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 Stacy lulf on June 6, 2017 at 1:49 pm

I'm relocating from US to Peru and. Wed to bring my pet Greenwing Macaw. She is 1 year old, sees avian vet regularly. What do I need to do and want to avoid quarantine which will be stressful on her. I have approved carrier and fly delta direct from Atlanta to Lima so she can go in cabin.

By on June 6, 2017 at 2:41 pm

Hi Stacy, we'd suggest checking with the Ministry of Agriculture in Peru to find out exactly what you need for your trip. Here's a link from the USDA that may also shed some light on the requirements: We also advise checking with the airline directly to find out what they do and do not allow when it comes to birds. Hope this helps! If you're interested in having us explore this further on your behalf, please fill out our online consultation form and we'll be in touch with information about our services: Either way, good luck with everything.

By Karl vidania on June 7, 2017 at 1:57 pm

Hi!How are you? I'd like to know how to transport my macaw and cockatoo in the Philippines. I'm here in California.I appreciate any info.Best,Karl

By on June 7, 2017 at 4:22 pm

Hi Karl, thank you for your comment. To start, we recommend researching the Philippines' import rules via their official government website: Another source worth investigating is the USDA: Finally, if you find that you're interested in hiring professional assistance to carry out this move, feel free to contact us for a consultation at your convenience: Hope this helps! Just let us know if can answer any more questions.

By Nahla on June 9, 2017 at 12:51 pm

I have a pineapple conure without documents that I want to send from Dubai to Ottawa in Canada. Can you help?

By on June 9, 2017 at 1:22 pm

Hi Nahla, we'd be happy to assist. To learn about our services and your options with us, please complete our online consultation form here: To learn more about the import requirements for Canada, take a look at their official site: Hope this helps!

By Noman on June 9, 2017 at 1:05 pm

Hi I want to take my african gray pair to pakistan from south africa for that what do I have to do plz let me know Thanks

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