As the editor of the California Foundation for Birds of Prey newsletter, I’ve been researching bird feathers to write an article about them. I suggested we do an article about the fact that it is illegal, with few notable exceptions for those with federal permits including Native Americans, to possess, let alone sell, barter, trade, or any other nefarious thing a person might do with any feather of a bird covered by the Migratory Bird Treaty Act of 1918 and its amendments as well as several subsequent protective laws. There are few species of birds not covered by that act (house sparrows, starlings, pigeons, e.g., are not covered). The law resulted directly from world wide outrage over the destruction of bird populations to provide the millinery industry’s need for showy bird feathers on women’s hats, especially during and following the Victorian era. Ironically, the wanton destruction of birds for millinery use ended, not so much as a result of MBTA and similar laws in Great Britain, but more because feathered hats fell from fashion when women cut their hair into bobs during the Roaring Twenties.

I’m still working on the article but to illustrate it, I took a photograph of what I believe might be a great horned owl feather I picked up on a walk in my neighborhood before I knew I shouldn’t have done it. I only recently discovered that to do so is an illegal act. I guess I am a scofflaw. At least I now know to leave those feathers where they lay and, from now on, I will, as they say, take only pictures and leave only footprints…and sometimes, not even footprints!

I took this shot in natural light by a north facing window using a tripod, the D800 and the 24-70mm lens.

Focal Length 70mm, ISO 100, f/8, 1/5s


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