organization has the knowledge, authority or financial resources to protect and recover all of Ontario’s species at risk. Successful recovery requires inter-governmental co-operation and the involvement of many individuals, organizations and communities.

In developing the government response statement, the Ministry considered what actions are feasible for the government to lead directly and what actions are feasible for the government to support its conservation partners to undertake. Government-led actions are those that the government will directly undertake to protect and manage the species. Government-supported actions are those that are endorsed bythe government as being necessary for the protection and management of the species. Support for conservation agencies, municipalities, industry partners and Aboriginal communities to undertake actions will be provided where appropriate through funding, and advisory services.

Focus area: Inventory and monitoring

Objective – Monitor Bald Eagle populations to ensure continued population recovery.

Government-led management actions
  • Encourage the submission of Bald Eagle data to the Ministry’s central repository at the Natural Heritage Information Centre.
  • Continue to monitor active and inactive Bald Eagle nests and provide the data on an annual basis to a provincial repository.
  • Work with First Nations to conduct an assessment of existing indigenous knowledge of the natural history, ecology and conservation status of the Bald Eagle in Ontario.
Government-supported management actions
  1. Initiate a volunteer-based monitoring program with partner organizations to monitor Bald Eagle numbers and trends across the province.
    Priority: High
  2. Monitor disease and contaminant levels in Bald Eagle populations by developing and maintaining a collaborative tissue contaminant monitoring program and database with partners.
    Priority: High
  3. Identify and document historical nesting habitat that has not yet been recolonized, particularly in southern Ontario adjacent to the lower Great Lakes (Erie, Ontario), and undertake measures to protect and manage these habitats through stewardship programs to maintain their suitability and accessibility for future occupancy.
    Priority: Medium

Focus area: Protection and management

Objective – Maintain continued high adult survival of Bald Eagle

Government-led management actions
  • Continue to apply existing nest management guidance (e.g. forest management guidance, municipal planning guidance, wind power guidance) to ensure that active and alternative Bald Eagle nest sites are maintained, productivity remains high and a healthy population state is maintained.
  • Support conservation, agency, municipal, industry partners and Aboriginal communities to undertake activities to protect and manage the Bald Eagle. Support will be provided where appropriate through funding, agreements, permits (including conditions) and advisory services.
  • Complete the development of ecoregional criteria schedules for Significant Wildlife Habitat, with consideration of the population status of Bald Eagles in each ecoregion. Identify Bald Eagle overwintering habitat as a criterion (e.g. seasonal concentration area) in the Significant Wildlife Habitat criterion schedule for southern Ontario ecoregions, and develop provincial guidance or best management practices for their identification, management and protection near or within urban centres.
  • Continue the protection afforded to the Bald Eagle under the Fish and Wildlife Conservation Act (FWCA), and continue to enforce this protection to achieve no direct human killing of Bald Eagles.
  • Maintain monitoring by wind energy facilities for incidental mortality of Bald Eagles
Government-supported management action
  1. Continue to identify and manage Bald Eagle nesting, overwintering and stopover habitat as Significant Wildlife Habitat for management, protection and mitigation during land use and resource management planning.
    Priority: Medium

Focus area: Research

Objective – Identify and protect Bald Eagle nesting sites and important overwintering and stopover habitat on both public and private lands.

Government-led management action
  • Initiate a monitoring program to examine the effectiveness of the revised forest management planning guidance and wind energy guidance for the protection of Bald Eagle nests and the mitigation of disturbance effects on nesting Bald Eagles.
Government-supported management action
  1. Maintain a long-term nest monitoring data set to monitor trends and impacts of climate change on nesting phenology and other aspects of reproduction.
    Priority: Medium

Focus area: Awareness

Objective – Increase awareness of the conservation status and stewardship opportunities to meet the needs of Bald Eagle in Ontario.

Government-led management actions
  • Educate other agencies and authorities involved in planning and environmental assessment processes on the threats to Bald Eagle.
  • Undertake communications and outreach to increase public awareness of species of special of concern in Ontario.

Implementing actions

Financial support for the implementation of actions may be available through the Species at Risk Stewardship Fund, Species at Risk Research Fund for Ontario, and the Species at Risk Farm Incentive Program. Conservation partners are encouraged to discuss project proposals related to the actions in this response statement with the Ministry of Natural Resources and Forestry.

Implementation of the actions may be subject to changes in priorities across the multitude of species at risk, availability of resources and the capacity of partners to undertake management activities. Where appropriate, the implementation of actions for multiple species will be co-ordinated across government response statements.


We would like to thank all those who participated in the development of the “Management Plan for the Bald Eagle (Haliaeetus leucocephalus)” for their dedication to protecting and managing species of special concern.

For additional information:

Visit the Species at Risk website at
Contact your MNR district office
Contact the Natural Resources Information Centre
TTY: 1-866-686-6072