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Which Types of Birds Are Protected?

Birds have always been a part of nature and inhabit human living spaces whether urban, suburban, and rural areas. While humans have learned to live with and appreciate birds, even keeping some as pets, under certain instances birds can become pests. Before one takes matters into their own hands, it’s important to understand 1) the law that protects migratory birds, 2) which birds are protected by law, and 3) what to do if migratory birds become an issue.

The Migratory Bird Treaty Act of 1918

In 1918, the Migratory Bird Treaty Act (MBTA) was implemented to protect migratory birds. This statute now includes treaties between the United States and Great Britain, Mexico, Japan, and Russia. Listed migratory birds, as well as their parts, nest, eggs, and environment, are federally protected. Unless permitted under certain regulations or permits, no one is allowed to do any of the following to native migratory birds:

  • Pursue, hunt, take, capture, or kill
  • Sell or offer to sell 
  • Purchase or barter
  • Deliver, transport, ship, carry, export
  • Receive or import

Common Protected Migratory Birds Encountered

When most people think about protected birds, they visualize the American Bald Eagle or those in threat of extinction in faraway exotic places like the Blue-footed Booby. Few people realize that some species that are federally protected can be found right in their own backyards. A detailed list of protected species can be found on the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s website but, as a general guide, the following types of birds are often protected by law:

  • Ducks
  • Geese
  • Songbirds
  • Gulls
  • Shorebirds
  • Wading birds
  • Birds of prey

When Migratory Birds Become Pests

Under various circumstances, birds can become pests. Before taking matters into one’s own hands, it’s important to know which birds are protected and to be sure of positive identification. Not only can the capturing, removing, or killing of protected birds cause long-term harm for populations in the area, but it can also result in criminal charges due to enforcement by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. Under certain instances that migratory birds become a nuisance, are destructive, or a health threat, landowners may be able to obtain a permit for their removal. In other cases, a pest control professional can provide ways of keeping the birds away without harm.

Nobody likes to have to deal with pests whether at one’s home or business. Understanding the Migratory Bird Act and which birds are protected is very important when attempting their control. The best thing to do is consult with a professional who can implement control steps that are humane and environmentally-conscious.