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USFWS Offices and Refuges Near You
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Conserving the Nature of America
The mission of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is working with others to conserve, protect, and enhance fish, wildlife, plants, and their habitats for the continuing benefit of the American people.
Here you will find information about the laws and regulations that protect eagles and their parts (feathers, eggs, etc). Some laws and guidance are specific for members of federally recognized tribes, whereas other laws and guidance are aimed at the general public. Please select the group that is most appropriate for your needs below.
For hundreds of years Native Americans and Alaskan Natives have used eagle feathers for religious and cultural purposes. You may find an overview of possession of eagle feathers and parts by Native Americans here.
In recognition of the significance of these feathers to Native Americans, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (Service) established the National Eagle Repository (Repository) in the early 1970's. The Repository helps fulfill religious requests of federally recognized tribes and their members.
How do I obtain eagle feathers and parts for religious use?
The Repository provides information for enrolled Native Americans to obtain bald or golden eagles or their parts. General information on this process can be found by visiting the Repository's website. Detailed information on how to submit a request for eagle feathers and parts can be found on the Repository's FAQ page. Application forms can also be found on our Eagle Permit Forms page.
What is the current wait time for requesting eagle parts from the Repository?
You can check on current wait times to fulfill feather and eagle parts requests on the Repository's website.
How can I check on the status of my feather request?
If this is a first request, you can contact your regional Migratory Bird Permit Office to check on the status of your permit application. If you regional office has processed your permit, or this is not your first feather request, you can contact the National Eagle Repository Directly: firstname.lastname@example.org
(303) 287-2110, Dial 1 for Native American feathers uses.
Can I keep an eagle feather I find out in nature?
Tribal members may pick up and keep naturally fallen or molted feathers found in the wild.
In 2012, the Department of Justice clarified that they would not seek to prosecute tribal members who, among other actions, pick up naturally fallen or molted feathers found in the wild, without disturbing birds or their nests. Actions that are allowed and actions that may be prosecuted are outlined in the Department of Justice's Tribal Member Use of Feathers or Other Parts of Federally Protected Birds Policy (pdf).
Can I keep a dead eagle I find on tribal lands?
Tribal members, under certain circumstances, may keep eagle remains discovered by tribal members on tribal lands.
The policy is summarized as follows:
The Service may return eagle remains to federally recognized tribes after appropriate necropsy, if applicable, rather than sending them to the National Eagle Repository when:
(1) the remains were discovered by a tribal member within Indian Country,
(2) the discovery has been reported to the Service’s Office of Law Enforcement (OLE),
(3) the Service determines the eagle was not taken intentionally and presents no health risks.
The tribe must apply for and receive a permit before to receiving and and distributing the eagle remains. This permit is currently under development; the permit application will be posted once available. Please contact your regional Migratory Bird Permit Offices for assistance with this issue.
In 2016, the Service developed a guide for Eagle Handling and Distribution. In 2019, this handbook was updated to include streamlining the transfer of eagle parts to tribal entities if eagle remains were found on tribal lands. The update can be found in Section 6.7(B)(2). This guidance was amended in July 2019 to expand the area in which eagles are found from "tribal reservation boundary" to "Indian Country".
Where can I find more information about eagle aviaries?
A Federal Tribal Eagle Aviary permit authorizes the long-term possession of live non-releasable eagles by a tribal entity for Indian religious purposes. Eagles held under this permit may be used in religious ceremonies and to collect and distribute naturally molted feathers to members of federally recognized tribes.
Read more about existing federally permitted Tribal eagle aviaries.
News story regarding aviary in Coeur d'Alene, Idaho.
Can I wear eagle feathers for my graduation ceremony?
The federal government supports the use of eagle feathers as religious objects for members of federally recognized tribes. The Tribal Education Department National Assembly and the Native American Rights Fund has developed information for graduates regarding regalia at these ceremonies.
My question wasn't answered. Who should I contact?
Please reach out to us in the following departments to help answer your questions about eagle feathers and Native American religious use.
