Shipping Birds: Sparrow’s Pet Travel to the UK Update!

A few weeks ago we told you about our Facebook friend Sparrow, an African Grey Parrot with pet travel plans to fly from South Africa to London (she's not a PetRelocation customer, but we've loved following her story just the same). Our experience has taught us that shipping birds isn't easy, so we're happy to report that Sparrow has made it to her new home safe and sound!

Sparrow's owner Taryn recently filled us in on the details of the trip. Even though they planned carefully they still encountered a few curve balls, so heed the advice below if you're planning to travel with a bird anytime in the future.

Here's what Taryn had to say:

Sparrow is doing very very well! Poor thing arrived back at our house in Newbury late Monday night to find out we had no heating! Quick stop off to Tesco's and after cleaning them out of fan heaters, we all started to warm up. She was a puffed up ball of feathers for two days but soon adjusted to the change in temperature, especially when the house was able to start heating up again. We ordered her a new cage on Tuesday as hers is still being shipped, and she is loving the new one! Much bigger than her South African one so she is enjoying being an acrobat now!
Everyone involved in her relocation has been absolutely wonderful! Brett Russell at the Bryanston Veterinary Clinic, The Animal Travel Agency, Virgin Atlantic, South African State Vet, DEFRA, AHIT, the ARC and even (in the end) the UK customs office.
The best advice we can give future pet owners would be: 1.) do your homework 2.) paperwork is vital 3.) follow up and do not leave anything to chance 4.) communication is key!

 We very nearly hit a brick wall when we landed in the UK at 9 a.m. Monday morning, and by 5 p.m. that evening Sparrow had still not been given the clear by customs. It took a trip back to Heathrow and a few explanations to the wrong people before we found the correct person from the CITES department to speak to to eventually clear her and get her released.

This was due to the fact that we were not informed that we needed her original UK CITES form in order for customs to release her. We had asked that the form be kept in the UK with the relevant department as post is very intermittent in South Africa. We later found the form back at our house in Newbury with the rest of the post, so at least we can give customs the form in the next few days. They explained that the form is vital if we need to move Sparrow again (which we will be doing next year as we plan to take her to Ethiopia with us).
Sparrow has now made history by being the first parrot to fly Virgin Atlantic!

Thank you once again for all your interest and enthusiasm shown in Sparrow's first adventure!


Congrats to Sparrow and her family, and good luck in the UK!


Photo by BBM Explorer via Flickr


PetRelocation Team







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By Una Van Tilburg on February 9, 2018 at 6:05 am

Hi wehave a small senegal parrot who has been our family pet for over 35 years - we are emigrating this year and want to take him with us - who can transport him- howis it done and whatis procedure. It will be from OR Tambo airport Gauteng to Heathrow. Would you please send me a quote plus all details.Thank you Una Van Tilburg

By Christina at PetRelocation on February 9, 2018 at 12:34 pm

Hello, Una! One of our relocation consultants would be happy to discuss the process for this move and provide you with a cost estimate. Please fill out this form and someone will contact you as soon as possible! Your parrot is a CITES protected species, so this move will require additional expense and permits, but it can be done. We are looking forward to hearing from you!

By Bridget on November 28, 2017 at 6:05 pm

I am also interested to find out more about moving an African Grey to the UK from South Africa - please can you let me know all the details of what needs to happen to move her.Many thanks, Bridget

By on November 29, 2017 at 11:16 am

Hi Bridget!

Unfortunately, moving African Greys internationally has become a little more difficult since Sparrow's move. This is because they are now a species listed under CITES Appendix I, which means you'll need an additional import and export permit to move your bird. You can read more about the CITES regulations here.

Beyond this, you'll also need to meet the UK's import requirements for birds. You can find more information on this process here on DEFRA's website.

We hope this helps get you started in the right direction, but if you need further guidance please reach out to us here. One of our consultants will be happy to speak with you further on options and pricing.

By Rabbit on July 21, 2017 at 7:45 pm

Is this really fair on the bird? So many hours of noise,fear and stress and uncertainty for the bird that you don't see. Out of sight out of mind, for you. Give it up to a sanctuary so that it doesn't have to live its life in your cage and the airplane hold..

By Danielle on August 22, 2017 at 9:11 am

Hi there,The link to Sparrow's facebook page is broken. Any chance you can redirect me to Sparrow's page or even Taryn? We have a very similar story coming up with our African Grey and would love to reach out to someone who has first hand experience.

By on August 22, 2017 at 11:03 am

Hello Danielle,

Thank you for letting us know - I will update the post! Unfortunately, it seems we have lost touch with Sparrow and Taryn as this was posted a few years back. However, a lot has changed with relocating African Greys since, as of this year, they are now listed under CITES Appendix I.

Should you need help with relocating your African Grey, please feel free to contact us. Either way, we wish you the best of luck!

By on July 25, 2017 at 8:23 am

Hi Rabbit, moving pets is always a personal choice that involves weighing all options and outcomes. You certainly may decide that moving a bird of your own isn't the right course of action, but as you can see, Sparrow's owners were happy with their choice. Let us know if you have any specific questions about how to move birds safely!

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