The legality of owning an owl feather

The Migratory Bird Treaty Act covers the whole bird or any parts

Did you find the feather on the ground? Did you wrestle the owl into submission and rip it out?
  • Did you find the feather on the ground? Did you wrestle the owl into submission and rip it out?
  • Image by Rick Geary

Matthew Alice: I found an owl feather and stuck it in my hatband, and some lady insisted that it was illegal for me to do that. How can that be? — Richard, Escondido

I don’t think the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has a SWAT team, so you won’t be raided at dawn over one owl feather. But the lady was right. The Migratory Bird Treaty Act sez, re: all protected birds, no pursuing, hunting, killing, capturing, possessing, buying, selling, purchasing, or bartering. And that covers the whole bird or any parts, nests, eggs, or “products.” Products? Protected bird doo? Well, their point is to be comprehensive. Did you find the feather on the ground? Did you wrestle the owl into submission and rip it out? Can’t be proved. So USFWS figures, just make everything illegal and that will solve the problem. By the way, you can put sparrow, starling, or common city pigeon feathers in your hat. Same for pheasant, grouse, or other game birds. They’re not protected under this treaty.

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