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 Libby on June 19, 2018 at 3:48 pm

How easy will it be to transport my cockatiel who ended up in California back to me in Kansas?

By Maegan at PetRelocation on June 22, 2018 at 9:41 am

Hi Libby! Since a cockatiel is not considered CITES and you are not leaving the US, the process of moving your bird is quite simple. Please check out how we Ship a Pet Across the Country here and feel free to let us know if you have any other questions/concerns. Thanks!

By BJB on June 9, 2018 at 2:30 am

I live in the US and have a rose breasted cockatoo that I purchased from a breeder here in TX. I am looking to attend graduate school internationally, with my most likely destinations being Spain, South Africa, or Germany. I am having a TERRIBLE time trying to figure out if I can bring my baby with me. Airlines don't/won't allow birds (or in some cases specifically prohibit cockatoos). I know he's a CITES appendix II, and I understand that the process can take a while, but I haven't been able to figure out if I can even get him on a plane if I finish the CITES paperwork. Can you give me any insight? Is it even possible to take him with me? Can you provide a (very) rough estimate of the cost (i.e. more than USD $1000? $2000?)

By Maegan at PetRelocation on June 11, 2018 at 10:18 am

Hi - thanks for reaching out to us! The best resource would be to check on the USDA website here for the most recent list of countries with bird restrictions. These countries will allow birds to be imported from the US but have strict requirements when it is time to return to the US due to the Highly Pathogenic Avian Influenza.

To be completely transparent, because of all the paperwork required to relocate CITES birds, it typically takes at least 6 months and $6,000 USD to complete the relocation process. If we can be of any assistance, please let us know! Thanks!

By F on June 4, 2018 at 11:59 am

When I was very young, my father snuck an infant parrot into the country (EU space). This happened over twenty years ago, so I'm not sure of the legal regulations of the time. The point is, the bird is well cared for, loved, part of the family, and visibly attached to us. Is there a way to officially legalize and register my feathered sibling in case he ever needs medical care or relocation to another country?

By Maegan at PetRelocation on June 5, 2018 at 1:49 pm

Hi - thanks for your comment! The quickest answer is no. CITES was created to make sure birds were not taken from the wild and the only way to prove this is show documentation where your bird was hatched, purchased, or adopted. We do not doubt that your bird is a well-loved member of the family!

By F on June 7, 2018 at 6:53 am

I see. Unfortunately I think my sibling was purchased at a market in some remote African village, so there definitely wouldn't be a paper trail to attest it. He has been healthy (and mischievous) so far, so I hope that there won't be complications if we ever need to take him to a vet.

By Mark Brooks on May 31, 2018 at 8:00 am

We have a Rainbow Lorikeet that was born in Malta. We'd like to be able to bring him to Dubai for 6 months a year, and then bring him back to Malta with us. Probably not doable, but just wanted to see if there was quarantine for rainbow lorikeets coming to Dubai from Malta?

By Maegan at PetRelocation on June 5, 2018 at 1:59 pm

Hi Mark! As long as you have a CITES import permit from the country of origin, you should be able to apply for a re-export permit in Malta. A re-export permit will expedite the long paperwork process for relocation, but quarantine will be required at both import & export. It might be less stressful on your pet to have him stay with a trusted friend or family member in Malta while you are in Dubai. Hope this helps!

By Carmen on May 24, 2018 at 3:34 am

Hello! I have not as of yet purchased or have a lovebird in my care, but am looking into the logistics of bringing one from Japan to Canada before committing to purchasing/adopting one. Are you aware of any restrictions, particular proceedures, and/or fees (other than registering extra cargo for the flight) that would be involved? Thank you.

By Maegan at PetRelocation on May 24, 2018 at 3:08 pm

Hi Carmen!

At this moment, there are no restrictions for birds from Japan being imported into Canada; however, this could change so it would be important to review your resources. Here's contact information for MAFF in Japan and the CFIA in Canada.

Most lovebirds are protected under the CITES agreement. To be completely transparent, because of all the paperwork required to relocate CITES birds, it typically takes at least 6 months and $6,000 USD to complete the relocation process.

Hope this helps & please let us know if we can be of any assistance!

By Parvez on May 19, 2018 at 3:00 am

Hi I have budgie birds,I want to take them to India from Dubai. what is the process. Thank you.

By Maegan at PetRelocation on May 22, 2018 at 1:03 pm

Hi Parvez - I’m sorry but due to the avian flu, birds are unable to be imported into India at this time. Apologies for the inconvenience.

By Pamela Bovitz on May 16, 2018 at 7:29 am

Hello. Is there any possible way if exporting a macaw from Hong Kong to America?

By Maegan at PetRelocation on May 22, 2018 at 1:13 pm

Hi Pamela! Currently, there are restrictions on birds entering the US from Hong Kong. Unfortunately, Hong Kong is a region that APHIS has recognized as described in 9 CFR 94.6 (a)(2)* affected with highly pathogenic avian influenza (HPAI) of any subtype. Feel free to check out the most current information about this here. Sorry to be the bearer of bad news!

By Anda on May 5, 2018 at 3:01 am

Hello,We live in UK and we have a 2 years old Pacific Parrotlet. If we are to move to Dubai would we be able to take the bird with us?

By Maegan at PetRelocation on May 22, 2018 at 1:07 pm

Hi Anda! Currently there are no restrictions for the importation of birds from the UK to Dubai. It would be important to reference the government website for further clarification on moving a CITES species here. Hope this helps!

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