Bird feathers should never be picked up with unwashed hands as this exposes you to bacteria which could result in both short- and long-term health problems. Therefore, gloves should always be used when handling feathers and afterwards the hands should be washed for optimal hygiene.
Be mindful that certain bird feathers are federally protected under The Migratory Bird Treaty Act; thus it is unlawful to bring them home!
Table of Contents
Do Not Assume They Are Clean
Birds typically shed their feathers each summer in preparation to molt and prepare to lose them for winter, making the temptation of collecting these fallen feathers tempting. Although picking them up might seem harmless enough, birds carry bacteria, parasites and viruses which could potentially transfer onto your hands when handling food or another person’s faces – the chances of being sick from a feather may be minimal, but it is wiser to be safe than sorry!
Feathers are covered with tiny barbs and barbule hooks that prevent water droplets from seeping through, making it harder for it to come into contact with its surface and cause disease; but touching a wet feather could still be dangerous. Bird feathers feature bumpy surfaces designed to keep water away from their skin while remaining warm and dry, though this makes it harder for you to clean wet feathers effectively.
Keep in mind that wild birds are protected by law; this is due to how early in our country’s history many native bird species were hunted and killed nearly to extinction, prompting conservation laws to help their populations rebound.
So it is illegal to collect any part of a wild animal including bird feathers unless you know which species it comes from. If you come across one and are uncertain of its source, visit Fish and Wildlife Service’s Feather Atlas website to aid with identification process – you’ll be able to browse high resolution scans of primary flight feathers on this site to help identify which bird it might belong to.
Feather Atlas website is an invaluable tool if you plan on collecting bird feathers to use in crafts or art projects. After collecting feathers, it is best to freeze them once home to kill any parasites present and store them in a cedar closet or box until needed.
Feathers may contain bacteria and viruses that could infiltrate your hands when picking up bird feathers, potentially making you sick with serious conditions like colds or flus. Therefore, it’s crucial that gloves be worn when collecting feathers from birds before washing your hands thoroughly afterwards.
Latex gloves are an ideal choice. You can purchase them in many supermarkets and hardware stores, while disposable gloves make things even simpler: after using them they can simply be thrown away after use! Not only can latex gloves protect hands from insects and mites, they’re more comfortable to hold than bare hands as well! It is highly advised to wear these when walking through wetland areas looking for feathers!
Legally possessing wild feathers may not be difficult, but it is essential that you understand your local laws regarding such possession. Under the Migratory Bird Treaty Act (MBTA), taking birds or their parts without a valid permit is prohibited – including most wild ducks and geese (but you may possess mallards). Furthermore, having feathers from upland game birds such as turkeys, grouse and pheasants that people hunt is illegal as well. Each state may also have different regulations in effect for legal possession of such objects as these birds.
If you intend to sell or distribute the feathers you collect, a permit from your local wildlife agency (US Fish and Wildlife Service in the US; International Birding Trade Association is another source) is also necessary.
If you are collecting feathers to study them, it is wise to note their color and shape in a notebook for later reference. Another way of collecting feathers would be asking neighbors with chickens or guineafowl to provide you with their shed feathers or finding an aviary who might offer you a few from their pet birds for sale.
Nature walks offer plenty of opportunity for discovery! Exploring new areas while searching for feathers can be both educational and entertaining; from finding them on the ground to looking up in trees – feathers reminding us of birds that once used them. However, it’s important to remember that feathers can contain bacteria or viruses harmful to humans that should not be handled directly.
Wash Your Hands
Although the risk of contracting disease from feathers is very small, it is always wise to wash your hands after touching any kind of feather. Feathers may contain bacteria, viruses and parasites if they are dead; this is particularly pertinent if your birds carry Asian avian flu which can be fatal.
Although identifying birds by looking at their feathers alone can be challenging, there are ways to gain this information. The Fish and Wildlife Service website allows people to upload high-resolution images of primary flight feathers from many migratory birds and then scientists match these images with specific species.
Birders looking to identify what’s in their collection as well as whether any species might be protected are sure to appreciate this invaluable tool. Even experienced birders can sometimes struggle to tell which bird a feather belongs to; therefore this tool provides invaluable assistance.
As with handling bird feathers, wearing gloves when handling them may also be recommended. Feathers could contain debris such as dirt or even parts from other birds that need to be collected safely. It would also be prudent only to collect feathers when you can be certain that they come from non-protected birds.
As another way of keeping feathers safe, place them in a freezer set at zero degrees Fahrenheit or -18 Celsius and leave for at least 48 hours, or longer if possible. The cold will kill any bugs living on them while moth balls containing naptha or paradichlorobenzene will also work, although moth balls tend to produce more smell than moth balls (naptha can kill bugs more effectively), while cedar chests provide wood oil which may help repel bugs as well.
When discovering large amounts of feathers in one area, it may be wise to notify local authorities. They could potentially come from birds infected with Avian Flu and it is illegal to possess their feathers without an official permit from authorities. Dead birds found on private property should also be reported so authorities can investigate and prevent further spread.
Dispose of the Feathers
When strolling along forest trails or beaches and encounter beautiful feathers provided by Ma Nature, resist the urge to pick them up with your bare hands! Even though they appear clean enough for handling with your hands alone, touching these objects with unwashed hands is dangerous as bacteria on them could be present and cause illness. Wash your hands after handling them as soon as possible with soap and sanitizer before continuing.
Your feathers can be beneficial in your garden, but before using them it is advisable to compost them first. Feathers contain nutrients which will support plant growth while also potentially introducing pathogens into the soil. To prevent this, it is wise to soak your feathers first in water prior to adding them to compost, which will allow them to break down and reduce pathogens in your soil.
Another solution would be burying feathers. Since these pieces are composed of beta-keratin (a fibrous and insoluble structural protein), burying them will hasten their decomposition process.
The poultry meat processing industry produces vast quantities of feather by-products every week worldwide, creating a significant solid waste issue which needs to be addressed and can contribute to pollution of land and underground water resources.
Flock feather collection of wild birds that are still alive is illegal due to many protected species like the Bald Eagle and Golden Eagle being included. Anyone found doing so could face fines and have their hunting license suspended if found collecting these feathers illegally.
Many will find it surprising, but it is actually illegal to possess and keep most native bird feathers found in the wild. According to the Migratory Bird Treaty Act and Eagle Protection Act, possessing, using or transporting the feathers, nests or eggs of over 800 species of birds – including most North American species but excluding non-native ones and game birds. Thus it would be prudent to respect their privacy by leaving them alone and respect their privacy.