Is Killing a Hawk Illegal in the United States? Know the Law

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In the United States, hawks are protected under federal law, making it illegal to kill, capture, or disturb them without a permit. This protection is granted by the Migratory Bird Treaty Act (MBTA) and other wildlife conservation statutes.

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Migratory Bird Treaty Act (MBTA)

The MBTA, enacted in 1918, is a key piece of legislation that protects hawks and other migratory birds. The act makes it unlawful to pursue, hunt, take, capture, kill or sell birds listed therein. The list of protected species includes all varieties of hawks native to North America.

Bald and Golden Eagle Protection Act

Although not hawks, it’s worth noting that similar protections are extended to eagles under this act, due to their close relation and similar risk factors.

State Laws and Regulations

In addition to federal laws, many states have their own regulations that offer further protection to hawks and may impose stricter penalties for violations.

Penalties for Violating Hawk Protections

Violations of the MBTA can result in significant fines and imprisonment. Penalties can range from a few hundred dollars for minor violations to $250,000 and/or two years of imprisonment for more severe offenses.

Exceptions and Permits

Scientific Research and Rehabilitation

Permits may be issued for scientific research, rehabilitation of injured hawks, or for educational purposes.


Falconry is a sport that involves the use of trained raptors. Falconers must obtain permits and adhere to strict regulations regarding the capture and care of these birds.

Depredation Permits

In rare cases, when hawks pose a threat to endangered species, a depredation permit may be issued allowing for the management of these predatory birds.

Conservation and Ethical Considerations

Hawks play a crucial role in ecosystems as top predators. Their protection is vital for maintaining biodiversity and ecological balance. Ethical considerations also come into play, as hawks are living creatures that warrant respect and humane treatment.


It is indeed illegal to kill a hawk in the United States without proper authorization. The laws are designed to ensure the conservation of these birds and to protect the ecological integrity of their natural habitats.


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