Shipping Birds: Feathers, Beaks and a Whole Lotta Paperwork

Cockatiel No one ever said pet shipping was easy, and when it comes to shipping birds, things can definitely get pretty tricky. The amount of paperwork involved in flying a feathered friend overseas is usually quite extensive. 

We recently moved Pipi, a very cute cockatiel, from New York City to Nagoya, Japan. His owners were thrilled to see him, and sent us this note shortly after he arrived:

Pipi has arrived 10 minutes ago. Now he is eating food and looks so happy. My son is so excited to see him. Of course, I'm so happy to see him!!!!! Thank you so much for your support to import my family member Pipi.


Eiko and Pipi

So what exactly is involved in flying a bird to Japan or another country? People sometimes jokingly ask us, “Can't they just fly themselves?” Unfortunately, your bird will need to rely on good old fashioned air travel just like you to move overseas.

Here's a quick rundown of things to keep in mind if you're shipping a bird:


1.  The Right Type of Bird Travel Crate

We talk a lot about pet travel crates being an important first step in the process, and it's no different for birds. If you're planning on flying your bird, you'll need to comply by IATA's Live Animal Regulations (LAR). What this means for birds is that the crate typically offers them some sort of perch, has openings for ventilation that aren't too big for them to get a beak or a wing outside of, and provides them with food and water.

We make custom bird crates here at our offices, which consists of purchasing a small dog or cat travel crate (depending on the size of the bird we're shipping) and attaching a store bought perch to the inside of the crate wall. We then cover the ventilation holes and door with very fine pieces of wire mesh that we attach securely with plastic zip ties. Since privacy is important to birds, we make detachable “curtains” by cutting out strips of burlap that we attach to the outside of the crate with Velcro.

Add a couple of dishes to the crate door and line the floor with a piece of newspaper and you've got a first-class bird crate ready to go! Don't forget to start getting your bird used to being in the crate well in advance of his move.

2.  Check Your Bird's CITES Status

The Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species, or CITES, protects not only endangered species but other exotic species that might be subject to endangerment if their trade is not controlled. If you are moving with an exotic species internationally and your pet is listed as a CITES protected species, you'll need to make sure you have the right permits ahead of time. 

Departing from the United States, pet owners will also need to have their pet inspected and permits issued by the US Fish & Wildlife Service prior to departure as well. It takes about 6-7 months to obtain the documentation required to safely and legally ship a CITES species, so we advise people who are planning to hire our services to move their exotic pets to contact us as soon as they can. 

In the case of our friend Pipi, he is one of the three parrot species not listed as a CITES species, so we were able to avoid the lengthy CITES permitting process.  Cockatiels, budgies and peach-faced lovebirds are all exempt from CITES regulations. Other popular parrots like African greys, cockatoos and macaws are all protected by CITES.

3.  Know the Pre-Export and Post-Import Requirements

This is perhaps the hardest step of moving a bird internationally—you not only have to know the export requirements for the country you're departing from but also the import requirements for your destination country. Pipi, for example, had to originate from a region free of Avian Influenza and be kept in an “embarkation quarantine facility” for 21 days prior to departure to prevent entry of mosquitoes. 

Other countries, like Singapore, may require additional paperwork that must be completed within a certain time frame before the flight.

If you get stuck, contact us. We've helped many birds travel safely and we're happy to help you!


Editor's Note: This post was originally published in January 2010 and has been updated with new information. (Photo Credit: Andrew Fysh/Flickr)


PetRelocation Team


Air Travel, Airlines, Ask the Experts





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By Raymond Everson on December 7, 2018 at 5:46 am

Chester—a 14.5 yr old Greenwing is my best mate. I’m considering a long term move to Greece. He’s a big boy: 1300gm before a big meal ;-). Had him since he hatched in N Florida.Love your crate idea. Thing is he’s so big, US air carriers I’ve contacted were not cooperative.He has a certificate of origin, his vet is a pretty famous Board certified Avian Vet.Can you get me pointed in the right direction? Even help facilitate? What end-to-end costs are we talking?

By Maegan at PetRelocation on December 10, 2018 at 9:51 am

Hi Raymond! Chester will need documentation from the USDA and US Fish & Wildlife. Currently, it is our peak season at PetRelocation and our team is not able to accept any new exotic animal relocations. Hopefully these links get you started on your research!

