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Federal Migratory Bird Regulations

In addition to state regulations, the following federal rules apply to taking, possessing, shipping, transporting, and storing migratory game birds. This is only a summary. Each hunter should also consult actual regulations, which may be found in Title 50, Code of Federal Regulations, Part 20.


No person shall take migratory game birds:

  • With a shotgun capable of holding more than three shells, unless it is plugged with a one- piece filler which cannot be removed without disassembling the gun.
  • From or with the aid or use of a car or other motor-driven vehicle, or any aircraft, except that paraplegic and single or double amputees of the legs may take from any stationary motor vehicle. “Paraplegic” means an individual afflicted with paralysis of the lower half of the body with involvement of both legs, usually due to disease or injury to the spinal cord.
  • From or by means of any motor boat or sail boat 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 decoys. All live, tame or captive ducks and geese shall be removed for a period of 10 consecutive days prior to hunting and confined within an enclosure which substantially reduces the audibility of their calls and totally conceals such tame birds from the sight of migratory waterfowl.
  • Using recordings of migratory bird sounds, or electronically amplified imitations of bird calls.
  • By driving, rallying or chasing birds with any motorized conveyance or any sail boat to put them in range of hunters.
  • By the aid of baiting (placing feed such as corn, wheat, salt or other feed to constitute a lure or enticement), or on or over any baited areas.
  • Hunters should be aware that a baited area is considered to be baited for 10 days after the removal of the bait, and it is not necessary for the hunter to know an area is baited to be in violation.

Closed Season

No person shall take migratory game birds during the closed season.

Shooting or Falconry Hours

No person shall take migratory game birds except during the hours open to shooting and falconry as prescribed.

Daily Bag Limit

No person shall take more than one daily bag limit per day.

Field Possession Limit

No person shall possess more than one daily bag limit while in the field or while returning from the field to one’s car, hunting camp, home, etc.

Wanton Waste

All migratory game birds killed or crippled shall be retrieved, if possible, and retained in the custody of the hunter in the field.


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 signature, address, the total number of birds involved by species and the dates such birds were killed. No person or business shall receive or have in custody any migratory game birds belonging to another person unless such birds are properly tagged.

Possession of Live Birds

Wounded birds reduced to possession shall be immediately killed and included in the daily bag limit.

Dual Violation

Violation of state migratory bird regulations is also a violation of federal regulations.


No person shall completely field dress any migratory game bird (except doves and band-tailed pigeons) and then transport the birds 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.


No person shall ship migratory game birds unless the package is marked on the outside with: (a) the name and address of the person sending the birds, (b) the name and address of the person to whom the birds are being sent, and (c) 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 any foreign country, except Canada, unless such birds are dressed (except as required above), drawn and the head and feet are removed. No person shall import migratory game birds belonging to another person.

Federal Migratory Bird Hunting and Conservation Stamp

The law requires that each waterfowl hunter, 16 years of age and over, must carry on his or her person a valid Federal Migratory Bird Hunting and Conservation Stamp (Federal Duck Stamp) signed in ink across the face.


More restrictive regulations may apply to National Wildlife Refuges open to public hunting. For additional information on federal regulations, contact:

Special Agent-in-Charge,

U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service,

RM 132-C, U.S. Courthouse,

801 Broadway, Nashville, TN 37203

Telephone: 615-736-5532

Reporting Banded Birds

The USGS Patuxent Bird Banding Laboratory (BBL) encourages hunters to report banded birds. Band reports must be submitted through the mobile-friendly website,, by persons in the US and other countries, aside from Canada.

The BBL encourages everyone reporting a band to use After a report is submitted, the date and location where the bird was originally banded is provided and a Certificate of Appreciation along with additional banding details (date, location of banding) will be sent via email.

Capturing and banding birds requires considerable effort, and documenting recovery or re-sighting of banded birds is essential to profit from that effort. Band recovery data are the basis for improving the conservation and knowledge of bird populations in North America. Please help the BBL and its many partners, by continuing to report your band recoveries.

To Report Recovered Duck and Goose Bands:

Special Regulations

Plugged Shotguns

No person shall hunt migratory game birds, except crows, with a shotgun of any description capable of holding more than three (3) 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 (3) shells.

Legal Shot

All federally approved non-toxic shot (bismuth-tin, steel, tungsten-bronze, tungsten-iron, tungsten-matrix, tungsten-nickel-iron, tungsten-polymer, tungsten-tin-bismuth or tungsten-tin- iron-nickel) are legal for waterfowl and sandhill crane hunting. A complete list is available at

Possession or use of any loose shot other than non-toxic shot or any shotgun shells other than non-toxic while hunting waterfowl, sandhill cranes, coots, gallinules, Virginia rails and sora rails is prohibited.