Migratory Bird Treaty Act Breakdown

shutterstock_177608588There are a lot of laws protecting animals from harm and danger, but one you may not know about is the Migratory Bird Treaty Act, which protects many species of birds. You need to understand this strict law and the consequences of breaking it.

What Is the Migratory Bird Treaty Act?

The Migratory Bird Treaty Act protects some migratory birds from harm or capture (unless allowed by regulation, such as state hunting). Basically, you can’t hunt, kill, buy, pursue, capture, sell, barter, ship or import/export any protected migratory bird. However, the act also includes the nests and eggs, as well as any part or product of the birds. Even if you find a naturally molted feather lying on the ground and keep it, you are breaking this law.

What Happens if You Break This Law?

The Migratory Bird Treaty Act is a strict liability offense, which means that the government doesn’t need to prove you intended to break the law to punish you. Even if you accidentally killed a bird, you may face charges. For most actions, such as killing or capturing, you may face misdemeanor charges and have to pay a fine of up to $500 or spend up to six months in jail (or both). However, if you willfully intend, attempt or actually sell/barter a protected bird, you may be found guilty of a felony, face fines of up to $2,000, or have to spend up to two years in jail (or both).

What Birds Are protected Under the Act?

There are many birds protected under the act because it protects nearly all native North American birds. Common examples of protected birds include types of blackbird, bluebird, doves, hummingbird, meadowlarks, mockingbirds and crows. Upland gamebirds, such as quail and grouse are not protected under this act.

How Does This Act Affect Homeowners?

You can’t prevent these birds from being on and near your property, so you need to be mindful of them. Remember, the law is a strict liability offense, so even if you accidently break it, you may face charges. For example, if you cut down a tree in your yard, but it has a nest from one of these protected birds in it, you may end up destroying the nest and some eggs. It was an accident, but you just broke the law.

You may not think much about birds in your yard. Perhaps you ignore them or perhaps you like watching them. However, most birds you see on your property are protected under the Migratory Bird Treaty Act, so it’s important to treat them carefully.

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