US Migratory Bird Treaty Act

The original 1918 statute implemented the 1916 Convention between the U.S. and Great Britain (for Canada) for the protection of migratory birds. Later amendments implemented treaties between the U.S. and other countries. Unless permitted by regulations, the Migratory Bird Treaty Act of 1918 provides that it is unlawful to "pursue, hunt, take, capture, kill, attempt to take, capture or kill, possess, offer for sale, sell, offer to purchase, purchase, deliver for shipment, ship, cause to be shipped, deliver for transportation, transport, cause to be transported, carry, or cause to be carried by any means whatever, receive for shipment, transportation or carriage, or export, at any time, or in any manner, any migratory bird, included in the terms of this Convention . . . for the protection of migratory birds . . . or any part, nest, or egg of any such bird." (16 USC 701)

When It Is Required

The Migratory Bird Treaty Act may be relevant when a project may result in the capture or taking of migratory birds. A listing of protected species may be found on the USFWS website. The most common transportation project involvement with the MBTA relates to management of wildlife hazards at airports. In Vermont, the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Wildlife Services unit typically handles wildlife takings at airports and is responsible for obtaining the appropriate permits.

Permit or Approval Process

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service issues permits to qualified applicants for activities such as scientific collecting, rehabilitation, and take of depredating birds. Migratory bird permit policy is developed by the Division of Migratory Bird Management and the permits themselves are issued by the Regional Bird Permit Offices. The regulations governing migratory bird permits can be found in 50 CFR part 13 (General Permit Procedures) and 50 CFR part 21 (Migratory Bird Permits).

Related Regulations

Regulatory programs with overlapping jurisdiction with the Migratory Bird Treaty Act include, but are not necessarily limited to, the following:

  • US Endangered Species Act: The federal government regulates impacts to federally listed threatened and endangered species via the Endangered Species Act. There are many more state endangered plants and animals than there are federally listed species, and all species on the federal list are also on the state list.

  • Vermont Endangered Species Program: Vermont regulates rare species through a state program. The state’s rare species list is more inclusive than the federal list, and includes the federally listed species.

  • Fish and Wildlife Coordination Act: The Fish and Wildlife Coordination Act (16 USC 661-666) (FWCA) requires that US Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) be consulted whenever the "waters of any stream or other body of water are proposed or authorized, permitted or licensed to be impounded, diverted . . . or otherwise controlled or modified" when a Federal permit or license is involved. Consultation is to be undertaken for the purpose of "preventing loss of and damage to wildlife resources." There are no regulations that implement the FWCA.

For More Information

U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service

New England Field Office

70 Commercial Street

Suite 300

Concord, NH 03301-5087

(603) 223-2541

Vermont Fish & Wildlife Department

1 National Life Drive, Davis 2

Montpelier, VT 05620-3702

Phone: 802-828-1000