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





Add a Comment

By Lizell Lee on March 14, 2017 at 12:10 am

Trying to ship a parrot from the Philippines to Manila how much would it be and what paperwork would I need.

By MD. Saluddin Aiuby on March 29, 2017 at 12:50 pm

can you shift birds like major mitchell cockatoo baby at Bangladesh?

By Alim Al Razi on October 15, 2017 at 3:12 pm

Hello Sir, we are international pet trader based in London. If you require any kind of birds please contact with us. We assuring you quality pet with standard price and service.RegardsRazi

By Sahjahan on November 18, 2017 at 8:16 am

Hi can you tell me where you guys located also I need to ship some birds to Bangladesh please can I get your contact number so I can get in touch

By Julie Akbar on April 1, 2017 at 10:56 am

Hello, I am trying to take my 2 year old male cockatiel to Wuhan, China from the U.S. Can you please advise?

By on April 17, 2017 at 10:19 am

Hi Julie, Based on our experience it's unlikely you'll be able to bring a bird directly to China (you will probably have to travel via Hong Kong instead). For reference, here are the import requirements for Hong Kong: Hope this helps! Just let us know if you'd like some help arranging your bird's move and good luck with everything.

By Dunhill Knapp belleza on April 3, 2017 at 5:11 am

How can I send to the Philippines my rooster what documents shoul I prepare.. And how much the cost thank you.

By on April 17, 2017 at 10:17 am

Thanks for the question! You can review the import rules for the Philippines here: Just let us know if you'd like some assistance arranging your move and good luck with everything!

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