Feathers for crafts, even for your own use, must not be wild bird feathers.
Even if you found them outside, on the ground, from a molt.
Especially if the feathers are on, under, or even near… an eagle.
Or a Hawk, falcon, kestrel, or owl.
Crane? Run away…
There are very few exceptions to the feather laws so it’s better to just consider all wild bird feathers as illegal.
The laws are vigorously enforced by both private citizens and government officers, because it is a way to protect our wild bird populations.
Pheasant, Chukar Partridge, Rio Grande Wild Turkey, and Grouse are birds that live in the wild, but are also farmed throughout the USA. A farmer must have a permit to raise those birds, and a hunter has to have a permit to hunt them, but with those permits, the feathers are legal. All the cruelty-free feathers for sale on my site were raised with permits, for sure… because I did it myself.
The Migratory Bird Treaty Act of 1918 prohibits anyone from even chasing a bird, much less hunting it, killing it, capturing it, or selling it – dead or alive. It also covers the feathers, eggs, and nests in the same way.
The Bald Eagle Act of 1940 added special protections for both the Bald and Golden Eagles, who were on the brink of extinction. It also made room for certain Native American feather uses.
The Endangered Species Act of 1973 added the third whammy to bird protection. With these laws, people were able to protect a bird’s nesting and migration grounds in addition to its body, feathers, eggs, and nest.
These are some of the most powerful environmental laws in our country, and they make sure nobody wants to mess with wild birds. It simply isn’t worth it. But not everyone knows that these laws cover every wild bird feather, egg, and nest you may come across.
The exceptions, which are pigeons, European starlings, and English house sparrows, are hard to identify, and Fish and Game doesn’t care if you make a mistake or if you are just planning a project with arts and crafts feathers.
One good solution is to work with domestic feathers for your crafts and make them look like the bird species you are admiring. There are some very talented artists who do this, particularly in the wild bird faux egg world.
Feathers for arts and crafts, especially cruelty-free feathers, are one of nature’s most fantastic craft products. I think it’s a great thing that wild bird feathers are illegal. The laws really have helped bird populations stay healthy. There are plenty of domestic feathers to meet our artistic inclinations… and I haven’t even started to look into domestic parrot feathers!