Into The Air

The Official Blog of Backyard Chirper

Bird Myths: Picking Up a Bird Feather is Illegal

You may have heard the urban legend. One day a guy is hiking along a trail and he spots a gorgeous-looking feather on the ground. He picks it up and carries it around in his hand, looking at it with wonder and curiosity. That’s when he’s arrested and fined $100,000 for possessing a feather illegally.

Sounds preposterous right?

Wrong. While the details of the urban legend may be exaggerated, it is in fact illegal to collect certain bird feathers thanks to the Migratory Bird Treaty Act of 1918.

The nearly 100-year-old act was put into place to protect birds that migrated between the United States and Canada because of a decline in bird populations. Hunting was fairly rampant because the fashion during that time featured hats adorned with bird feathers.

The treaty makes it unlawful to hunt, take, capture, kill, or sell migratory birds. The statute extends to any bird part, including feathers, eggs, and nests.

It seems harmless to pick up a nest or feathers you find on the ground, but it’s against the law because it’s difficult for enforcement officers to figure out whether it was obtained through ignominious or accidental means. So they put the burden on the carrier of the feather and took away the question.

More than 800 species are currently on the list, including the Bald Eagle, Black-capped Chickadee, Northern Cardinal, American Crow, Canada Goose, Mourning Dove, Barn Swallow, Cedar Waxwing, Barn Owl, and more. That means the feathers of all of these birds are forbidden.

An exemption to the act does exist, however. The Eagle Feather Law allows the collection of Golden Eagle and Bald Eagle feathers for religious purposes by Native Americans. In order to quality, individuals must have certifiable ancestry and be enrolled in a tribe.

Bald Eagle 1  7x10Despite sounding a tad ridiculous these days, the roots of the law are sound and still serve a purpose.

You might also be asking yourself what about the bird feathers you see at stores.

Since certain species aren’t protected under the Migratory Bird Treaty Act, picking up and possessing their feathers is perfectly legal. That means nonnative species like House Sparrows and European Starlings aren’t covered, along with nonmigratory birds like turkeys, chickens, Mute Swans, quails, and the like.

So the next time you see a bird feather on the ground, you’d better be sure it’s from an invasive species or nonmigratory bird or leave it alone.


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  1. jeff

    Only in America……

    • Notz

      … and many other countries around the world that have similar sensible legislation to protect wildlife from the gun and knife of unfettered commercialism. If America had been on the ball about this earlier, there might still be great herds of majestic by roaming the plains.

      Why do Americans insist alternately that we are either the nation the most or the least free from governmental interferences? The USA is a nation very similar in most ways to the other constitutional democracies of the world.

      • Will Newhouse

        (Response to comment by Notz…Nazi?? )Constitutional REPUBLIC. The word “democracy” appears nowhere in our constitution. The founders decided against a democracy as they always devolve into the majority abusing human rights and stealing from the minority, and historically always failed.
        To fine a person for picking up a feather is insane and against the principle of presumed innocent until proven guilty.

        • tony d willIiams

          Nice explanation of the incorrect, constitutional democracy as to the actual, constitutional republic. Those who call for the constitutional democracy seem to be those who ignore or state our constitution incorrectly, cherry picking and changing the meaning(s) of phrases and words at will and whenever it suits their current purpose.

    • Dan Nugent

      What an selfish and entitled statement to make! These animals are threatened because they are poached by people like yourself who have zero respect. Raptors help to keep rabies and other diseases to a minimum due to the fact that they are birds and cannot contract mammalian illnesses. Statements like the one you just made are not only moronic but dangerous.

      • Sage

        I wish it was legal to find feathers on ground from shedding season.i like harm free feathers.but poachers are evil and greedy enough to abuse ways of obtaining birds😥

        • Take a video of yourself picking it up off the ground.. then weather or not you harmed the animal would not be in question

          • And how are they to know you didn’t kill the bird, pluck it, and throw that feather on the ground prior to recording?

  2. just me

    It breaks my heart that my child can’t pick up a couple dove feathers that are laying in my backyard. Someone visiting told me about this law and told her not to. I’m researching this and find that it’s really a law. It made her cry, and she can’t understand how she’s hurting any birds by picking up feathers that are just laying there and there’s not even any birds around. Now I have to explain to her that some bad people would kill birds to get their feathers so this law has to be here to protect the birds and reassure her that of course she is not a bad person for wanting to pick up a feather that’s just laying on the ground.

