OC offers perspectives on upcoming bird regulations

The Ornithological Council offered testimony during a virtual listening session held by the United States Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) to gather information to assist in the development of regulations for birds not bred for use in research under the Animal Welfare Act (AWA).

The testimony offered by Laura Bies, Executive Director of the OC, noted that the additional regulations for birds not bred for research are not necessary, given the current level of regulations already in place for these birds and recommended that APHIS ensure that any additional burden on researchers is balanced by a commensurate increase in protection. Bies provided four recommendations for APHIS to consider as the rulemaking progresses:

  • Exclude wild birds studies in the wild from regulation
  • Exclude offspring of non-exempt birds that breed in captivity from regulation
  • Consult with experts regarding housing and husbandry standards
  • Exempt field surgery from regulation

OC also submitted more lengthy written testimony, providing additional details about our recommendations. Read more about the forthcoming regulations here and read OC’s comments here.

OC submits comments on field study guidance

The Ornithological Council submitted comments to the Animal Care program within USDA’s Animal Plant Health Inspection Service regarding guidance the program released last month, clarifying the definition of “field study “within the context of the Animal Welfare Act.

The draft policy aims to assist research institutions in determining whether an activity involving free-living wild animals in their natural habitat meets the regulatory definition of “field study.” The proposed policy describes criteria that research facilities could use to identify activities that are invasive, harmful, or that materially alter animal behavior, and provides examples of activities that are and are not field studies.

The comments submitted by the Ornithological Council note that, without clear guidance on what is or is not a field study, the application of the term – and thus whether or not the Animal Welfare Act applies to research – has been inconsistent in the past. It notes that the examples provided in the draft policy are helpful, but urges APHIS to go further and provide either definitions or examples of key terms within the definition of “field study.”

Read more about the draft policy here  and read OC’s comments here.

Update from the OC: Sept. 2020

While the COVID pandemic may have canceled field seasons, moved conferences online, and caused many of us to shelter at homes for prolonged periods, the Ornithological Council has been busy over the past several months. This update will give you a sense of what we’ve been up to…

Long-time Executive Director Ellen Paul retired in May and Laura Bies, formerly with The Wildlife Society, took her place. Now in a half-time position, Bies has been working to update the OC’s website, meet with key partners, and otherwise continue the important work that Paul had underway.

Recently, OC staff has worked to update the permitting information on our website. We have also released an updated version of A Guide to the Permits and Procedures for Importing Bird Products into the United State for Scientific Research and Display. This extensive guide, which was thoroughly updated this year, provides a step-by-step guide for ornithologists who are importing birds or bird products into the U.S. for research and display, including template documents and checklists to follow. The Import Guide is available to download for free from the Ornithological Council’s website at BIRDNET.org, as a service to the ornithological community.

We have also posted a number of articles on OrnithologyExchange recently, to keep ornithologists up to date on policy issues that may affect them. You can read them all in the ‘News From the Ornithological Council’ forum.

If you have a question about a permitting or animal welfare issue, do not hesitate to reach out to the Ornithological Council. We’re available to help members of our ten societies navigate challenges with securing the necessary permits for their work or with gaining IACUC approval for their research.

The Ornithological Council has recently faced financial challenges, related mostly to the withdrawal from the OC of the American Ornithological Society on July 1. While their exit has had large financial repercussions for the OC, we have adjusted staffing and the services we offer so that the OC can continue to serve the ornithological community. However, we still need your help. If you’d like to support our important work, please visit our website, BIRDNET.org, and scroll down to the ‘donate’ button at the bottom of the screen – or simply follow this link. We truly appreciate your contributions, as they allow us to continue to serve the ornithological community. 

July/August NewsBrief

The Ornithological Council is pleased to provide this bimonthly report covering activities during July and August 2020.

The Ornithological Council seeks to

  • Ensure that the best ornithological science is incorporated into legislative, regulatory, and management decisions that affect birds;
  • Enhance the ability of ornithologists to pursue professional activities; and
  • Promote the influence of ornithology in public affairs.

Our work focuses on animal welfare issues, permits, research funding, and other policies that affect ornithologists and ornithological societies. We greatly appreciate your support.Please contact our Executive Director with questions or concerns about this report or about any other matter of concern to your society or your society’s members. 

In this time period, the Ornithological Council:

1. Completed a major revision to the Guide to the Permits and Procedures for Importing Bird Products into the United States for Scientific Research and Display. This extensive resource was last updated in 2010 and since that time many agency procedures have changed. The updated import guide was released today.

2. Updated the Ornithological Council’s website, BIRDNET.org, specifically the permits section. Added information regarding Endangered Species Act and CITESpermits. Completely updated the 50 pages detailing the requirements for all U.S. States.

3. Submitted comments to the Department of the Interior in response to the draft Environmental Impact Statement analyzing the administration’s new rule limiting the scope of the Migratory Bird Treaty Act to exclude incidental take.

4. Posted on Ornithology Exchange regarding the Bird-Safe Building Act, our comments on the MBTA DEIS, the USFWS proposed definition of habitat, the MBTA district court case, the USFWS’s reduction of critical habitat for the Northern Spotted Owl, the OC policy change to limit individual assistance, and APHIS restrictions on Australian imports. All these updates, and more, are always available on the ‘News From the OC’ forum on Ornithological Exchange.

5. Held virtual meetings with staff from the USGS Bird Banding Lab, to introduce new ED Bies and get to know staff.  Meetings between OC and the BBL will be held quarterly moving forward, to ensure open communication.

6. Explored a new policy which would limit individual assistance from the OC staff to individuals who are members of the 10 OC societies. Learn more here.

7. Provided individual assistance to 2 individuals regarding permits and 1 individual regarding animal welfare.  Names and society affiliations available upon request.

As always, we appreciate your support of the Ornithological Council!

The Ornithological Council releases updated Import Guide

The Ornithological Council has released an updated version of A Guide to the Processes and Procedures for Importing Bird Products into the United State for Scientific Research and Display. This extensive guide, which was thoroughly updated this year, provides a step-by-step guide for ornithologists importing birds or bird products into the U.S. for research and display, including template documents and checklists to follow.

The Import Guide is available to download for free from the Ornithological Council’s website at BIRDNET.org, as a service to the ornithological community.

It contains sections on the import permitting requirements of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, USDA APHIS, and the Centers for Disease Control, as well as information about planning your travel and how to ship your specimen. It leads the ornithologist through the entire process, from paperwork to port and beyond. In addition to the hard-and-fast rules and requirements, this guide also offers best practices and helpful hints.

The guide will be updated regularly as agency permitting requirements change, keeping ornithologists in compliance with the many laws and regulations governing the import of bird products. If you have any questions after reading the Import Guide or find areas that require further clarification, please contact Laura Bies (laurabiesoc@gmail.com), Executive Director of the Ornithological Council

About the Ornithological Council

The Ornithological Council is a consortium of 10 scientific societies of ornithologists; these societies span the Western Hemisphere and the research conducted by their members spans the globe. Their cumulative expertise comprises the knowledge that is fundamental and essential to science-based bird conservation and management.  The Ornithological Council is financially supported by our ten member societies and the individual ornithologists who value our work. If the OC’s resources are valuable to you, please consider joining one of our member societies or donating to the OC directly. Thank you for your support!