the vagueness of wildlife parts posession laws is so annoying sometimes

like at my community college i got lost on the way to the library and was awestruck at how many atala butterflies i found

some were dead so i took them home and researched them. theyre threatened, but not on the florida fish and wildlife list as protected. you can kill them apparently. so i assume theyre ok to keep if theyre ok to kill but i always get panicky about these things. like my mom picks up a blue jay feather and im like OMG THE FEDS ARE COMING lmao

i also want to get coonties so i can have an incredible colony of atalas too but when the die, like, could i ship them to people? or is that a no? nothing ive seen says yes or no, nothing is simple

I’ve sat through a few lectures on this topic through my master naturalist chapter, so I might have a bit more insight on this.

For those not in the know, it is illegal to take, keep, or sell the feathers of any bird covered by the migratory bird act. The exceptions are invasive species and “pest” species (grackles and cowbirds are the examples in Texas). You can have the feathers of game birds (ducks, pheasants, etc) if you have a hunting license. It is a federal offense to sell any feathers besides the exceptions. And it’s also illegal to collect feathers for personal use. If you are an educator, you can get a permit that allows you to possess things like feathers for educational purposes. My chapter has a permit, so we can have feathers as part of our outreach materials.

This may seem over-the-top and irrational, but it’s not. The Migratory Bird Act, which is the law that makes feather possession and sale illegal, was developed because fashion trends were driving birds to extinction. Hats back in the day were often heavily feathered. Imagine selling millions of hats that require tail feathers from three individual birds each. We had already lost some bird species, and we came very close to losing more. So they needed to ban the killing of all non-game birds to protect them.

But how do you enforce a law like that? Hat makers could easily say, “Oh, I found these birds already dead!” How do you prove they’re lying? The answer: make the mere posession of the feathers a crime. They can’t make that excuse any more.

The law was not made to punish or threaten normal, everyday people walking through the woods. If a kid sees a cool feather on the ground and takes it home, the FBI isn’t going to come after them. So even though it’s illegal, personal possession isn’t really enforced, so you don’t need to worry if you have feathers already.

That said: the Fish and Wildlife Service definitely do enforce this law. They spend a lot of their time searching ebay and etsy for feathers. Kids, DO NOT SELL FEATHERS. Especially don’t sell them online. And this isn’t just about selling. Do not post on here saying you have feathers you can send for free. Because for all they know, you’re trading money offline. Just do not mess with feathers.

Regarding maybe/maybe not protected species of insects, I can’t really say. But that would be a qood question to ask the Fish and Wildlife Service! I believe they would be in charge of enforcing any regulations, so they could help you figure out what those regulations are. If you don’t have luck there, I have the contact info for the guy in charge of regulating imports/exports of insects. I’d need to dig up his info, though. I talked to him before shipping stick insect eggs to Europe.

August 12, 2018

Do you know how feathers of domestic species fit in here? (I am specifically thinking of, like, pigeons here- because I checked the list and they’re on there, but people do keep pigeons as pets and in north america it’s my understanding that most urban “wild” pigeons are, in fact, feral populations descended from escaped or abandoned domestic pigeons.)  

feral pigeons (rock doves) are okay to have parts of. native pigeons (like white crowned pigeons for example) are not. the protection is only for native species, so other introduced species like starlings and house sparrows are also okay to possess

That’s right—the Migratory Bird Act is US specific (other regions may have similar protections, though), and the restrictions are on wild birds native to North America. This includes birds that migrate through but don’t usually reside, but does not include introduced species or “nuisance” species. Livestock is also an exception (and I believe they are lumped in with game birds but I’m not sure). During the proper season, with a hunting license, you can hunt game birds as long as they’re not endangred.

The act isn’t just for feathers, it’s for any actions that disturb or harm the birds. Say you have swallows nesting on the side of your house. As long as the birds are nesting (there are eggs or babies in the nest), it’s illegal to knock the nest down. Before eggs are laid, and after the babies have flown off, you can knock it down as you’re not harming any birds. Same goes for nests you may find while out hiking. You can’t mess with the eggs, and you can’t kidnap chicks to raise as a pet (meaning, anybody who keeps a pet crow and does not have the proper permit is violating the act).

This goes for individuals and companies. Apartment complexes have had game wardens come and stop them from knocking down nests in the spring.

But again, this doesn’t include introduced species or native “nuisance” birds. In Texas, the introduced species not protected include house sparrows, feral pigeons, and monk parakeets. Other regions likely have additional introduced species that aren’t protected.