I recently picked up a used book on nature-inspired mixed-media art techniques. It is a beautiful book with gorgeous illustrations and photographs of various ideas for mixed media arts and crafts, and I fell in love with the many examples centered around bird and butterfly motifs. The book had some terrific tips for gathering botanicals and sea shells for various displays and arrangements, but I was horrified when I turned to the chapter on gathering birds’ nests. I thought I had read somewhere that this was illegal.
The book commented, “Winter is the only time of year to ever remove a nest from its natural surroundings. Only in the winter months can you be sure that the birds have abandoned the dwelling and that you aren’t disrupting any nesting activities.” The book also went on to explain that it is against the law to take, damage, or destroy the nest of any wild bird while it is in use or being built.
I was relieved to read this last clarification, but still I was disturbed by the thought of collecting nests. So, I did what I do best… researched the subject on line. Here’s what US Fish and Wildlife Services says…
“Most bird nests are protected under the Migratory Bird Treaty Act of 1918 (MBTA). This law says: No person may take (kill), possess, import, export, transport, sell, purchase, barter, or offer for sale, any migratory bird, or the parts, nests, or eggs of such bird except as may be permitted under the terms of a valid permit… It is also illegal for anyone to keep a nest they take out of a tree or find on the ground unless they have a permit issued by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS).”
I continued my online research and found numerous stories about how people had faced federal charges for removing or disturbing birds’ nests, with penalties ranging between $3,000 and $25,000. Wow!
Last Saturday I had a chance to visit the Wildlife Rescue Center at the Rio Grande Nature Center in Albuquerque, and I took a picture of the various birds’ nests they had on display in their enclosed cabinet. I asked about the nests, and Sarah explained that their organization had the special permit issued by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service for their collection of nests. She confirmed what I had uncovered in my research about the permits and it made sense that an organization that rescues and cares for over 2000 birds annually, including eggs, would also collect nests.
During my research I also read that birds NOT protected under the Migratory Bird Treaty Act include House Sparrows, European Starlings, Domestic Pigeon or Rock Doves, Monk parakeets, Eurasian Collared Doves, and Canada Geese. Good to know, but then I have to ask myself: do I know enough about birds and their nests to identify one species’ nest from another?
I continue to be inspired by the book I purchased and, knowing what I now know after all my research, I’ve decided to refrain from collecting birds’ nests OF ANY KIND, and instead will use my trusty camera to “collect” them photographically.