by Dave Manuwal

The Migratory Bird Hunting and Conservation Act was passed by Congress on March 16, 1934 in response to the nation-wide drought and reduction in waterfowl populations. This legislation requires each waterfowl hunter 16 years of age or older to possess a valid Federal hunting stamp (“duck stamp”) along with a state hunting license. In later years, each state required hunters to purchase a state-issued duck stamp to be affixed to the hunting license. Receipts from the sale of the federal stamp are deposited in a special Treasury account known as the Migratory Bird Conservation Fund.

Funds appropriated under the Wetland Loan Act as amended, are merged with duck stamp receipts and provided to the Secretary of the Interior for the acquisition of migratory bird refuges and other wetland habitat. The original price of the stamp was set at $1, and the price was increased to $2 by 1949, and raised to $5, $7.50, and eventually to the current $25. This reflects the increasing cost of wetland acquisition.

The Postal Service prints, issues and sells the stamp and is reimbursed for its expenses from money in the fund. Public Law 94-215, approved February 17, 1976, amended the Act to allow, among other things, the sale of stamps at places other than post offices and authorized consignments to “retail dealers.”

While there is no official way to tell if someone who purchased a stamp did so for hunting or conservation, purchasing from the American Birding website allows for the ABA to keep some numbers on people purchasing stamps for birding. Visit ABA’s store at

The 1976 amendment also changed the name of the stamp from “Migratory Bird Hunting Stamp” to “Migratory Bird Hunting and Conservation Stamp.”

A contest is held each year by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to select the design of the next year’s stamp.

On July 8, 1984, the 1934 Act was amended to authorize reproductions of the duck stamps and require that all resulting proceeds be deposited into the Migratory Bird Conservation Fund. It required that color reproductions be less than three-fourths or at least one and one-half times the linear size of the actual stamp.

Whether you hunt or not, the purchase of a duck stamp contributes to bird conservation and the preservation of valuable wetland habitat that is used by many animals and plants.