The Migratory Bird Treaty Act of 1918 (16 U.S.C. 703-712) implements four international conservation treaties that the U.S. entered into with Canada in 1916, Mexico in 1936, Japan in 1972, and Russia in 1976. It is intended to ensure the sustainability of populations of all protected migratory bird species.
The law has been amended with the signing of each treaty, as well as when any of the treaties were amended, such as with Mexico in 1976 and Canada in 1995.
The Migratory Bird Treaty Act (MBTA) 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.
The List of Migratory Bird Species Protected by the MBTA
The list of migratory bird species protected by the law is primarily based on bird families and species included in the four international treaties. In the Code of Federal Regulations one can locate this list under Title 50 Part 10.13 (10.13 list). The 10.13 list was updated in 2020, incorporating the most current scientific information on taxonomy and natural distribution. The list is also available in a downloadable Microsoft Excel file.
A migratory bird species is included on the list if it meets one or more of the following criteria:
- It occurs in the United States or U.S. territories as the result of natural biological or ecological processes and is currently, or was previously listed as, a species or part of a family protected by one of the four international treaties or their amendments.
- Revised taxonomy results in it being newly split from a species that was previously on the list, and the new species occurs in the United States or U.S. territories as the result of natural biological or ecological processes.
- New evidence exists for its natural occurrence in the United States or U.S. territories resulting from natural distributional changes and the species occurs in a protected family.
The List of Bird Species To Which the Migratory Bird Treaty Act Does Not Apply
The Migratory Bird Treaty Reform Act of 2004 (MBTRA) amended the MBTA by stating the MBTA applies only to migratory bird species that are native to the United States or U.S. territories, and that a native migratory bird species is one that is present as a result of natural biological or ecological processes. The MBTRA requires the Service to publish a list of all nonnative, human-introduced bird species to which the MBTA does not apply, and an updated list was published in 2020. The 2020 update identifies species belonging to biological families referred to in treaties the MBTA implements but are not protected because their presence in the United States or U.S. territories is solely the result of intentional or unintentional human-assisted introductions. It reflects the most current scientific information on taxonomy and natural.
Migratory Bird Permits
Regulations regarding migratory bird permits (50 CFR 21) provide information on permits for "the taking, possession, transportation, sale, purchase, barter, importation, exportation, and banding or marking of migratory birds. This part also provides certain exceptions to permit requirements for public, scientific, or educational institutions, and establishes depredation orders which provide limited exceptions to the Migratory Bird Treaty Act." The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Migratory Bird Permit Program issues and maintains these permits through ePermits.