Is the Hawk Protected Under the Law? A Legal Perspective

Wildlife law Jul 10, 2023

The majestic hawk, often associated with strength and freedom, is a symbol of nature’s power and beauty. However, as with many other species of wildlife, the question arises: Is the hawk protected under the law?

hawk law

We will explore the legal framework surrounding the protection of hawks in the United States, taking a closer look at the various federal and state regulations that govern their conservation and management.

Federal Protection

In the United States, the primary federal law that provides protection for birds, including hawks, is the Migratory Bird Treaty Act (MBTA). Enacted in 1918, this law was a response to the widespread hunting and killing of migratory birds for their feathers and as a food source.

The MBTA makes it illegal to pursue, hunt, take, capture, kill, or possess migratory birds without a valid permit. Hawks are classified as migratory birds under this law, and as such, they are afforded protection.

The MBTA’s protection extends not only to the hawks themselves but also to their nests and eggs. Disturbing or destroying an active hawk nest is prohibited without the appropriate permits. This is a critical measure to ensure the continued survival and well-being of hawk populations.

Exceptions and Permits

While the MBTA provides robust protection for hawks, there are exceptions and permit systems in place. Certain species of hawks are considered game birds, and regulated hunting seasons may exist for these species in some states. However, hunting hawks without the necessary licenses and during prohibited times is illegal.

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Additionally, permits can be obtained for scientific research, educational purposes, or falconry. Falconry is the practice of training and hunting with birds of prey, including some species of hawks. Falconers must undergo rigorous training and adhere to strict regulations to ensure the well-being of the birds.

State Regulations

In addition to federal protections, individual states may have their own laws and regulations regarding hawks and other birds of prey. These regulations can vary widely from state to state, so it’s essential to research and understand the specific rules in your jurisdiction.

Conservation Efforts

Beyond legal protections, various organizations and agencies are dedicated to the conservation of hawks and their habitats. Efforts to protect these magnificent birds often involve habitat preservation, research, and public education. The collaboration of government agencies, nonprofits, and concerned individuals plays a crucial role in safeguarding hawk populations for future generations.


In conclusion, the hawk is indeed protected under the law in the United States, primarily through the Migratory Bird Treaty Act. This federal legislation, coupled with state-specific regulations, aims to conserve and manage hawk populations effectively.

While exceptions and permits exist for certain activities, they are subject to stringent oversight to ensure the continued survival of these magnificent birds.

Ultimately, the protection of hawks not only preserves a symbol of nature’s beauty but also contributes to the overall health of our ecosystems.

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