Are the feathers of red tailed hawks illegal to own?

I purchased an item from a Native American fellow and it has a red tail hawk feather on it. This was confirmed by a birder friend of mine who said it is illegal. Is this true?

Please, when answering, if you could provide a good resource for me to investigate this law. Thank you!

9 Answers

  • Yes, it is illegal in the US to have the feathers of a red-tailed hawk. In fact, it is illegal to have the feathers of any native migratory bird.

    All native migratory birds in the US are protected by federal law (Migratory Bird Treaty Act) and it is illegal to have any protected bird, their eggs, their nest or even their feathers. states:

    Anyone desiring to possess migratory birds or their parts or products should be aware that all of these are covered under the Migratory Bird Treaty Act (16U.S.C. 703-712), which implements a series of international treaties designed to protect migratory birds.

    Some key provisions of the Act are worth keeping in mind:

    Wording of the Act makes it very clear that most actions that result in "taking" or possession of a protected species or its parts or products is a violation of the Act. Specifically, the Act states:

    "Unless and except as permitted by regulations, …it shall be unlawful at any time, by any means, or in any manner…to pursue, hunt, take, capture, kill, …possess, offer for sale, sell, …purchase, import…any migratory bird, any part, nest, or eggs of any such bird…"

    It is a "strict-liability" law, meaning that there is no requirement for law enforcement agencies to prove "intent" to violate the law. That is, if you are found in possession of a protected species or its parts or products, you are automatically in violation of the law.

    The provisions of the Act are nearly absolute; "...except as permitted by regulations ..." is the only exception. Some examples of permitted activities that do not violate the law are legal hunting of specific game birds, legitimate research activities, display in licensed zoological gardens, and bird banding under an appropriate permit.

    The Act covers the great majority (83%) of all native birds found in the U.S. Many of the species not covered by the Act are covered by the Endangered Species Act , other Federal laws, or state laws, many of which are as stringent as the Migratory Bird Treaty Act . In the lower 48 states, all species except the house sparrow, feral pigeon, common starling, and non-migratory game birds like pheasants, gray partridge, and sage grouse, are protected.

    Penalties upon conviction can be severe. Even if a sympathetic jury finds that you meant no harm in trying to rear an abandoned nestling or in picking a hawk feather, legal defense costs are clearly not worth the risk.

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    Are the feathers of red tailed hawks illegal to own?

    I purchased an item from a Native American fellow and it has a red tail hawk feather on it. This was confirmed by a birder friend of mine who said it is illegal. Is this tru

  • You can get a permit to keep a dead red tail hawk. See below: Permits Required for Non-living Raptors

    If you would like to have a hawk feather or a mounted raptor you still must have a federal permit issued under one of the previously mentioned laws and possibly a state permit. The salvage permit allows one to possess non-living raptors or raptor parts. Dead specimens collected under this permit may be mounted, prepared as study skins, or otherwise used for educational or ceremonial purposes, including public display.

  • Far as I know, generally it is illegal to possess any bird feathers other then game birds. This even includes common backyard birds...rather silly. To think even a tattered old Blue Jay feather dropped by the bird could get you in trouble.

    Hawks and the like are particularly illegal. Only way to have such things legally is to have official documents stating that you are allowed to own them, and even then you probably have to be American Indian to do that and solely for cultural reasons.

  • I don't know US regulations, but in Canada.... raptorial birds are not included in the Migratory Bird Convention Act (1918). There were considered vermin at that time. In Canada, they are regulated by the provincial government and I have obtained permits to keep roadkilled hawks and owls (and therefore their feathers). Endangered/Threatened birds are excluded from this (you can't keep them). I would check with your local/state authorities (Natural Resources Dept. or USFWService) before you listen to anybody on this post.

  • Yes they are because they are a protected species. I had the feathers of a Coopers Hawk and nearly got a $1200.00 fine. Native americans can have them for use in ceremonies.

  • Yes. It is against the law to possess any feathers from any bird of prey unless they belong to a bird that you are currently licenced to possess.

    There are a few more loopholes. Follow the link for details.


  • It is illegal in Ohio. But I think if you can show proof of purchase, you will be alright. Call the wildlife center in your area. They can instruct you

  • They are beautiful birds.

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