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Monday, March 01, 2010

What sorts of feathers can I use?

I recently made a rather lengthy post in the sorts of feathers I use in painting, which are shed flight feathers of turkeys and peacocks.  I described these flight feathers and their functions in flight, as well as how to tell a naturally-shed feather from one that is pulled.  One other item I mentioned at the end, almost as a post-script, is domestic vs. wild feathers.  I do need to touch on this in more detail.

"Puddle Geese" ... from 'To Scotland and Back' collection
Currently available through
Fusions Gallery in Ocean Shores WA
I strongly advise that if you are going to collect and use feathers, use those from domesticated birds or feathers that you have purchased from a craft supplier.  It's not a good idea to use the feathers you find in the wild, and in many cases may be illegal.  I wanted to track down some cases for this, and have found some information to share with you.

This, from a question to California Fish and Game:
I recently learned that in order to collect feathers that I would need a license. I hike mainly in the Baylands along the San Francisco Bay and every so often I see a feather that would look good in my hat. In any season I may collect five to 10 feathers total. The bulk of these might be egret or turkey vulture feathers. How should I proceed in order to remain legal?
Both of the birds you list are protected species. According to Capt. Phil Nelms (ret.), under both California and U.S. fish and wildlife laws, dead wildlife and its parts have the same protection as the animals do when alive. This protection also extends to all of the pieces and parts of animals. If it is illegal to possess the whole bird it is also illegal to possess any portion of it (e.g. feather, talon, leg, etc.)
I would recommend collecting feathers from birds which have a hunting season. Turkeys and upland game birds like pheasants and quail have beautiful feathers which you may find in your outdoor treks! You are allowed to possess game birds and though their take is regulated, you are allowed to possess their parts.

Native birds that are birds of prey or migratory are all protected.  Migratory birds protection has been in place since the Migratory Bird Treaty of 1918 which not only makes it illegal to possess these birds, either living or dead, but also includes any of their feathers and parts and also their eggs.  

Would you like to learn more about the legalities of possessing feathers?  I found a great webpage that teaches you everything you need to know!

Oh, and a little-known fact... I don't know if it's nationwide or just here in Washington State, but crows are protected. They fall under the Migratory Bird Treaty Act!  Please, don't pick up a crow feather, it could get you into trouble.

This all is exactly why I only use the feathers of domesticated 'barnyard' birds!


marianmurdoch said...

I wish they would allow shed feathers to be kept. As you showed in your prior post, there is a visible difference.

Julie Thompson said...

So true, Marian! Once you know how to tell the difference, it's easy to spot. I would love to be able paint a beautiful bird of prey on its own naturally-shed feather and then put that piece up for auction to support facilities like the Raptor Center in Eugene Oregon or similar.

Anonymous said...

Even Muskovy are protected. They are a domestic bird and still fall under the protected. A few bad eggs spoiled it for the rest of us. I see so many beautiful feathers at our wildlife shelter.

Unknown said...

So I was given a feather and I wasnt sure what it was, it is a shed feather and I beleive it is from a turkey vulture, is it illegal for me to have it?

Kevin Lawless said...

So I was given a feather and I wasnt sure what it was, it is a shed feather that is very beautiful, when I researched what bird it came from it was either a turkey vulture or another bird that I forget at the moment, is it illegal to have possesion of it?

Julie Thompson said...

So sorry for my lengthy delay! I did not see this sitting in queue.
The US Fish and Wildlife Service can give you the final answer on that, but my gut instinct? It is a raptor and therefore we cannot keep such feathers.