Scientific collecting (federal)

(check state permits,too)


Federal scientific collecting permits are required for birds, parts of birds, eggs, and nests for scientific research, for any species covered by the Migratory Bird Treaty Act. This includes blood samples, feathers, stomach and crop contents, tissue samples, cloacal and tracheal swabs. However, blood and feathers can be collecting under a bird banding permit if the samples are to be taken in conjunction with banding/marking. Specify, when applying for the banding permit, that you would also like to take blood and/or feather samples. If you are not planning to band/mark the bird, you must obtain a scientific collecting permit.

Application forms

Apply through the USFWS epermit system or download the form here.

Pro tip: when applying for your scientific collecting permit, request authority to import and export samples if you also plan to  move samples internationally for analysis and research. Requesting this authority when applying for the original permit obviates the need for later amendments, saving time and money! The Migratory Bird Treaty Act application form provides for a request to import and export.

Pro tip: when applying for your scientific collecting permit, be sure to request salvage authority so you won’t need a separate permit for salvage … saves time & money. The application form provides for a request for salvage authority.

See here for additional requirements for species protected under the Endangered Species Act.

Note: to import or export research samples under the Endangered Species Act, a separate permit is needed. See the Ornithological Council’s Import Guide.

Limits on take

The USFWS regulations set no specific limits on take. For many years, permit biologists limited take to three individuals per species per year. After extensive discussions with the Ornithological Council, USFWS staff in 1997 drafted a policy on scientific collecting that raised the limit to 10 individuals per species per year for species on the USFWS list of Birds of Conservation Concern  unless specific justification is given for a higher number. Otherwise, the limit would be fifty individuals per year per species, unless specific justification is given for a higher number. As of 2010, this draft policy had not yet been finalized. Some USFWS regions have nonetheless been following the policy while others have not. The Ornithological Council has asked the USFWS to finalize the policy. Meanwhile, ornithologists who face permit challenges should contact the Ornithological Council for assistance.

Link to the regulations implementing MBTA permits: 50 CFR Part 21