Investigating the MBTA of 1918...interesting.

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10 Years
Apr 30, 2009
Central KY
So, here's the list -- the very, very, very long list -- of birds protected by the Migratory Bird Treaty Act of 1918..

Well, did you know that the MBTA also protects common crows, cowbirds, cardinals, sparrows, starlings, doves, magpies, mockingbirds, blue jays, barn swallows -- pretty much just pick up a "Birds of __________ (insert your state name here)" and flip through the index.. Chances are, everything in the doggone book is protected by federal law.

If that's the case...if sparrows and cardinals are protected by federal law...I was a federal offender by age 6 or 7, as I ended the life of many a "protected" bird with my Daisy Red Ryder BB gun.. For all the birds I killed as a youth, they should probably have just jacked the jail up and thrown me UNDER IT.

That brings me to my next tailed hawks (and pretty much every other hawk you can possibly think of) are also on the list..

Two questions:

1) Is the MBTA the only thing protecting hawks?


2) Given that I wouldn't worry AT ALL about killing a cowbird that's protected under the same MBTA the protects a hawk, why the heck should I worry about killing a hawk??

Just curious what you guys think...
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Here's what I THINK:
To be a good citizen we must obey ALL laws. Some laws are not good laws but that does not give us the right to break them. At least that is what I was taught back when we still had a civil society. We can work to change laws if we believe they are wrong. I firmly believe that most of our laws concerning wildlife are good. Most are passed after serious study or consultation with highly educated scientists or wildlife biologists.

We live under the rule of law. If we do not have laws we have anarchy. Another alternative is religous rule such as the Taliban or AlQuida have. I much prefere our system.
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hmmm...I'd probably only pause if I knew something was on the endangered list from a predator standpoint. Don't go starting a tribal wear conglomerate. Saw an interesting display at a local winery which I'm sure was intended to keep birds at bay...I'm old so I can't recall the colors but they definitely were eyeballs about the size of a basketball. Searched a little for some info on them but dunno what they're called and I'm on dial up so that endeavor didn't last long. Guess you'll have a heck of a time explaining your Daisy escapades to the ratings hungry media if you ever decide to run for president and break down from some grueling interrogation.
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I don't know about that law, but I know that many people trap and kill starlings and sparrows by the hundreds because they are non-native and envasive species! So I'm guessing that the law has been updated.

Perhaps back then some of those bird numbers were low. These days and for years you can hunt crows, shoot all the starlings you want and sparrows (at least here in Ma). AND, the dove is the most widely hunted bird in North America.

House Sparrows, European Starlings, and Rock Doves (feral pigeons) are some of the only birds that are not protected by Migratory Bird Act. In fact, I believe that many states offer a bounty for starlings.

There is also the Endangered Species Act (federal), which gives extra protection to endangered species on the ESA list.

Bald and Golden Eagles have extra protection from the Bald Eagle and Golden Eagle Protection Acts.

State laws vary. Here in CA we have the California Endangered Species act which lists endemic birds that are threatened and birds that are declining on a state-wide basis. Not sure if other states have similar laws or not.

I strongly agree with tackyrama. These laws are in place for good reason. Even if a bird is a common bird that may be considered a pest to us and in no current risk of being endangered, it is still an important part of our world in ways that we may not even be aware of. As John Muir said, "When one tugs at a single thing in nature, he finds it attached to the rest of the world". Some of America's greatest wealth and inherent beauty lies in its natural resources, and that includes its wildlife. That's my opinion on this matter.
Ok, so here's mostly why I started this discussion.. The ulterior motive, if you will...

What really fascinates me is how chicken owners -- myself included -- tend to really, really hate things like raccoons and possums and weasels and so forth and are inclined to dispatch one basically at the drop of a hat, yet....hawks, well, we just kinda deal with supposedly because it's illegal to kill a hawk..

For me personally...the legal prohibition is a total cop out.

If I looked out toward the barnyard and saw a raccoon up in a tree staring at my chickens, I'd shoot it. Period. If I saw a hawk on the same branch instead, I could do the same thing...but I wouldn't.

Yeah, it could swoop down at any moment and take a chicken, and yeah, I'd be super mad if it did take a chicken, and yeah, I could eliminate it without getting caught....but I still wouldn't. At least, not without a great deal of serious deliberation and subsequent guilt and regret..

The reason isn't the law, for me...the reason is because hawks are really...majestic? They're just neat.. They don't come off like nasty little scoundrels in the same way possums and coons do.. There's something regal about a hawk, and I just wonder if maybe that's the real reason chicken owners -- bird fanciers -- aren't blowing them out of the sky..

Anybody else wanna own up to that?
There's something regal about a hawk, and I just wonder if maybe that's the real reason chicken owners -- bird fanciers -- aren't blowing them out of the sky..

Anybody else wanna own up to that?

I will own up to being impressed by birds of prey and having a greater respect for them as compared to raccoons and opossums for example.

But when it comes to predators that pose a threat to my flock, my first inclination for all predators is to make it difficult enough for them to kill my chickens that they will give up and look for a meal somewhere else.

I dont want to kill a predator if I can deter it. That's just me. I have good fencing aound the property, dogs in the yard, netting over the run, and I'm planning to beef up defenses as my budget allows.​
I think you're right. For some reason killing a hawk seeems so much more atrocious than killing a raccoon. You'd think that after having dozens of chickens and entire flocks of pigeons killed by hawks and being extremely frustrated and angry on every occasion, that I'd want to trap, poison, shoot and kill every hawk that comes around. But not so. Birds of prey are just so awesome, I love to see them around, even if it means extra vigilance and the occasional chicken loss. But perhaps I'm biased, being a bird lover and all.
I know pigeon owners that got permits to kill hawks because of attacks on thier pigeons- this was years ago and I don't know how difficult such a permit (might have been termed depredation permit but don't really know the proper name of it) would be or if they are even issued any longer. Keystonepaul
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