Migratory Bird Permit Offices (All Regional Contacts)
Can I keep eagle feathers and eagle parts?
No, it is illegal for any individual to keep a bald or golden eagle, including its parts (feathers, feet, egg shells etc.) without a federal permit. State, tribal, and other permits may be needed as well. More information on laws that protect bald eagle and their feathers can be found here.
I found an eagle feather - what should I do with it?
If you find eagle feathers out in nature, enjoy, appreciate, study, and photograph them, them but leave them where you found it. It is illegal to keep eagle feathers or parts without a permit.
How do I know if I found an eagle feather?
Not all big dark feathers are eagle feathers! Check out the US Fish and Wildlife's Feather Atlas to determine where your feather came from. Learn about bald and golden eagle feather and compare eagle feathers to feathers of other large birds.
Can I get a taxidermied eagle for my school/ fraternal organization/ community center?
The US Fish and Wildlife Service no longer issues permits for new eagle mounts to non-tribal members.
The Service used to issue Eagle Exhibition (Dead) permits to allow certain qualifying groups to display eagle mounts for educational purposes. However, in 1994, then President Bill Clinton signed Presidential Executive Order 59 FR 22953, instructing all eagle remains, feathers and parts to be sent to the National Eagle and Wildlife Repository for distribution to Native Americans for religious and ceremonial purposes.
That same year, the US Fish and Wildlife Service issued Directors Order 69 instructing all employees to assist in rapid transfer of all available eagle remains and parts to the National Eagle Repository.
This Directors Order was superseded by the Service Eagle Distribution Policy 720 FW 6.7(A), which states that the Service’s highest priority for distribution of eagles or eagle parts is to Native Americans enrolled in federally recognized tribes in the United States for religious purposes.
My organization has a taxidermy eagle on display. Are we allowed to keep it? Can we donate it?
If you have an existing eagle mount that predates the Eagle Act (1940), a permit is not necessary, but you may be asked to document the age of the mount. We will contact the National Eagle Repository on your behalf to see if the mount can be used for Native American religious use. If the Repository does not want the eagle mount, you may keep it.
If you have an exhibition permit for the eagle mount (issued prior to the moratorium in 1994) you may continue to retain your eagle mount as long as your permit is valid. If you permit expires, please contact us.
If you do not have a permit for your eagle mount, contact us for assistance.
If you wish to donate an old eagle mount, our migratory bird permit office can help you with this issue. We will need to know if there is currently a permit for the eagle mount, and what kind of institution wishes receive the mount. The recipient of the eagle mount will need an Eagle Exhibition Permit. Eagle Exhibition Permits are only available to zoological parks, scientific societies and museums that are open to the general public and are either established, maintained, and operated as a governmental service or are privately endowed and organized but not operated for profit. Contact information for assistance with transferring an eagle mount can be found below:
How can my school obtain a taxidermy eagle for educational display?
Due to the moratorium on issuing Eagle Exhibition (Dead) permits, we are not able to issue permits for new taxidermied eagle mounts. If you are a qualifying institution wishing to receive a donation of an existing eagle mount, please contact us for assistance. This guidance also applies to institutions wishing to obtain eagle feathers and eggs for educational use. Several companies make realistic replicas of eagle feathers, parts, and eggs for education use.
Can I keep an eagle as a pet?
It is not legal to keep eagles as pets. Eagle are wild animals and cannot be kept as pets or used for commercial purposes. Only federally permitted wildlife rehabilitators and qualifying institutions may house eagles. Only non-releasable eagles may be housed for long-term educational use or in tribal aviaries.
Can I Keep a non-eagle migratory bird for taxidermy and display?
There is no permit for personal possession of migratory birds. Even legally salvaged birds must be taken to an appropriate educational or scientific institution within 6 months of salvage. You can read more about federal taxidermy permits, migratory bird salvage permits, and exhibition permits. Waterfowl that are legally obtained under a hunting permit can be kept and displayed for personal use.
Additional Questions? Contact Us!