Can you pick up an eagle or a Red-tailed Hawk feather?

Answered by Stephen Mosley

As a nature enthusiast and someone who has spent a lot of time exploring the great outdoors, I’ve come across some beautiful feathers from various bird species. However, I’ve always been mindful of the laws and regulations surrounding the possession of these feathers. The Migratory Bird Treaty Act (MBTA) is a federal law in the United States that protects native North American birds, their feathers, and other parts from being collected or possessed without a permit.

The MBTA was enacted in 1918 to protect migratory birds that travel between the United States and Canada. It is a conservation measure aimed at ensuring the survival and well-being of these birds and their habitats. The act covers over 800 species, including iconic birds like eagles, hawks, and owls.

Now, let’s address the specific question of whether you can pick up an eagle or a Red-tailed Hawk feather. The short answer is no, you cannot legally possess feathers from these birds without a permit. The MBTA applies to all native North American birds, regardless of their status as endangered, threatened, or common.

While it may be tempting to pick up a feather you find on the ground as a memento or for decorative purposes, it’s important to remember that these feathers are protected by law. This means that even if you come across a naturally molted feather or find one in the wilderness, it is still illegal to possess it without the necessary permits.

The penalties for violating the MBTA can be severe, including fines and even imprisonment. So, it’s crucial to be aware of and respect these laws to ensure the continued conservation and protection of our native bird species.

To legally possess feathers or other parts of native North American birds, you would need to obtain a permit from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS). These permits are typically reserved for scientific, educational, or religious purposes, and the application process can be quite rigorous.

In my own experiences, I’ve always chosen to enjoy the beauty of birds in their natural habitats, observing their behaviors and admiring their plumage without disturbing them or collecting any feathers. There is something truly magical about seeing these creatures in their element and knowing that we are playing a role in their preservation.

It is important to understand and abide by the regulations of the Migratory Bird Treaty Act. The possession of feathers and other parts of native North American birds without a permit is prohibited. Let’s appreciate these magnificent creatures in their natural habitats and support their conservation efforts.