    • Victor Proulx

      Any rule that makes a little girl cry has to be a bad rule. – Charles Schulz

    • Dan Nugent

      The road to hell is paved with good intentions. Tell your girl that if every other little girl on the continent gets to have feathers that there would be a no such thing as these species. Tell her being a steward of Nature isn’t about what you get to claim for yourself. Tell her about the West African Black Rhinos, Passenger Pigeon, Quagga, Sea Mink, Tasmanian Tiger, Javan Tiger, Great Auk, Barbary Lion, Dodo and Laughing Owl that she will never get to see or appreciate because of human activity. Let her know that for the first time in all of history we have the power to decide the fate of our planet and ourselves.

      • Sage

        Guns are evil mass murder machines

        • Joan M

          WRONG! Guns do nothing wrong. It is the person using the gun in an evil way that is a murder machine. Same as automobiles, knives, shovels, and any other inanimate object.

        • Herman Baddley

          I’ve had a gun for over 40 years. It’s never killed anything.

          Unless you’re saying it sneaks out at night while I’m sleeping to cause mass murder?

          I may have to watch it closer now. Thanks for bringing this to my attention.

        • Junkbx

          Please don’t breed. We don’t need your ignorance passed down.

        • Patrick

          My gun went on a rampage just the other day, all by itself!

        • LT

          Wow. Still?

        • So Very True !
          And To make owning a Gun illegal is the most STUPIDEST THING I have ever Hurd.
          They Want to take away are Right to own
          A Gun , the Very thing that will Protect US from those Evil People.
          So Where do they get there Logic ??
          What face with a. Evil person that wants to take or Hurt us ,
          What we are to say wait let me call someone that is LEGAL to have come protect me. REALLY ?
          Would like to know how we are to PROTECT OUR SELVES FROM THESE EVIL PEOPLE OR A DANGEROUS ANIMAL ?
          I don’t get there LOGIC AT ALL ??

      • tony willIiams

        I walk the woods and deserts for relaxation and exercise. I pick up feathers which have been molted or are leftovers when a bird has been eaten by other animals. These are placed in my braid attached to my hat.
        To use some big high sounding words to reprimand and speak evil against a child who is enjoying nature and collecting feathers which the bird has shed. That sir, is disturbing. The child is not killing animals or birds.
        Mankind can try but will never be capable of deciding the fate of the planet for betterment. A bit too much evil and forcefulness against those who cannot protect themselves, (IE), a little girl.

        • Don’t get caught with those feathers, then. You go to prison, or get thousands of dollars in fines, you have only yourself to blame.

          • Chris Whittington

            While the reason for the law is sound, the penalty is absurdly heavy-handed and is an unreasonable infringement. It seems very little thought was given to this and so many other similar laws. To accept this situation is wrong and should be opposed. I refuse to recognize this abuse of my reasonable liberty. If I get caught and go to prison, I will blame the powers that be and the apathetic masses that have accepted the abuse of their liberty.

    • Brian Bowman

      There is a hunting season on doves in many states… so there would not be a problem possessing dove feathers.

    • Matthew

      The rule is not enforced At All

      There are only a few birds that’s feathers would actually pose a problem such as an eagle hawk or owl other than that as long as you don’t run around screaming that you have an illegal feather nothing happens and even if something did it’s like a 10 fall or fine

    • Brooklyn

      Dove feathers are not illegal to own. Native bird species are because of the way they were all hunted for fashion accessories during the first century of this country history. Most non native bird species have no laws around then it their feathers, but again that’s most so do your research. And yes explain to the girl the reasons for this. She might not be hurting the birds by picking up a feather but she could make other girls want feathers and eventually if the demand is high enough then bad people/poachers will start killing the birds so they can sell the feathers (legally or illegally). Explain to her that many sacred bird species to many Native American tribes are now extinct due to these reasons and that these native people are unable to use them for ceremonial reasons due to these extinctions, helping to break down and destroy cultures along with multiple species of bird. And tell her that even native people have no right to collect these feather any more than she does, they must be obtained through appropriate and legal cultural trade.

