Collecting Feathers



Holding a Jar of Feathers

I could have titled this post, That time I thought I broke the law and frantically went into research mode. The other day I was walking to the apartment’s laundromat and found a feather. Then I realized that the more attentive I was to my surroundings, the more feathers I found. So I quickly threw a load in the wash, set my timer (because no one likes moldy clothes), went back, got a jar and started collecting.

Upon returning with a full jar of feathers, I did a quick “how do you clean feathers” search because you never know and it’s best to be safe. Turns out, soap and water is all you need. On my search to find that answer I also found out that collecting feathers is illegal, no matter how you got them. Now, that’s not true of all birds but it’s true of a lot of birds and not just bald eagles and endangered species.

What I learned…

There are a few laws out there protecting birds and the biggest one is the Migratory Bird Treaty Act of 1918, followed by some others. I am still boggled that picking up a feather (depending on the bird) is illegal and I then read of many instances of people prosecuted for possession of said feathers. However, I’m appreciative of why that act is around and the good that it does do. Note: These are U.S. laws. So be sure to check your own laws if outside the U.S.

To find out if I broke the law I had to know:

  1. What birds were not protected by the law? This link gave me that answer.
  2. What bird’s feathers did I have exactly? And this link gave me that answer – I learned that I had the feathers of bluebirds and spotted doves.

So I wrote down the family and species name of the birds and cross checked with that comprehensive list. I found out that I didn’t break the law! Those particular birds are not protected.

However, if you do find a feather, check out those websites. Otherwise you might just be breaking the law, you little feather finder you!

Note of caution: Don’t leave the feathers out when you have cats. One of my cats got to it and started to make it breakfast. Good thing I had already cleaned them at that point.

I look forward to doing some fun things with these feathers. Expect some future posts and possible DIYs with them.


8 thoughts on “Collecting Feathers

  1. Holly says:

    Never knew it was illegal, but I guess I can see how people could shoot down a bird for feathers and say they happened to just find them on the ground.

    That identifier site was really neat, I actually have a glass jar with these really long black feathers we found at the park a month or so ago. I thought they were black birds, but turns out they are Canadian geese -which totally makes sense, there are a ton at the parks around here. I just thought their feathers were brown and white. Not as pretty as the ones you found at all, love the ones with the blue stripes! Did your cats like them too?

    • Aubrey says:

      Me either! It makes me wonder – about this park here in Austin with all of these free peacocks. I heard that when the peacocks shed their feathers, people flock to get them. I didn’t check to see if they are protected by those laws but I don’t remember seeing them on the exemption list.

      Isn’t that identifier neat?! I’m so glad I stumbled upon it. Ooo Canadian Geese – now I want to look them up and see all the varieties of geese.

      Well we luckily got the feathers out of Leia’s mouth before she swallowed it whole, so apparently she did like them. ;)

  2. Kaitlin - Handmade Freedom says:

    Pretty, pretty! We have a lot of bluejays (and magpies and chickadees) who live in our trees. One bluejay in particular comes up to my living room window and perches on the bough of the chokecherry and stares into my house at me every day and I’ve never been able to snap a picture of him. Corvids are so curious! I found a bluejay feather in the yard and took a photo of it and haven’t yet uploaded it – thanks for the reminder!

    Can wait to see what you do with those pretties! Me? I’d probably make some handmade paper and mount them with the bird species names listed underneath in a fancy frame and imagine that I was some kind of scholar who had collected them from now-extinct specimens.

    Also.. then they’d be safe from cats :P

    • Aubrey says:

      That is the coolest thing that the blue jay does that every day. We have a bunch of blue jays and cardinals that sit on a tree that is right next to our third floor balcony. And we have such good cats that I let them out and they dodn’t try to go after the birds when they land on the balcony. They just stared at them. I did the same and tried taking a picture of them. I even tried it with my telephoto lens, so I could stand very far away, but they are smart birds and fly right away.

      I’ve made handmade paper before, though I just sold the supplies for making paper. I did always want to make seeded paper though. We actually don’t have anything (with the exception of one string of art pieces Matt’s class made in art school) on our walls and aren’t much for decorating. I’m still finding more feathers, so the possibilities are endless! :)

  3. Sonya says:

    Oh, wow, I never knew it was illegal. I can totally see why, though. But I’m glad it’s not all birds because honestly (found) feathers can be so beautiful, it’s nice to have some options that aren’t illegal.

  4. Amanda says:

    Wow, I never new the laws were so strict. I can somewhat understand why, but it’s really hard to think of collecting feathers you found as a crime.

  5. Kisha says:

    last….spring i started collecting feathers much the same way you did. i found one, then realized they were all around if i were to simply pay more attention. granted, the feathers i find are “boring” – but hopefully i’ll find some colourful or spotted ones soon….now to find out if i broke any laws!

  6. Heather Harmon says:

    I had no idea that collecting feathers could be against the law! I’m so glad you provided links and informations about this. I’ve always been told not to touch feathers since they can carry diseases, which I don’t know how true that is, but I just really love that you took the time to research everything. It shows what a good heart you have :)

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