Summary of Federal Migratory Bird Regulations
The following is a synopsis of Federal Regulations that pertain to the hunting of migratory game birds. Persons requiring more information should go to www.fws.gov/hunting/whatres.html where they will find a complete version of 50 CFR Part 20. When State law is different from the following Federal law the hunter must comply with the most restrictive law.
No person shall take migratory game birds:
- with a trap, snare, net, rifle, pistol, swivel gun, shotgun larger than 10-gauge, punt gun, battery gun, machine gun, fishhook, poison, drug, explosive or stupefying substance.
- with a shotgun capable of holding more than three shells, unless it is plugged with a one-piece filler which is incapable of removal without disassembling the gun. This restriction does not apply during the Conservation Order for Light Geese or those selected for the control of resident Canada Geese.
- from a sink box (a low floating device, having a depression affording the hunter a means of concealment beneath the surface of the water).
- from or with the aid of a car or other motor-driven land conveyance or any aircraft, EXCEPT that paraplegic and single or double amputees of the legs may take from any stationary motor vehicle or stationary motor-driven land conveyance. “Paraplegic” means an individual afflicted with paralysis of the lower half of the body which involves both legs, usually due to disease of or injury to the spinal cord.
- from or by means of any motor boat or sailboat unless the motor has been completely shut off and/or the sail furled and its progress therefrom has ceased.
- by the use or aid of live birds as decoys; although not limited to, it shall be a violation of this paragraph for any person to take migratory waterfowl on an area where tame or captive live ducks or geese are present unless such birds are and have been for a period of 10 consecutive days prior to such taking, confined within an enclosure which substantially reduces the audibility of their calls and totally conceals such birds from the sight of wild migratory waterfowl.
- by the aid of baiting, or on or over a baited area where a person knows or reasonably should know that the area is or has been baited. IT IS THE RESPONSIBILITY OF HUNTERS TO CHECK HIS/HER HUNTING AREA FOR BAIT PRIOR TO EACH HUNT. A baited area is any area on which salt, grain, or other feed has been placed, exposed, deposited, distributed or scattered, if that salt, grain, or other feed could serve as a lure or attraction for migratory game birds to, on or over areas where hunters are attempting to take them. Any such area will remain a baited area for 10 days following the complete removal of all such salt, grain or other feed. Agricultural areas must be prepared in accordance with official recommendations to be legally hunted. It is a separate offense to place bait on or adjacent to an area that causes, induces or allows another to hunt by the aid of bait or over a baited area. Hunters are responsible for ensuring that an area has not been baited and should verify its legality prior to hunting. The maximum federal penalties are: for hunting over bait; $15,000/six months jail, and placing bait; $100,000/one year jail.
- using records or tapes of migratory bird calls or sounds, or electronically amplified imitations of bird calls. This restriction does not apply during the Conservation Order for Light Geese or those selected for the control of resident Canada Geese.
- by driving, rallying or chasing birds with any motorized conveyance or any sailboat to put them in the range of the hunter.
Birds protected by federal law as a result of treaties signed with other countries. Protected migratory birds are listed in Title 50 Code of Federal Regulations, Section. 10.13. This list includes almost all birds found in the United States with the exception of the house sparrow, feral pigeon (commonly called rock dove), European starling, Eurasian collared-dove, mute swan, and upland game birds (which are protected by state laws).
All migratory birds are protected. However, a subset of migratory birds may be hunted in accordance with state and federal regulations. The list of migratory game birds includes species of ducks, geese (including brant), swans, doves and pigeons, cranes, rails, coots, gallinules and moorhens, woodcock and snipe, if there is an open season.
Daily Bag Limit
The maximum number of migratory game birds of a single species or combination (aggregate) of species permitted to be taken by one person in any one day during the open season in any one specified geographic area for which a daily bag limit is prescribed.