    • Fin

      You could explain that a shed bird feather is just as important when its on a bird as other birds and wildlife might use the feather to make their nest or bedding soft and warm. Some small animals or insects might even eat feathers for their dinner. Last but not least lets people like your daughter know that a certain bird also lives in the forest, by leaving it there, she is sharing her knowledge in letting other people know this beautiful bird visited.

    • Brandon

      Not true, a dove is not an on the migratory bird list and is not endangered. It says its legal to get bird feathers that are not from an endangered species. Your daughter can pick up as many dove feathers as she wants.

      • Blue jay Lover

        God bless you and all of the other people doing a bunch of research for this little girl that you don’t know.

  3. christoper laro

    I know this law. It is as f….kn absurd as the men who wrote back in the day when a woman, I discovered was arrested for making bird feather hats? Something like that back in the 20’s – who cares. Anyone who wishes to honor the death of birds with ceremony or crafting of sacred items like medicine shields and other american indian artifacts may surely do so. The treaty was to prevent sales of feathers from endangered species not to prevent the local woodsman from collecting sacred feathers for non commercial purposes. America, the stupid. Look at trump. Peace.

    • Else van Erp

      You are so wrong. How do we know that you didn’t whack that bird out of the sky because you found it irritating to have around. People don’t always know the difference between a protected species and a common everyday starling or house sparrow. Do you know the difference between the Canada geese sub species? Probably not. You would look at them and not notice that one species is much larger then the others in the flock. Or that one is much smaller.but it looks like a Canada goose. Never called Canadian goose. There are many different races,some more rarer than the next. There is the aluetian Canada goose and the Pacific,the Richardson,cackling,dusky, the lesser and the greater. They all look like Canada geese but they are all different. Some are rarer than others. At on time the greater Canada was thought to be extinct. Hunted out. By people who didn’t know the difference. And so it goes with many species. Hope this helps in understanding the whys and wherefore.

      • AJ

        That fact that a crime could have occurred doesn’t mean you should take the right away. With that line of thinking, everything fun would end up being illegal eventually. Deer can be poached, better outlaw deer hunting. Lots of good dark viewing spots for astronomy are on private property, better outlaw awesome telescopes. Underage person could get a hold of that beer, better make alcohol illegal. etc. etc. How is making it illegal for me to pick feather up from my yard going to help the birds?

        • TomK

          The same way keeping law abiding citizens from owning guns is going to keep guns out of the hands of drug lords and Chicago gang bangers.

          • Brie

            That has nothing to do with what he is saying. He is saying that this law is too strickt. It would make more sense if they knew how to tell if a bird feather was ripped out of the bird rather than it falling out. And i am sure theres a way to tell because you can tell if a hair is ripped out of an animal or person by the way the hair looks from close up.

          • Blue jay Lover

            I understand where you’re coming from here, but they aren’t saying for all laws, just this one in particular.

        • Dan Nugent

          For all I care, go drink yourself into oblivion. There’s way too many humans on this planet already. Your ‘right’ to be a moron who has zero respect does not in any way shape or form outweigh these precious species, who actually do some good for the environment, right to exist on planet Earth. Your just as bad as the poachers

          • Allen

            And you sound a lot more dangerous than a little girl picking up pigeon feathers.

          • Gail L

            just because we pick up a feather out of the yard doesn’t mean we poached the bird. its pretty sad that a child can’t pick a pretty feather up out of the yard without being accused of shooting it. You too have the ‘right’ to be a moron that everyone is out to get the birds. Kids see a pretty feather and can’t pick it up because it’s illegal. This law needs to be changed, if you have one feather from a wild bird, you can be charged for poaching one?????? that is ridiculous. They cant tell the difference???? give me a break!!!!!!!!

          • George

            Fuck you, asshole!

        • Kayla

          It seems no one has really been charged for picking up an eagle feather, and people who were charged often had the conviction added onto other laws that were broken or were actively killing birds and/or selling their feathers.

          The law exists to punish people like that, which is why you don’t see the DNR or USFWS knocking on the doors of hikers and bird-watchers asking if they have any illegal feathers.

