Feathers are beautiful and remarkable objects. If you find feathers in nature, appreciate, study, and photograph them, but leave them where you found them. It is illegal to take them home.
The possession of feathers and other parts of native North American birds without a permit is prohibited by the Migratory Bird Treaty Act (MBTA). This protects wild birds by preventing their killing by collectors and the commercial trade in their feathers, and extends to all feathers, regardless of how they were obtained. There is no exemption for molted feathers or those taken from road- or window-killed birds. More information on the Migratory Bird Treaty Act, and the list of MBTA-protected species can be found at: http://www.fws.gov/migratorybirds/regulationspolicies/mbta/mbtintro.html.
Exceptions do exist for the feathers of legally-hunted waterfowl or other migratory gamebirds, and for the use of feathers by Native Americans. For more information, see the FAQ page (http://www.fws.gov/lab/featheratlas/faq.php).
Individuals or institutions wishing to use bird feathers, bones, or whole specimens for educational or research purposes must apply for permits from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and their state wildlife or natural resource agency. See: http://www.fws.gov/migratorybirds/mbpermits.html.
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