Let's talk about the Migratory Bird Act

I know, it's an odd thing to write a blog post about. It's also an Act that I never anticipated bumping up against. I don't go out and collect wild birds or their nests or their feathers, so why should I even think about it, right?

Let's back up and take a look at that osprey that is currently living in our front hall.

He's pretty cool, huh? Many of the children are completely enraptured with him. He also happens to be one of the few birds who is not covered under the Migratory Bird Act, and is why he is allowed to come to visit our house temporarily. I wonder how he feels about being one of the few birds left out? I don't know the actual number of birds not included in the treaty, but going by the exhibit birds available for check-out through the Harris Loan Box program (256 birds, by the way), there are exactly 12 which we can check out. We can check them out because they are not covered under the Migratory Bird Act. Evidently, unless an institution is public, such as a public school (or a Magnet School, which is a bit fuzzy in my opinion), these birds or anything related to these birds is not available. Yes, even though they are owned by the Field Museum and we private schools are merely borrowing them.

I did clarify with them. More than once. In fact, sometimes I feel more akin to Minnie Driver's character in the new TV show, Speechless, than I want to admit. (You need to watch it. I've already seen the pilot thanks to Amazon Prime.) There is one scene where the character is informed that the new school has already had a meeting to discuss how they will 'handle' her. I felt just a little bit this way when I went to pick up our bird. When I said my name, there seemed to be one of those pauses where the person I was talking to mentally says, "Oh, you're the one." And I did ask my private/public school question again. The answer was the same, for better or worse. No, not even a chi-chi private school can check-out birds and related items covered by the Migratory Bird Act. It probably also tells you a little about my general cynicism level that I still have trouble believing that a school, say North Shore Country Day or the Latin School or Francis Parker would be turned down if they came knocking. Because here's the thing. In Illinois, we have some pretty excellent homeschooling laws, and we are all considered private schools in the eyes of the government. I was all set to create my own set of school documents so I could bring home some of the experience boxes and birds, which, I might add, was the whole reason I paid for a Loan membership this year.

It just seems to me that this was not the intent of the law. I am not a lawyer so I do not have any idea what kind of flexibility this particular act allows in regards to something like this. I know that it is probably a windmill that I can tilt at all I like and will never fall, but still, it sticks in my craw a bit. (Yes, pun intended.) I think what peeved me the most is that the Harris staff didn't seem particularly concerned that this was a problem. A little less of  the too-bad-so-sad attitude and a little more genuine sympathy would have helped.


Anonymous said…
Wouldn't it come down to who the recipient is employed by? Public institutions are staffed by government employees, presumably. Should the item not be returned in proper condition (or returned at all), the government has some recourse because they entrusted one of their employees with the specimen.
I'm not going to debate the validity of the Act, but I feel that in terms of the law they are playing it out correctly.
thecurryseven said…
I see your point, and it makes sense. Sort of. But since I have trouble not playing devil's advocate, by that reasoning, if my husband or I were employed by the Federal Government, we should be allowed to check out items, because there would be recourse by our employer. And I don't believe the Field Museum is actually a government institution itself. It is allowed to have these items because it is an institute of learning. But then we're back to the private/public debate again.

I don't think you're wrong, you probably aren't. I just like to debate things, especially if I think they don't make logical sense. :-)

Lucy said…
Have you tried going to the US Fish and Wildlife Service to get a permit for educational use? Then you could flash your waiver at the Museum.... :-)
thecurryseven said…

This is absolutely brilliant! I just sent them an email to see if I can figure out how to go about this. I'll let you know what happens. Thank you!!


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