Is It Illegal to Keep Bird Feathers You Find?
I saw a Facebook post one day that had me all FAKE NEWS FAKE NEWS! It said something to the effect of picking up and keeping bird feathers was illegal. I mean, I think picking up feathers is kind of gross but I never saw the harm in it.
Now, this was a homemade Facebook meme and we all know that no meme shall be trusted! So, I did a little digging and ended up just emailing the DNR for a straight answer. The long of the short - depends on the bird...
Allisyn-Marie Gillet, an Ornithologist with the Indiana Department of Natural Resources said this:
It is illegal to keep feathers of any of our native birds, like northern cardinals, bluebirds, hawks, mallards, Canada geese, great blue herons, etc. Any part of a bird or its nest is protected by the Migratory Bird Treaty Act, which is a federal law. There are also state laws that protect them, too.
If the feathers came from non-native species like house sparrows, these feathers can be kept. But again, if they came from song sparrows, the feathers cannot be possessed since song sparrows are native to the United States.
According to fws.gov, in 1918, the United States signed the The Migratory Bird Treaty Act of 1918. Later, it entered into international conservation treaties with Canada, Mexico, Japan and Russia.
It is intended to ensure the sustainability of populations of all protected migratory bird species. The Migratory Bird Treaty Act prohibits the take (including killing, capturing, selling, trading, and transport) of protected migratory bird species without prior authorization by the Department of Interior U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.
So, it wasn't fake news. There are lots of birds that are protected and it's actually illegal to pick up and keep feathers from them. Your best course of action is - just go ahead and leave it in nature.
You can get a list of protected bird by clicking here: 2020 List of Bird Species Protected by the MBTA.
You can find more information on the federal laws that protect migratory birds at the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Services Region 3- Migratory Birds Office.