          And yeah, if you want to use the slippery slope argument that everything fun would end up being illegal eventually, sure. But we’re dealing with an animal endemic to North America, and a symbol of the United States at that, that was almost extinct because of the way humans were interacting with the environment. As far as I’m concerned, humans had the opportunity to do right by this animal and they took advantage of it. So now we have the laws to prevent people from killing the birds and selling them to people who might claim “but I found it!”

          It sucks, but getting upset about it is useless because 1) It allowed the Bald Eagle to be removed from the endangered species list in 2007, and 2) unless you go around flaunting it, you’re probably not going to have someone breaking down your door if you happen to pick up a bird feather.

          • Sage

            Bird lives matter I am glad they are protected from disappearing.poachers should be caught.people making sacred medicine pieces need to be cautious about poachers selling them feathers.upmost respect for sacred spirits.this forum is good education

        • Chris Whittington

          Well said! I applaud your thinking through so far on this matter, which is more than I can say for the authors of this ridiculously heavy-handed law. It would appear that nearly no thinking went into it at all. This law is an abuse and infringement on our reasonable liberty.

    • Frank

      Laro, can’t you make a statement and leave politics out of it? No? Then how bout this….Take you snowflake butthurt whiney azz back to your mommy’s basement and cry for the next 7 years…maybe longer if we are lucky!

    • Sage

      I’m sad because though my native blood is strong it’s not enough to carry sacred feathers.i have visions from my ancestors but cannot use found feathers on my dreamcatchers.i own no guns not know anybody with any still can’t have.i want to take a DNA test to prove I’m native but still won’t be enough to use found feathers in creating my heart spirit dreamcatchers.

      • First, unless you know you are Anishinaabe, you should not be appropriating culture by making dream catchers. Second, if you don’t know, you shouldn’t be trying to claim you are, just because you like our cultures.

        • Look the higher powers gifted me my gifts of weaving if you don’t like it talk to the greater spirit. My webs are not done like “dreamcatchers”.they are far more intricate and painful to make useing hundreds of strings stacking intricate knots on top each other,they take 40 solid hours to make one.i self taught myself from a dream I didn’t appropriate any native you can fuck off with your greedy bullshit, my ideas are sacred and I earned the right to use hands are now very disabled from 25 years of making them,they are nothing like a dreamcatcher.dtramcatchers are so fast and easy to make.if I did the traditional dreamcatcher pattern I probably would be able to use my hands right now .so careful what you assume is cultural appropriation especially if you never seen the work it’s ignorant and ugly.besides if the higher spirit didn’t want me doing my own technique not the native one string looping technique spirit would not have let me.dont forget we all Earth siblings

        • P.s in 25 years I have met nobody who had the dexterity or vision to replicate my weaving style,but plenty of people make dreamcatchers.some don’t even really have much talent

      • Chris Whittington

        Just take the feathers! This law is absurd and should not be recognized. But be discreet and don’t call attention to yourself…

  4. Monica

    I’m gonna pick up a feather I see on the ground and I don’t give a shit if it’s illegal. If you get it home without being caught no one is gonna know.
    Know your rights and don’t let the police search your house without a warrant. And if they do have a warrant I’m sure they’re after something much worse than feathers.

    • mary lababidi

      amen darlin; good god, amen; i kill nothing now, and try like mad to help keep things alive even, like discarded older human beings and unwanted children; bless the feathers honorably picked up from the ground, discarded by their owners.

    • Dan Nugent

      I hope they lock you up and throw away the key. Your dispecable

      • Mason Perkins

        Why does it bother you or a bird to pick up a feather? Like seriously, how?

      • Gail L

        for picking up a bird feather?? your despicable to think that picking up a damn bird feather is so bad. If your related to Ted, I bet he has a different view.

      • LT

        And you can’t spell, idiot..

    • Pavel

      I’m gonna grab a kids bike left on anyones front lawn, and I don’t give a shit if it’s illegal. My kid has a right to a bicycle.

      If I get it home without being caught no one is gonna know.

      Know your rights and don’t let the police search your house without a warrant. And if they do have a warrant I’m sure they’re after something much worse than taking kids bikes.

      • Blue jay Lover

        Okaaaaaaaaay, that might be over exaggerating just a bit much, no?

  5. Linda

    All you have to do is take a picture of the feather on the ground before you pick it up.

