Wednesday, November 5, 2014

May I Have a Feather?

Working for the World Bird Sanctuary with birds of prey and the public, there are many questions that I receive on a daily basis. 

One very important question is, “May I have a feather,” or any variation of such.  Many people are unaware that there is a federal law that protects migratory birds.  Sure, they may know that a license is required to hunt, but it seems to escape the mind that collecting feathers may be illegal without a license.  I will be the first to admit that I was once ignorant of this fact. 

Leigh French, blog author, scolding Jeff Meshach, WBS director, as he tries to "make off" with some Bald Eagle feathers.

The Migratory Bird Treaty Act of 1918 was first enacted in 1916 with Great Britain on behalf of Canada to protect native and migratory birds from over-hunting.  Over time, amendments implemented treaties between the U.S. and Mexico, Japan, and Russia.  This prohibition includes the trading, selling, hunting, and possessing in any way of any bird part without federal licensing.  Federal licenses are granted for religious purposes to American Indian tribes as well as scientific research, education, falconry, taxidermy, and depredation.

During the late 1800’s and early 1900’s the feather trade was at a record high.  Millions of birds were killed each year so that their feathers could adorn women’s hats and other accessories.  Unchecked, the feather trade would have decimated bird populations.  

So, every time I see a beautiful feather, whether it be in the woods or at work, I am reminded of our country’s unfortunate history with animal exploitation and the wonderful way that we can turn things around to save and support our environments and the native animals living within them.

Submitted by Leigh French, World Bird Sanctuary Naturalist/Trainer

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