The Migratory Bird Treaty Act of 1918 (MBTA) makes it illegal for anyone to

take, possess, import, export, transport, sell, purchase, barter, or offer for sale, purchase, or barter, any migratory bird, or the parts, nests, or eggs of such a bird except under the terms of a valid permit

The US Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) has authority over the MBTA, which was initially passed to implement conventions for the protection of birds between the US and Canada, Mexico, Russia, and Japan.

Birds Protected by the MBTA

The Migratory Bird Treaty Reform Act of 2004 updated the criteria for species to be protected by the MBTA to include:

“all species native to the United States or its territories, which are those that occur as a result of natural biological or ecological processes.”

The MBTA does not include:

“nonnative species whose occurrences in the US are solely the result of intentional or unintentional human-assisted introduction.”

In California, the species that are typically not covered by the MBTA include house sparrow (Passer domesticus), European starling (Sturnus vulgaris), and rock pigeon (Columba livia). Other introduced species, such as parrots, are also not protected by the MBTA.