    • Shannon

      Right. Because no one would possibly think you killed the bird and then posed the feather on the ground for a photo. A photo of a feather on the ground doesn’t get you off the hook.

    • No, wrong. You have no proof you didn’t kill the bird and throw it on the ground, and even if you found it, it still is NOT LEGAL TO POSSESS!

  6. scott

    i can understand the regulations about eagle and hawks, they do need to be protected but some of these are signs of environmental lunacy and over-reach…
    what about the bird that breaks it’s neck on a window or flies into a car? what about the remains found after the cat has brought in something and left it on the front porch or sofa? we have a hawk the will catch birds in mid-flight near the bird feeder in the back yard…the mid-air impact leaves a circle of feathers on the ground…so you are saying i can’t pick up a feather in my own yard?….seriously?
    i have trouble accepting there’s an underground market for goose feathers…
    wild turkey feathers are also very attractive, as are those of pheasants.
    so we can’t have those either? …absurd.

    • buschman

      yes you can have wild turkey and pheasant feathers and carcasses-they are both legally hunted- these comments are full of falsehoods and misperceptions and misinterpretations

    • Do you know how to read? Turkey, pheasant, are legal. SOME goose feathers are legal.

  7. mark

    Bullseye Monica find one keep it, “common sense” would know that the majority of people who would fins a feather of such didn’t get it illegally, probably th big surprise to m is Canadian Goose which has a legal hunting season so your then not allowed to keep any feathers from it???????????????????? get real

    • Bryce

      This article is definitely wrong about Canadian Geese. Not only are they legally hunted, taxidermy mounts of them (Containing all of the feathers) are perfectly legal in both the U.S. and Canada.

      • SamJS

        Verifying the name of the hunter who killed the goose is easily traced through records as well as whether or not that hunter possessed a Federal Waterfowl Stamp to take a goose. If it all checks out there’s no problem. The Taxidermist if selling the mount, has to keep a record of the hunter that shot the goose, to prove he had the required permits, licenses to harvest the goose. They get ya coming and going.

        Personally I find it a little foolish myself, but understand the purpose behind it.

      • Bob Wyman

        It is “Canada geese” not “Canadian geese”, just so you’ll know…

        • Clint

          What if the Canada Goose is from Canada? Then is it a Canadian Canada Goose?

  8. Sue

    It seems so wasteful to hit a bird by accident and have to leave it rot, or call the police and ask for a permit for the carcas, can you even get a permit for foul that have run amuck of your front bumper, or do you have to go to jail for not having your car under control when a bird is in flight?


    I collect feathers that are on the ground, I have no idea who they once belonged to. But the fact is if the are detached from the bird and no one killed for it, It’s like me shedding hair, Birds lose their feathers we are slightly over board don’t touch feather but kill baby bears in their dens how sick is that really.

    • Brie

      100% correct. Completely overboard.

    • Sage

      Unfortunately the laws are made to protect birds from being slaughtered by bird murderous assholes who greedy want to profit.birds are sacred to me.all lives matter

      • Clint

        So it’s already illegal to kill the birds… making a harmless activity like picking up discarded feathers illegal just cause investigators can’t tell the difference sounds like a problem for the investigators and a basic violation of the spirit of freedom. There should not be laws restricting Americans from performing completely mundane and harmless activities.

  10. Bryce

    This article is wrong about Canada Geese. They are a game bird with a hunting season. If having A feather is illegal how can you keep ALL of the feathers as a taxidermy mount??? Which by the way is perfectly legal in both the U.S. and Canada.

  11. Jhay

    I’m doing it anyway, haha 🙂

  12. Iktomi

    I keep feathers I find all the time. I’m Lakota so I guess that makes me exempt from this law? But I definitely see why there is such a law place, though it does go overboard. A few months back, the feds busted a black market ring on my tribes reservation in SD because a group of guys were poaching eagles and selling their feathers to a fence in Rapid City who was then selling the feathers to other natives (who didn’t know what was going on) for various uses. Over 200 eagles were killed. It sucks that we have such laws but we still need them.

    • Sage

      That is so fucked,natives poaching sacred birdies

    • You are still technically required to have paperwork. Few years ago, feds decided to harass Natives at a pow wow, and most did not have paperwork for their feathers. The bust you mentioned, similar happened on the Yakama rez, Native couple were poaching and taking orders for golden eagle feathers and parts.

