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Frequently Asked Questions for Scientists, Researchers, and Museum Collectors

Do I even need a U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service permit?

Is your species protected?

If your species is not on the 10.13 list, you do not need a federal permit. State permits may still be necessary.

Is your research outside of the United States?

You do not need a federal permit to conduct research outside of the United States and U.S. Territories.  If you are importing protected birds or bird parts (such as blood or feathers) to the United States, you will need an Import/Export permit. If you are not donating the specimens to another permit holder, you will need a Scientific Collecting permit to possess protected birds or bird parts for research or collections in the United States. Please see the permit descriptions for further clarification. 

Are you banding birds?

You need a USGS Bird Banding permit to band or mark birds in any way.  This permit is administered through the U.S. Geological Service NOT U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.  A Bird Banding permit can authorize limited scientific investigation such as trapping birds, marking birds, and collecting blood or feather samples.  Any manipulation of the environment or the bird or additional sample collection will require a U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service permit. 


Permit Types

Eagles -

If you are researching or collecting eagles you need an Eagle Scientific Collecting Permit. Please be advised: (1) there are restrictions on the the types of eagle parts that may be kept for research and (2) eagles and eagle parts may be transported internationally, but must return to their original country. You may not import only or export only. Eagle parts may not be destroyed or modified while out of their country of origin. Please contact your Migratory Bird Permit Office for more information.

Protected Migratory Birds + Only in U.S.-

If you are researching or collecting protected migratory birds and staying within the United States, you need a Scientific Collecting Permit. If you are banding birds, a Scientific Collecting Permit may or may not be needed in addition to your USGS Bird Banding permit.

Protected Migratory Birds + International -

If you are researching or collecting protected migratory birds in ...

... the U.S. and need to export them to a foreign country, you need a Scientific Collecting with Import/Export permit

... a foreign country and need to import them to the U.S. you need an (1) Import/Export only permit IF you have another permit or exemption authorizing you to possess protected birds in the U.S. or (2) a Scientific Collecting with Import/Export permit IF you want to possess the birds in the U.S. for scientific study and do not have authority to do so otherwise. For example - if you are an exempt museum, you would only need import/export. If you are a graduate student, you would need scientific collecting with import/export.

What about Salvage?

Most Scientific Collecting Permits now include a clause authorizing salvage of dead birds and/or parts.  If you are a scientist interested in only collecting salvaged birds and/or parts, we still recommend getting a Scientific Collecting permit which authorizes salvage but also authorizes you to possess salvaged birds for scientific and/or collecting purposes. Salvage permits are more appropriate if you are an educator interested in adding to your education collection.

Requesting Import/Export authority or Salvage authority on your Scientific Collecting permit application does NOT significantly increase processing time.


What is the Application Process?

I am collecting in a different state than I live in, where do I apply?

You should apply to the Region of the state where you will be conducting your fieldwork.  If you are conducting fieldwork in multiple states across multiple Regions, you should apply to the Region where you will be conducting the majority of your fieldwork.  If fieldwork is equal across all Regions, then you should apply to the Region that includes the state where you live or with the earliest start date for your fieldwork.  The Region to which you apply will get concurrence from the other Regions where you will be working.

How do I apply?

  • Submit a complete application.  Please use the check sheet to ensure your application is complete.
  • A Permit Biologist will review your application.  Applications are reviewed in the order received.  Applications are reviewed within 90-days but may take 6 months or more depending on the level of review necessary.  PLEASE PLAN ACCORDINGLY!  A Permit Biologist will contact you if further information is needed regarding your application.
  • A paper copy of your permit will be mailed to you.

PLEASE SUBMIT A COMPLETE APPLICATION!  Applications are reviewed in the order received.  If your application is incomplete, it will be returned for you.  You will need to resubmit your application, resulting in it again being reviewed in the order received.  Therefore, an application can take 90 days to be reviewed, be returned for incompleteness, and then take an additional 90 days to be reviewed, taking 6 months or more!  We understand that much of the research being conducted on birds is seasonal, so we strongly encourage submitting a complete application as early as possible to avoid missing your field season.

What is the fee?

If you are part of a public institution or government agency, there is no fee.  Otherwise, the fees are as follows:
Import/Export Only - $75 (no amendment fee)
Scientific Collecting - $100 ($50 amendment fee)

What else do I need?

  • You will need a STATE PERMIT from each state you are conducting research in.
  • Please include any other relevant federal or state permits such as:  a USGS Bird Banding Permit, a USFS or NWR permit to work on Federal lands, a State permit to work on State lands, etc.
  • You will need to submit annual reports each year to keep you permit in good standing.  Permits cannot be renewed if all annual reports are not on file.

Can I have someone else on my permit?

We do authorize subpermittees.  Subpermittees are granted the full privileges under your permit.  Therefore, it is important to document that your subpermittee(s) have the experience and knowledge necessary to perform all activities on your permit.  There is no limit to the number of subpermittees.  Subpermittees can be added or removed at any time.

Do I need to write a proposal specifically for my U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service permit?

No.  We do not need to you to write a proposal tailored to the federal permit.  However, we ask that you accurately fill in the Collecting Activity Table and include a proposal that has a detailed justification and methodology.  However, this proposal can be repurposed from a grant proposal or other document with a detailed justification and methodology.

How are the numbers and species determined?

Under most circumstances, permits are restricted to specific numbers of specific species.  Your Collecting Activity Table is where we start in determining the numbers and species to authorize.  It is important that this table is complete and accurate.  We take into consideration necessary sample size for statistical significance, and species status to adjust numbers as deemed necessary.  If there is a concern about the number and/or species requested, a Permit Biologist will contact you do discuss your situation in more detail.


Permit Details

How long is the permit good for?

Import/Export – up to 5 years
Scientific Collecting – up to 3 years

How do I submit an annual report?

Annual Reports for Scientific Collecting permits needed for each year your permit is valid, EVEN IF YOU HAVE NO ACTIVITY DURING THE YEAR.  There is no annual report requirement for Import/Export Only permits.

How do I renew my permit?

A renewal letter will be sent to you informing you that your permit will expire soon.  If you do not receive this letter or want to renew prior to receiving the letter, you may complete a general renewal form.

I’ve applied for a renewal, but haven’t received anything and my permit has expired.

If you’ve submitted a renewal application prior to the expiration of your permit, you are authorized to continue the permitted activities.  Please keep a copy of your renewal letter and renewal application with your permit.  We will process your renewal as quickly as possible.

I need to change something on my permit.

You may amend your permit at any time.  Please note there is an amendment fee (if you are not fee exempt).  Please submit a written request for the amendment and any supporting documentation.  Follow the application check list and submit any information relevant to the change requested.

Do I need to tag the migratory birds I collect?

Yes.  Your permit will require that you tag each bird you collect or salvage.  Each tag must include the following information: (a) date and location of collection, (b) name of person who collected the specimen, and (c) the permit number under which the specimen was collected.

Last Updated: March 17, 2015
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