US Fish & Wildlife Service



Date of this Version



U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Division of Migratory Bird Management (January 2002)


What is the Migratory Bird Treaty Act?

The Migratory Bird Treaty Act (MBTA)is the primary legislation in the U.S. established to conserve migratory birds. Under the MBTA, no one 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 a bird except under the terms of a valid permit issued pursuant to Federal regulations. The MBTA convers migratory bird species protected under four international treaties between the U.S. and Canada, Mexico, Japan, and Russia. All but a few of the bird species natural occurring in the U.S. are protected under the Act.

What are Migratory Bird Permits?

The MBTA greatly restricts what activities may be undertaken involving migratory birds. However, the Act also provides that the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service may issue permits authorizing otherwise prohibited activities for scientific, educational, cultural, and other purposes. Pursuant to this provision, the Service issues permits to qualified applicants for the following activities involving migratory birds:

Import/Export. Permits are issued to authorize the import and export of migratory birds and their parts, nests and eggs. (Certain permit exceptions apply to lawfully taken game birds).

Scientific Collecting. Permits are issued to individuals collecting migratory birds on behalf of scientific institutions and agencies for educational and/or scientific purposes.

Taxidermy. Permits are issued to qualified individuals to mount or otherwise perform taxidermy services on migratory birds, their parts, nests or eggs, belonging to someone else.

Waterfowl Sale and Disposal. Although a permit is not required to possess properly marked captive-bred waterfowl or their eggs, a permit is necessary to engage in the sale or transfer of such birds. Properly marked captive-bred mallard ducks are an exception, requiring no permit to sell, buy or keep.

Falconry. Permits are issued to individuals engaging in falconry, which is the art of training raptors for pursuit of game and the sport of hunting with raptors.

Raptor Propagation. Permits are issued to qualified individuals and institutions breeding raptors for falconry and conservation purposes.

Depredation permits. Permits are issued to take, possess, or transport migratory birds for damage control purposes, such as protection of personal or public property or for human health or safety reasons.

Special Purpose. Permits are issued where the applicant demonstrates a legitimate purpose not otherwise provided for by any standard permit.