  13. Dora

    Knew the laws, you can pick that feather up study it, take pictures of it, use it as a teaching tool, but at the end of the day you must return it, if you don’t you now possesses it which is illegal for most Americans, and if you are a native American you must be actively involved in you religious beliefs or customs, To legal possess an eagle feather.

  14. Annabella

    I can understand birds that are on the endangered species list and also in the U.S. bald eagle and golden eagle feathers are illegal under a protection law.
    Give me a break though…I find blue jay feathers and many other kinds in my yard or on walks. I pick them up and feel gifted…I don’t hunt or trap animals or birds. If we find a dead bird we call it in because of the west nile virus and the city or county deals with it. I live in a town that is called The City of Trees, if I didn’t see feathers I’d be concerned. I will keep taking my gifts where I find them…Thank-you very much!

    • DinnyR

      Agreed, Annabella. I work in our county’s courthouse building, which is the annual home of a pair of peregrine falcons. They come, they brood, they lay eggs, and at the proper time a guy from the state comes and bands the chicks, which are the size of chickens and have really healthy lungs. And during the course of all this, the parents provide food for them, so the plaza around the building is often littered with the remnants of their hunts – a whole wing, a foot, a head, and of course feathers. (I call these snackbirds.) In my cubicle I have a few feathers from the falcons and one from a yellow snackbird, all of which I found while walking around the grounds, except for a bit of fluff I picked up off the floor after a banding. Another county employee who doesn’t come up to my floor very often saw them the other day and told me I could get fined, so I came here to check. The law is ridiculous. I love birds and would never hurt them, for feathers or any other reason. I get why protections need to be in place, because people are pigs, but for a kid, or me, a pretty feather is like a gift. My little collage is staying where it is.

    • buschman

      another misperception of the law– there are only SOME migratory and/or endangered species of birds it is illegal to own feathers or carcasses of– your common pigeon or blue jay or robin or pheasant or turkey there is absolutely no problem with finding and keeping.. The law is mainly enacted to prevent poaching of birds but yes there are game rangers that will push the letter of the law to ridiculous extremes

      • brdygrrl

        Not true! The law applies to all migratory, native species. The exceptions are for people with permits. Period. All the birds you listed are migratory native species. Do your homework.

  15. medicine feather

    …. unless youre a member of a federally recigonized native american nation.

    it’s not illegal for us

  16. Lcar

    Where are these companies getting their goose down feathers for clothing and pillows?

    • Wulf

      Farm-raised domestic geese, which are also slaughtered for food. They just collect the feathers/down as the geese are plucked.

  17. Gary

    I am certainly all in for whacking poachers of our birds of prey, but I think it is really nuts to find a person guilty for simply having a feather. It is stating that you are guilty of some crime, even before you have the opportunity to prove yourself innocent. In other words, every criminal is presumed innocent until proven guilty…except some folks that have an eagle feather. It really is nuts, and completely unfair.

  18. Beth Bonifant

    I live on the Potomac River in Southern Maryland where there is a large and active population of eagles. Eagles are literally perched in trees all around me and fly overhead all day while fishing and hunting. Their fallen feathers are abundant and if they weren’t removed from the lawn, our mower would be spitting them out. Should I ask the eagles not to leave their discarded feathers scattered across my property?

  19. Urout

    Noltz is an idiot. How is picking up a feather that a bird has molted going to “protect wildlife from the gun and knife of unfettered commercialism. ” What the hell does that mean? The people who should be fined and jailed are the ones who wrote and enforce such a stupid law.

    • Sage

      In the right season in the right spot u can find a whole birds amount of feathers on the ground.hunters could say they found the feathers instead the truth they hurt the bird. whole populations of birds have almost become extinct due to hat making useing feathers.

  20. Jeff

    I don’t understand why morning doves and crows are illegal as they both have a hunting season and require you (on doves at least I don’t hunt crows )
    to keep the right wing of the downed birds until you arrive at home and the game is placed into the fridge or freezer or eaten

    • April

      Because a touch of the info here is wrong/not elaborated. If you live in a state/have your bird stamps on your hunting licence (if required/called stamps in OR) you 100% can posses them. In my state we still can’t sell them but can have them.

