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 Ilona on July 13, 2018 at 12:30 am

Hello! We are planning to buy an African Grey in Malaysia, however we are quite worried about traveling issues that might happen. Could you please help me to figure few things out: 1) Will we have any complications in case we want to relocate the parrot to Kazakhstan from Malaysia? 2) Is it possible to take the bird for short vacations to Sarawak and then bring back to Selangor (these are different states of Malaysia)? 3) As I understood, taking a parrot for a vacation to Kazakhstan from Malaysia for a month or two is too complicated in terms of all the documents, isn't it? Any complications I should be aware of? Thank you very much

By Maegan at PetRelocation on July 16, 2018 at 11:41 am

Hi Ilona! Moving birds internationally is very tough because there is plenty of import & export paperwork that must be completed by the government on both sides of the relocation. We typically suggest only moving birds if you are relocating to a country permanently and not on vacation, because of the quarantine requirements on both sides of the relocation. If you need specific assistance with your move, please feel free to contact us directly. Thanks!

By Esmé on July 5, 2018 at 9:27 pm

Advice on how to move a cockatiel from Australia to Portugal

By Maegan at PetRelocation on July 16, 2018 at 11:44 am

Hi Esme! Just FYI - if you move your cockatiel out of Australia, you will not be able to re-import him back into the country at a later date if needed as birds are not allowed to be imported into Australia. You will want to check with the government in Portugal on specific import requirements. Please let us know how we can help!

By Pat Bajwa on July 5, 2018 at 7:31 pm

Just wanted to check out what I would have to do to move Malaysia with my Blue and Gold Macaw?I no longer have her sales record as her first owner/breeder has passed on.She has been my baby doll for 11 years.Thank you, Pat Bajwa

By Christina at PetRelocation on July 12, 2018 at 2:07 pm

Hi Pat! Since your Macaw is a CITES protected species, you would need to somehow procure proof that she was not taken from the wild in order to relocate her to a different country. Moving a CITES animal requires considerable time and expense, so we recommend working with a professional shipper like us or another IPATA member to do this and make sure everything is done properly. Hope this helps!

By Oscar Johansen on July 2, 2018 at 2:35 pm

I have two Sun Conures (Aratinga solstitialis) that I want to take to Ecuador around September 2019. They will not be returning. I do not believe that there is a problem with CITES. I have not checked in a while. They travel in one cage if permitted. What would approximately be the cost from Jackson, MS to Cuenca Ecuador. If necessary,because of cost, we could pick them up in Guayaquil and leave from New Orleans . Make a cost saving suggestion ?????

By Maegan at PetRelocation on July 3, 2018 at 9:38 pm

Hi Oscar! Relocating birds is quite a venture due to all the paperwork required. There are a number of variables that impact the final cost of a pet relocation. These consist of distances from the home addresses to the airports, travel crate size, airline being used, routing and travel date to name a few. In order to advise on your move, it would be important to connect you with a representative who can give you an accurate plan for the relocation. Please fill out our Arrange a Move form here. Thanks!

By Manuel Gomez Diez on June 22, 2018 at 7:49 am

Hello, I need to move a lovebird (Agapornis Roseicollis, the only one of them that is not included in a CITES appendix) from Spain to Canada. Can you help me with the process Thanks.

By Maegan at PetRelocation on June 22, 2018 at 9:52 am

Hi Manuel! Although CITES paperwork will not be required for import/export, there will likely be quarantine required for your bird upon entry into Canada. Feel free to check out the CFIA's website here about bringing birds into Canada. It also might be best to check with a local pet shipper in Spain on any export requirements for non-CITES species. Hope this helps!

By Jodi McGrath on June 21, 2018 at 2:44 pm

Hi There, I'm looking at relocating from Australia to Vietnam, with my 2 Indian Ringneck parrots. I've been going around in circles and can't seem to get an answer. Any help would be appreciated. Thank you.

By Maegan at PetRelocation on June 22, 2018 at 9:46 am

Hi Jodi! The first step will be to make sure you have documentation showing where your bird was purchased. Secondly, you'll want to check with DAWR on export requirements for Australia, as well as import requirements for Vietnam. Feel free to contact us if you have any other questions or concerns. Hope this helps!

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!

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