DEAR JOAN: I love nature and like to incorporate it into my home decor. I gather dried flowers and seed pods in the fall and make wreaths, centerpieces and other displays.
Recently, I’ve begun collecting bird feathers and adding them to my projects, but a friend of mine told me that it is illegal to pick up bird feathers and keep them. This sounds absurd to me. I don’t kill the bird to get the feather; I just find them on the ground.
DEAR CAROL: I’m afraid your friend is correct. While it might sound like a case of zealous governmental nuttiness, there is a good reason for it.
In 1918, the United States and Canada signed the Migratory Bird Treaty Act, making it illegal to trap, kill, possess, sell or harass migratory birds, and the protection includes their eggs, nests and feathers. Other countries also have joined in on the agreement.
The treaty wasn’t enacted on a whim. Some species of birds were being hunted to near extinction for the exotic pet and fashion trades.
You are permitted to collect feathers from non-native birds, such as European starlings and house sparrows, and domesticated birds such as turkeys and chickens, but all native, migratory birds — and there are more than 1,000 species on the list — are protected.
It’s not that they don’t want you to have the feathers discarded by birds, it’s just that they don’t know how you acquired them. Someone could say they found a feather on the ground, but officials have no way of knowing whether that person innocently found the feather, killed a bird for its plumage, or captured it to sell illegally.
There are exceptions to the law and special permits may be given for taxidermy,…
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