By edrees on November 24, 2018 at 11:12 pm

Hello I was wondering if its possible to export a green cheek conure from Australia to USA. Will there be extra paperwork? I live in the USA but if I were to buy a bird from Australia would I have to go through an extensive process as well?

By Maegan at PetRelocation on November 27, 2018 at 4:00 pm

Hi Edrees! It is possible to import a bird from Australia to the US, however, it will be a very extensive paperwork & logistics process. If we can be of assistance, please let us know!

By carlos on November 7, 2018 at 8:49 pm

Hello, can you relocate a pair of Chocoyo Parrot (Half-Moon Conure) from El Salvador to Canada. Also what kind of papers do I need.Thank youCarlos

By Maegan at PetRelocation on November 13, 2018 at 2:54 pm

Hi Carlos! You'll want to consult with the CFIA. However before issuance can be considered, you'll need to create an original signed declaration, stating the following:

- The birds have been in your personal possession, in the country of origin, for the 90 days immediately prior to your applying for the import permit. (Proof of ownership must be provided.)
- The birds have not been in contact with any other birds while in your possession. Neither you nor members of your family have imported pet birds into Canada during the preceding 90 days.
- You will personally accompany the birds from the country of origin to Canada.

Hope this helps!

By BK on September 21, 2018 at 2:12 pm

Hello there! My husband and i have two parakeets that we’d need to bring from New York to Switzerland (Geneva). My husband would bring them with him in Oct-Nov as he plans to join me in Switzerland. Though they are not subject to CITES requirements there seems to be a need for 30 day quarantine and paperwork/certificates. Would you be able to help us bring them to Switzerland (including arranging their paperwork/certificates/quarantine) and if yes how long before departure should we get in contact with you?

By Maegan at PetRelocation on September 21, 2018 at 4:31 pm

Hi BK! You are correct, there is still government endorsements & port inspections even though not all parakeets are considered CITES. We typically need about 3-6 months for relocating pets (subject to capacity). If you'd like more information, feel free to fill out our Arrange A Move form and a consultant can reach out to you. Looking forward to speaking with you!

By Chad on September 12, 2018 at 4:19 am

I need to relocate my Red-lored Amazon parrot (not CITES-listed, fortunately) from the US to Malaysia. Any specific tips?

By Maegan at PetRelocation on September 12, 2018 at 2:49 pm

Hi Chad! Thanks for the question! When importing birds from the US, birds need a U.S. Fish and Wildlife inspection on the origin side (even thought it's non CITES). We've only relocated dogs & cats to Malaysia but are happy to help. This will take a bit of research on our end so if you'd like help with your bird's relocation, feel free to fill out our Arrange a Move form here and a representative will reach out to you soon. Thanks again!

By Ajayy on September 5, 2018 at 6:11 am

Hello,Can you relocate a Lorikeet from Australia to the USA?Thanks

By Maegan at PetRelocation on September 7, 2018 at 1:18 pm

Hi Ajayy! Yes, the US does accept the importation for birds from Australia. If you'd like our assistance relocating your bird, please fill out our Arrange A Move form here and a consultant will reach out to you soon. Thanks!

By SG on September 2, 2018 at 11:33 am

I am relocating back to India and need to take my 2 Indian ring-neck parrots with me. How do I go about it? Thanks

By Maegan at PetRelocation on September 4, 2018 at 11:21 am

Hi SG! Because of the avian flu, unfortunately, birds are not allowed to be imported into India at this time. I'm sorry to be the bearer of bad news!

By salman nader on August 26, 2018 at 11:45 am

hey i have an alexandar parakeet i wish to transport it from eygpt to germany can you tell me what to do? message me as soon as possible. and i wish to transport it as soon as possible

By Christina at PetRelocation on August 28, 2018 at 1:04 pm

Hi Salman!

You can import your parakeet from Egypt to Germany, but because the Alexandrine Parakeet is a CITES protected bird, it will require extra paperwork, expense, and time. You can learn more about the bird import requirements from outside the EU here. If you would like a relocation consultant to contact you to discuss this move, please fill out this form at your convenience. Thank you!

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