Migratory Bird Permits
Almost all native birds are federally protected under the Migratory Bird Treaty Act (MBTA). The regulatory definition of a migratory bird is much broader than what most of us consider a migratory bird and includes almost all bird species native to the United States. A complete list of protected birds is published in 50 CFR 10.13. Nonnative species such as European starlings, rock (feral) pigeons, house sparrows, and mute swans as well as upland gamebirds such as grouse, turkey and quail are not protected under the MBTA.
The MBTA is an expansive regulation. “No person may take, possess, import, export, transport, sell, purchase, barter, or offer for sale, purchase, or barter, any migratory bird, or the parts, nests, or eggs of such bird except as may be permitted ... or as permitted by regulations” (50 CFR 21.11). Take includes in shoot, wound, kill, trap, capture, collect, or attempt any of these activities (50 CFR 10.12).
Part of the role of the Migratory Birds & Habitat Program is to issue permits to authorize individuals or organizations to take or possess birds for certain activities and purposes, such as scientific research, education, propagation, and rehabilitation as well as helping reduce conflict or damage by birds.
More Information For:
Eagles are afforded additional information under the Bald and Golden Eagle Protection Act. For more informtaion on eagles and eagle permitting, visit our eagle page
Native Americans– Members of Federally Recognized Tribes may apply to receive eagle feathers and parts for religious purposes. Non-Eagle parts are also available through the Non-Eagle Repository Program.
Educators - Education permits are divided two different ways. Use of birds is called “Educational Use” whereas use of eagles is called “Exhibition”. If live birds are used, they are called “Live” permits. If specimens, feathers, non-viable eggs, and other parts are used, permits are called “dead” permits. One permit can authorize the use of live and dead birds, but separate permits are needed for birds and eagles.
Conflict and Damage – Depredation permits help resolve conflicts with birds that cause damage, loss, or other problems.
Scientists – Permits authorize researchers to collect birds, specimens, and samples for research or museum purposes. Banding permits are administered by USGS’s Bird Banding Lab.