Aggregate Daily Bag Limit
The maximum number of migratory game birds permitted to be taken by one person in any one day during the open season when such person hunts in more than one specified geographic area and/or for more than one species for which a combined daily bag limit is prescribed. The aggregate daily bag limit is equal to, but shall not exceed, the largest daily bag limit prescribed for any one species or for any one specified geographic area in which taking occurs.
One’s principal or ordinary home or dwelling place, as distinguished from one’s temporary or transient place of abode or dwelling such as a hunting club, or any club house, cabin, tent or trailer house used as a hunting club, or any hotel, motel or rooming house used during a hunting, pleasure or business trip.
Migratory Bird Preservation Facility
- Any person who, at their residence or place of business and for hire or other consideration; or
- Any taxidermist, cold-storage facility or locker plant which, for hire or other consideration; or
- Any hunting club which, in the normal course of operations; receives, possesses, or has in custody any migratory game birds belonging to another person for purposes of picking, cleaning, freezing, processing, storage or shipment.
Normal Agricultural Planting, Harvesting Or Post-Harvest Manipulation
A planting or harvesting undertaken for the purpose of producing and gathering a crop, or manipulation after such harvest and removal of grain, that is conducted in accordance with official recommendations of State Extension Specialists of the Cooperative Extension Service of the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA).
Normal Agricultural Operation
A normal agricultural planting, harvesting, post-harvest manipulation, or agricultural practice that is conducted in accordance with official recommendations of State Extension Specialists of the Cooperative Extension Service of the USDA.
Normal Soil Stabilization Practice
A planting for agricultural soil erosion control or post-mining land reclamation conducted in accordance with official recommendations of State Extension Specialists of the Cooperative Extension Service of the USDA for agricultural soil erosion control.
The alteration of natural vegetation or agricultural crops by activities that include but are not limited to mowing, shredding, discing, rolling, chopping, trampling, flattening, burning or herbicide treatments. The term manipulation does not include the distributing or scattering of grain, seed, or other feed after removal from or storage on the field where grown.
Any non-agricultural, native, or naturalized plant species that grows at a site in response to planting or from existing seeds or other propagules. The term natural vegetation does not include planted millet. However, planted millet that grows on its own in subsequent years after the year of planting is considered natural vegetation.
It is legal to take migratory game birds including waterfowl, coots and cranes, on or over the following lands or areas that are not otherwise baited areas
- Standing crops or flooded standing crops (including aquatics);
- Standing, flooded, or manipulated natural vegetation; flooded harvested croplands; or lands or areas where seeds or grains have been scattered solely as the result of a normal agricultural planting, harvesting, post-harvest manipulation or normal soil stabilization practice;
- From a blind or other place of concealment camouflaged with natural vegetation;
- From a blind or other place of concealment camouflaged with vegetation from agricultural crops, as long as such camouflaging does not result in the exposing, depositing, distributing or scattering of grain or other feed; or
- Standing or flooded standing agricultural crops where grain is inadvertently scattered solely as a result of a hunter entering or exiting a hunting area, placing decoys, or retrieving downed birds.It is legal to take migratory game birds, EXCEPT waterfowl, coots and cranes, on or over lands or areas that are not otherwise baited areas, and where grain or other feed has been distributed or scattered solely as the result of manipulation of an agricultural crop or other feed on the land where grown, or solely as the result of a normal agricultural operation.
Wanton Waste Of Migratory Game Birds
No person shall kill or cripple any migratory game bird without making a reasonable effort to retrieve the bird, and retain it in his actual custody, at the place where taken or between that place and either (a) his automobile or principal means of land transportation; or (b) his personal abode or temporary or transient place of lodging; or (c) a migratory bird preservation facility; or (d) a post office; or (e) a common carrier facility.
Opening Day Of A Season
No person on the opening day of the season shall possess any freshly killed migratory game birds in excess of the daily bag limit, or aggregate daily bag limit, whichever applies.
Custody Of Birds Of Another
No person shall receive or have in custody any migratory game birds belonging to another person unless such birds are properly tagged.
