Migratory Bird General Regulations
Federal Regulations Overview
In addition to state regulations, the following federal rules apply to the taking, possession, shipping, transporting and storing of migratory game birds.
Caution: The following material is only a summary. Each hunter should also consult the actual Federal Regulations, which may be found in Title 50, Code of Federal Regulations, Part 20, available at
Illegal Hunting Methods
No persons 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, fish hook, poison, drug, explosive, or stupefying substance;
- With a shotgun of any description capable of holding more than three shells, unless it is plugged with a one-piece filler, incapable of removal without disassembling the gun, so its total capacity does not exceed three shells.
- From or by means, aid, or use of a sinkbox or any other type of low floating device, having a depression affording the hunter a means of concealment beneath the surface of the water;
- From or by means, aid, or use of any motor vehicle, motor-driven land conveyance, or aircraft of any kind, except that paraplegics and persons missing one or both legs may take from any stationary motor vehicle or stationary motor-driven land conveyance;
- From or by means of any motorboat or other craft having a motor attached, or any sailboat, unless the motor has been completely shut off and/or the sails furled, and its progress there from 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 use or aid of recorded or electrically amplified bird calls or sounds, or recorded or electrically amplified imitations of bird calls or sounds.
- By means or aid of any motor driven land, water, or air conveyance, or any sailboat used for the purpose of or resulting in the concentrating, driving, rallying, or stirring up of any migratory bird.
- By the aid of baiting, or on or over any baited area, where a person knows or reasonably should know that the area is or has been baited.
What Terms Do I Need To Understand?
Daily Bag Limit
You can take only one daily bag limit in any one day. This limit determines the maximum number of gamebirds of a single species, or combination of species, you may legally have in your possession while in the field or while in route back to your car, hunting camp, home or other destination.
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.
The maximum number of migratory game birds of a single species, or a combination of species, permitted to be possessed by any one person.
Aggregate Possession Limit
The maximum number of migratory game birds of a single species, or combination of species, taken in the United States permitted to be possessed by any one person when taking and possession occurs in more than one specified geographic area for which a possession limit is prescribed. The aggregate possession limit is equal to, but shall not exceed, the largest possession limit prescribed for any one of the species or specified geographic areas in which taking and possession occurs.
You cannot put or leave migratory game birds at any place or in the custody of another person unless you tag the birds with your signature, address, number of birds identified by species and the date you killed them.
You must make a responsible effort to retrieve all migratory game birds that you kill or cripple and keep these birds in your actual custody while in the field. You must immediately kill any wounded birds that you retrieve and count those birds toward your daily bag limit.
You cannot hunt migratory game birds that have been concentrated, driven, rallied or stirred up with a motorized vehicle or sailboat.
You cannot completely field-dress migratory game birds before taking them from the field. The head or one fully-feathered wing must remain attached to the birds while you transport them to your home or to a facility that processes waterfowl.
A violation of State migratory game birds hunting regulations is also a violation of Federal regulations.
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 clubhouse, 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 migratory game birds belonging to another person for purposes of picking, cleaning, freezing, processing, storage or shipment.
Federal law prohibits the killing of non-game migratory birds. Protected birds that you could encounter while waterfowl hunting include songbirds, eagles, hawks, owls, vultures, herons, egrets and woodpeckers.
If You Shoot a Banded Migratory Bird
If you have found or harvested a banded bird, please report it at www.reportband.gov. You’ll need the band number, or numbers if the bird has more than one band. You’ll also need to know where, when and how you recovered the bird. Your contact information will be requested in case there are any questions. The U.S. Geological Survey’s Patuxent Bird Banding Lab will send you a certificate of appreciation that includes information about the sex, age and species of the bird, and where and when it was banded. You may keep the band. Please note: Even if the band you recover is inscribed with a 1-800 telephone number, as of July 2, 2017, you can only report it at www.reportband.gov.
Wanton Waste And Trespass
The requirement to retrieve downed migratory birds does not allow you to trespass onto the lands of another.
If you hunt near property lines, you are placing yourself at risk of committing wanton waste or trespass.