What Is the Migratory Bird Treaty Act?


Quick Answer

The Migratory Bird Treaty Act of 1918 protects migratory birds between the United States and Canada by making the act of hunting, capturing or selling protected birds illegal. The Act also protects feathers, eggs and nests. The Act protects over 800 species as of 2015.

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Full Answer

It's possible to obtain permits from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to participate in activities otherwise prohibited by the Migratory Bird Treaty Act of 1918, including taxidermy and falconry. The FWS also issues permits to people who use protected birds for educational purposes or scientific research. An airport may obtain a permit to eliminate geese near the facility for safety reasons.

The FWS made several revisions to the original 1918 version of the Act in 2006, including adding 152 protected species, eliminating 12 species and updating the scientific names of several species. The agency performed these updates because the original Act accidentally omitted some species, while other species changed geographical distribution. A court order gave the mute swan temporary protection in 2001, but the changes in 2006 removed its protection because this species is human introduced and non-native.

Species covered by the Migratory Bird Treaty Act of 1918 include the bald eagle, American black vulture, downy woodpecker, mourning dove and red-tailed hawk. Some game birds are also covered by the Act, but the FWS determined that hunting these species is appropriate if hunting the species is a long tradition and appropriate for population maintenance. The Act lists over 170 species as game birds, but people can only legally hunt 60 species.

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