I found a beautiful bird-can you mount it for me?

As long as it is legal! Almost all birds in the U.S. are protected by the Migratory Bird Treaty Act of 1918. This means their parts are illegal to possess or sell (including feathers, feet, bones, eggs, etc.). It does not matter how the specimen is acquired-whether you found it dead, even if it is a found feather, a protected species is a protected species. It is a Federal law and penalties can include jail time, confiscation of the pieces, and huge fines upwards of $10,000. Institutions such as museums, colleges, and nature preserves can legally possess these birds with the proper paperwork. Exceptions are also made for Native Americans using the parts for ceremonial use (again, with permits). Currently, private individuals cannot get these licenses. Game birds are legal, as long as the proper paperwork is present (tags, hunting license, state specific papers). Although these specimen can be mounted, they cannot be sold/re-sold. Domestically raised birds are legal (again, the proper proof and paperwork are needed) and non native invasive species such as English House Sparrows, European Starlings, and feral pigeons are legal as well. If you find an MBTA protected bird and want to see it preserved, call your local wildlife department, Audubon Society, or natural history museum to see if they will collect it-though it may not be in your collection, it will be legally housed used for educational purposes. 

Antiques fall under a grey area, as it can be difficult to prove provenance and whether or not a piece was created before certain laws were in effect-the best advice I have for someone with antiques is to contact your local wildlife officers and get everything in writing.

These laws may seem tedious, but their purpose is to aid in the conservation of wildlife- which is a huge part of being a taxidermist. With the wide array of perfectly legal birds, there are plenty of options if you are looking to acquire a piece of beautiful bird taxidermy!

divya anantharaman