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Birds Now Covered by the AWA / AWR: What Researchers Can Expect

Federal Regulations & Standards IACUC

Silhouette of birds on tree branch with USDA logo

On August 21, 2023, the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) amended the Animal Welfare Act and Animal Welfare Regulations (AWA / AWR) to include the oversight of birds. Consequently, some researchers performing animal research or teaching activities involving birds may be required to adhere to additional regulatory requirements.

Determining What is Now Covered by the Revised AWA / AWR

A simple first level consideration is to determine whether the birds being used were hatched in captivity (e.g., domesticated birds, birds acquired from an animal vendor, or birds hatched in the laboratory). Any bird hatched in captivity is considered “purpose bred” (bred for research) and is exempt from the new regulations.

If the birds were hatched in the wild, additional consideration must be given to the nature of the activities/procedures being performed. Use the illustrated decision tree below to help answer these questions and determine whether the animals – and the subsequent studies for which they are involved – are now covered by the AWA / AWR:

Next Steps for Studies Impacted by the Revised AWA / AWR

While these changes may impact how certain studies and species are regulated, it is important to note that the oversight processes for how animal activities are reviewed and approved by the Institutional Animal Care & Use Committee (IACUC) have not changed.

Instead, the regulations have been revised to more clearly articulate the IACUC’s roles and responsibilities for the oversight of certain studies involving birds. Studies that involve procedures or activities that the IACUC deems to be (1) invasive or (2) that may be expected to “materially alter the bird’s behavior” are now covered by the AWA / AWR.

Researchers whose studies are impacted by this change can expect enhanced:

  1. Recordkeeping requirements,
  2. Stipulations for housing birds in a continuous period that exceeds 12 hours,
  3. Environmental enrichment (e.g., housing social species together, use of approved environmental enrichment devices) to promote animal well-being,
  4. Transportation procedures, and
  5. Assessments for the provision of quality food and water.

Any protocol involving birds that is submitted to the IACUC for review and approval will be monitored to determine whether the revised regulations are applicable. If so, a member of the Animal Care & Use Office’s Quality Assurance (QA) Team will contact the Principal Investigator directly to ensure that all regulatory requirements have been met.


General questions may be directed to the QA Team at

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