Termination Of Possession
Subject to all other requirements of this part, the possession of birds taken by any hunter shall be deemed to have ceased when such birds have been delivered by him to another person as a gift; or have been delivered by him to a post office, a common carrier, or a migratory bird preservation facility and consigned for transport by the Postal Service or a common carrier to some person other than the hunter.
Gift Of Migratory Game Birds
No person may receive, possess or give to another, any freshly killed migratory game birds as a gift, except at the personal abodes of the donor or donee, unless such birds have a tag attached, signed by the hunter who took the birds, stating such hunter’s address, the total number and species of birds and the date such birds were taken.
Field Possession Limit
No person shall possess, have in custody, or transport more than the daily bag limit or aggregate daily bag limit, whichever applies, of migratory game birds, tagged or not tagged, at or between the place where taken and either (a) his automobile or principal means of land transportation; or (b) his personal abode or temporary or transient place of lodging; or (c) a migratory bird preservation facility; or (d) a post office; or (e) a common carrier facility.
No person shall give, put or leave any migratory game birds at any place or in the custody of another person unless the birds are tagged by the hunter with the following information:
- The hunter’s name and signature.
- The hunter’s address.
- The total number of birds involved, by species.
- The dates such birds were killed.Tagging is required if the birds are being transported by another person for the hunter or if the birds have been left for cleaning, storage (including temporary storage), shipment or taxidermy services. (Migratory Bird Possession Tags are provided on Possession Tags and may be used for such purposes.)
Possession of Live Birds
Wounded birds reduced to possession shall be immediately killed and included in the daily bag limit.
No person shall completely field dress any migratory game bird (except mourning doves, white-winged doves and band-tailed pigeons) and then transport the bird from the field. The head or one fully-feathered wing must remain attached to all such birds while being transported from the field to one’s home or to a migratory bird preservation facility.
Nontoxic Shot Regulations & Zone Descriptions
No person shall take migratory game birds while possessing shot other than steel or other approved shot. This restriction applies only to ducks, geese, brant, swans and coots.
No person shall ship migratory game birds unless the package is marked on the outside with:
- the name and address of the person sending the birds,
- the name and address of the person to whom the birds are being sent and
- the number of birds, by species, contained in the package.
For information regarding the importation of migratory birds killed in another country, hunters should consult 50 CFR 20.61 through 20.66. One fully-feathered wing must remain attached to all migratory game birds being transported between a port of entry and one’s home or to a migratory bird preservation facility. No person shall import migratory game birds killed in a foreign country, EXCEPT Canada, unless such birds are dressed (EXCEPT as required in 20.63), drawn and the head and feet are removed. No person shall import migratory game birds belonging to another person.
License, Permit & Stamp Requirements
All persons hunting migratory birds must have a valid basic hunting license or equivalent combination license. In addition:
- Persons 16 years of age and older who hunt migratory birds must have a Harvest Information Program (HIP) certification on their person while hunting. Migratory birds include mourning and white-winged doves, snipe, woodcock, rails, gallinules, ducks, geese and coots. The HIP certification can be obtained free of charge from any hunting license vendor upon completion of a short questionnaire.
- Persons 16 years of age and older who hunt ducks and geese must have a Migratory Bird Hunting Conservation Stamp (Federal Duck Stamp) that is signed in ink across the face, on their person while hunting.
- Residents 16-59 years of age and non-residents 16 years of age and older must have a general hunting license and state duck license in their possession while hunting ducks, geese and coots.
Violation of state migratory bird regulations is also a violation of federal regulations.
Federal regulations related to migratory game birds are located in Title 50, Code of Federal Regulations,
Caution: More restrictive regulations may apply to National Wildlife Refuges open to public hunting. For additional information on Federal regulations, contact U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Special Agent:
- LaCombe 985-882-3756
- Metairie 504-219-8870Call your regional enforcement office for more information on regulations.