  21. April

    American Crow is not on the list. Ravens are. Almost all US states have a Crow hunting season. So you may absolutely posses Crow feathers (may be dependant on state) if you have a valid upland bird stamp for them on your hunting license etc. You still however can’t sell them. But can gift them.

  22. michael brooks

    that is crazy

  23. John Repischak

    This seems like over-interpretation (or over criminalization). I understand the taking of a feather from a live bird, or the shooting of a bird for the purposes of harvesting feathers. But, if a feather is already on the ground, and innocently picked up, there is no intent to harm certain pieces of birds. Period.

  24. Kayla

    Yes, for someone who just happens to find a feather on the ground it’s all very excessive. But bear in mind this law not only helped the Bald Eagle be removed from the endangered species list, it also helps make sure other birds don’t fall victim to the same potential fate that happened when humans took advantage of these animals years ago. The feather trade allowed Red-tailed Hawks to be hunted to dangerously low numbers, and nowadays we can see them almost every time we drive down the highway!

    I’m willing to bet people with the authority to arrest you for picking up a feather on a hike are rolling their eyes reading about how up-in-arms you are about the law, thinking, “Dude, chill. This law just helps us prosecute people who are killing birds or trying to make a profit off their body parts; We don’t care about the songbird feather you found in your backyard.”

  25. Bob Wyman

    Copied and pasted from Washington Examiner:

    Modern windmills dotting landscapes across the American West kill at least 100 of the majestic (Bald Eagles) birds every year in California alone, according to conservative estimates. In all, about 573,000 birds, including 83,000 raptors — eagles, hawks, falcons and owls — perished in wind turbines in 2013, according to a study published by Wildlife Society Bulletin.
    There’s no doubt we’re under-counting them and it’s an outrage, This is the dark side of green.

    • buschman

      and pollution from coal burning plants and power lines from ALL power generation sources kill hundreds more. This is the dark side of extraction power .. Ya just gotta look at the good and bad balance of all things. windmills kill damns ruin watersheds and rivers and coal extraction and burning sends more pollution and combined radiation into the atmosphere then nuclear . Even with the bird kills wind and solar does less harm

  26. Stealth Ghost

    One day we will be able to tell the difference between a havested feather by plucking or one that was shed. Don’t suffer a child with brutal hippy logic. Try a different approach. This website was an absolute sham I hoped google would list legal feathers for harvest. Instead of protecting species it’s used the same way gun control is. Everyone is bad therefore to make everyone good restrict everything logic. There is no love in force, something I learned from God. P.S. the worlds going to end. Focus on your soul bro. the law is the law to fix it write your congressmen. We have the technology to check for forensic evidence. Perhaps we can hire a small clerks office who can tell.

  27. Oneniáshona

    Ok, so I’ve been reading all the different comments on here because I was looking for a way to help a friend understand he could get into trouble for having certain feathers. I’m one of the very few who can proudly say I am still blood Native American (Kanienkehaka, better known as “Mohawk”). I, myself have, use and wear sacred feathers such as Hawk & Owl and various others. The breath Eagle is NOT, nor was ever meant to be worn and flaunted. Being gifted an Eagle feather is a great honor. Whether you were gifted it to you by the Eagle his/herself or a tribal and/or family member. It is to be kept safe and secure at all times. On the VERY rare occasion you do pull it out, it’s a big deal. Usually for special ceremonies such as a wedding, somebody crossing over, a naming ceremony or a birth. NOT randomly waved about at public powwows and such as something to flaunt and be like “look what I got”. That’s EXTREMELY disrespectful to the Eagle and tradition. As for the legal aspect, yes, it IS enforced. I’ve seen it first hand at powwows, events and gatherings. Yes, REAL Natives are legally able to have various feather for our spiritual beliefs, ceremonies and purposes but even we still get stopped and given hell about it. I seen a person at a powwow with hawk featherS who was claiming to have been gifted the feathers get arrested because he had actually bought them illegally from an online vendor of some kind. I have seen another person who was CLAIMING to be Native get arrested and found out later she was also fined for having various feathers when not even Native. If we, as Natives find feathers on the ground, we take it as a gift and sign/message of some kind. We do a prayer and offer tobacco (or other sacred herb depending on tribe) on the spot and in some cases won’t touch the feather without and elder and/or a Medicine Persons prayer and approval. As non-Native people, I honestly have no issue with the picking up of NATURALLY fallen/shed feathers but I do strongly advise legal caution to protect yourself. The fines get VERY hefty. I do, however also suggest Native or non-Native people of all creeds to make an offer and prayer. That bird has given you a beautiful gift, a piece of itself and there’s a specific reason YOU were the one who found it. Think on that as you reach for that feather next time. Tobacco is the normal offering, as it’s a sacred herb to MOST (NOT all) Native tribes of the USA.

