With so many eagles’ nests in Minnesota, it’s easier than ever to catch a glimpse of our national symbol. Many people ask if you’re out in the woods and you spot a feather on the ground, what should you do with it? Can you keep it?
The simple answer is no. Eagle feathers, and in fact feathers of more than 800 other species, are federally protected. And, it’s not just feathers; all parts of the bird are protected from feathers to talons, bones or whole carcasses. Under the Migratory Bird Act, it is unlawful to possess any native, Migratory Bird in North America. That means, blue jays, cardinals, egrets and eagles are all protected. You may collect the feathers of non-native species such as European Starlings, or birds that you have obtained the permit to hunt, such as Turkey and Grouse.
The reason all native bird species carry this federal protection is that many birds were driven to near extinction in the 20th century by the feather trade. Millions of birds were killed for their feathers which were fashionable on ladies’ hats.
Eagles are also protected by another federal law, the U.S. Bald and Golden Eagle Protection Act, which requires federal permits for possession of any eagle part, as well as stiff penalties for harm caused to eagles, including disturbance of eagle nests. That’s why we recommend if you see a feather on the ground, look at it, show it to a child, take a photo if you like, but leave it there.
Can Native Americans have eagle feathers?
We will answer this question later in the week, for now go back to watching those cute little eaglets, they will grow up fast!
Written by Abbey Ruppert NEC Education Specialist