    • WolfsLady

      Thank you for that advice. I would be a person who would have a hard time not picking up a feather that I came across on the ground. Like you I have always felt like they were gifts. I’ve never thought much about their possibly being laws against taking fallen feathers. But I read something recently about not being able to pick up eagle feathers. Which I would never expect to be worthy of finding. But we do have 2 red tail hawks nesting either on or near our land. After seeing one land in our hayfield and then fly up onto the power pole in the center of the field I was thinking how cool it would be to find one of their feathers one day. It made me start wondering about the laws. So I did a search and ended up here.

      I decided that if I ever find one I will quietly take it and leave an offering. I was wondering if there is a special type of tobacco that I should use? I don’t smoke, but it would seem like something nicer would be in order anyway. Or if what else might be acceptable.

      We try to respect the small piece of land that my husband inherited. It’s only 20 acres, but we are working on managing it for wildlife. Which will become more important soon since a large subdivision is about to be started on land that abuts it. I wish with all my heart that we had been able to purchase the rest of the 61 acres that had belonged to my husband’s daddy. Or to at least get it into the hands of someone who wouldn’t have made it part of this large subdivision. But it was all we could do to fight to hold on to the 1/3 that my husband managed to keep. We fear that once the homes go in and the property values rise that we might not be able to afford the taxes.

      But for as long as we can we plan to try to be good stewards and to teach our son to respect the land and the animals that grace it. I am working on making a list of all the bird species that visit or live there. Cardinals love the trees that grow on each side of easement road that divides the property. I love seeing them flitting from tree to tree. They seem so joyous.

  28. CKH

    I understand why the law was inacted, but there needs to be an amendment to it, maybe something like possessing a certain amount or being a certain age to be able to keep them. It shouldn’t be illegal to pick up and keep a random feather you find on the ground. Most people who pick them up probably are children who are just curious or want a “treasure” from a fun time with family. The people who are going to kill the birds or steal nests and eggs are going to do it whether there is a law or not, they don’t care or they wouldn’t do it in the first place, just like anything else that is against the law…abuse to any living thing, robbery and murder. I know we have to have the laws so we can have punishments for such things, but some laws are too strict and some are not strict enough, but nothing is perfect. I’m just glad we have the freedoms and rights we do have.

  29. Don

    Picking up a feather isn’t killing anything. We give harsher sentences for animal and enviromental “abuses” than we do crimes against others talk about ass backwards. How in GOD’S name is picking up a feather bad? It’s like you’re saying every time you pick a feather up a bird just falls out the sky. You envrio people kill me with your lack of common sense.

  30. Mondo

    How can they prove you’re not a native American?

  31. Roger

    The bald eagle was kill out by DDT a poison that weaken there edge shell through there food chain . There come back was getting DDT out of the envoroment. And a company called Seagrams made a bourbon called eagle rare and use the money to place pairs of eagles 🦅 all over the US . That’s your come back.

  32. Are members of the First Nations of Canada permitted to sell a work of art: carving, drum, etc., with eagle feathers as part of the design, composition and meaning of the work?

  33. I was blessed last spring. Walking in woods near lake pontchartrain in sw La I happened up on at least 25 golden eagles. Wow they are huge. They were feasting on a deer. I feel so lucky though it was a little scary. So many so big. Just saw 1 today and it looks like a eagle nest in a tall tree close by. Usurally just see 1. How majestic they are.

  34. L Graham

    I pick up feathers all the time. No one with any intelligence thinks that if I pick up a cardinal feather that I killed the bird to get it.

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