Transporting Birds

Airborne Animals: Specializing in Bird Shipments

Birds are amazingly difficult to import and export around the world. It routinely takes 4-6 months to plan a bird transport for a species requiring permits, and costs will run into several thousand dollars. Bird transportation is highly regulated to help protect endangered species. Other than the most common pet birds like parakeets, all other species of birds, even those bred in captivity, will require a number of permits. There are usually several different government offices to deal with on each end of an international bird shipment. Special permits are required. Tests may be required for Avian Influenza. Quarantine is also probably required when arriving into the USA, and for other countries as well.

Most birds are difficult to transport

Most birds are difficult to transport

The only “easy” birds are those considered unprotected, like parakeets & cockatiels. And even then, a country may require blood testing for avian influenza and other diseases, and the shipment still must be declared and inspected by US Fish and Wildlife (USFW) when importing or exporting from the USA. ALL other species will require special permits. These include common pet birds like:

  • Conures
  • Macaws
  • Cockatoos
  • Lorries
  • Lovebirds
  • Parrots (all species)
  • Amazons

Birds actually travel quite well


We have successfully shipped birds to Europe, to the Middle East, and to other parts of the world without any bird becoming ill or having adverse effects from transportation. The key is to use an airline who handles birds well, has care facilities at layovers, and to use a crate outfitted to the individual bird.

Birds will all travel as a cargo shipment, in the hold of the plane (called manifest cargo, required by most countries that allow importation). Most airlines do not allow a bird in cabin anymore. That said, birds will do quite fine in the lower deck. It’s dark, which will help them sleep and be quiet, and the drone of the plane is the same as you would hear upstairs. Even the air is the same – in many aircraft the air in the cabin circulates downstairs through the cargo area and back up again. Is the plane pressurized? is a common question – and yes, the whole plane must be pressurized otherwise it would implode at 30,000 feet. And we never worry about air conditioning – it’s -25°F up there in the clouds – but heat is supplied for passengers and live animals.

What can Airborne Animals LLC do for your bird shipment?

What can Airborne Animals LLC do for your bird shipment?

Airborne Animals is familiar with the requirements for both exporting, importing and transportation of various species of pet birds.

We can facilitate:

  • Getting the CITES permits from USFW.
  • Obtaining health exams and health certificates.
  • Providing the IATA compliant crates required for bird shipments and bird transportation.
  • Obtaining Import permits.
  • Obtaining USDA endorsements.
  • Arranging the shipment with an airline that will transport birds.
  • Arranging Quarantine, if needed.

Bird crates, containers and shipping boxes

Live bird shipping containerAirborne Animals LLC can supply an appropriate shipping crate for your pet bird’s travel. Although a crate can be custom made from wood, it must then meet international requirements for wooden containers. More frequently, we modify a cat or dog crate to meet the IATA requirements for a bird container. These work perfectly for budgies, cockatiels, parrots and most other pet bird species.

Live bird shipping boxesModifications include wire mesh over all vents and the door, a perch inside at appropriate height, along with dishes attached to the door for food and water. We can also provide cloth or mesh to drop down covering over the door to prevent any drafts. The Fish and Wildlife officers at Newark and JFK, who must approve a bird container for international travel, prefer the modified cat/dog crate rather than a custom made wooden crate. As for dogs and cats, security rules prefer no toys or other items inside. The bottom must have some absorbent material.

Use an expert pet transporter who moves birds frequently

Use an expert pet transporter who moves birds frequently

Moving birds is neither easy nor inexpensive (and in fact quite a bit more expensive than moving a dog or cat), but if your pet bird needs to fly off to other parts of the world, you need an agent who knows how to do it, and do it well.

Airborne Animals both transports birds out of the USA and works with agents elsewhere to import birds into the USA on a regular basis. We have a good relationship with the people we need at USDA, USFW, customs and the airline personnel.

Domestic Travel

Birds may travel domestically within the United States pretty easily. A crate constructed to meet requirements must be used, and some airlines will not accept birds at all.

Importing a Bird into the USA:

Quarantine is required. There are only 2 quarantine centers in the USA for birds now, via JFK, New York or Miami, FL.

Almost any bird, other than a parakeet (Melopsittacus undulatus), Lovebird (Agapornis roseicollis /spp) or Cockatiel (Nymphicus hollandicus), will need an import CITES (the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora) permit or WBCA (Wild Bird Conservation Act) permit from US Fish and Wildlife Services.

This is issued after the export CITES is issued in the country of departure. US Fish and Wildlife (USFW) will take 2-4 months to issue a CITES in the USA. Birds must have been in the country of export at least 12 months, and proof of address will be required.

Once the CITES is issued, a USDA import permit must be applied for a least 2 weeks in advance, and reserve quarantine space.

When both the CITES and USDA import permit are granted, we can then start the import process. We will need to give USFW 48 hours’ notice and supply copies of all documents in advance, as well as file a declaration.

Upon arrival into JFK or Miami, USDA will collect the bird from the plane, transfer the bird to the USDA office and do their inspection and paperwork. We will meet USFW at the USDA office for their inspection and validation of the CITES. Once both these releases are done, then we contact the customs broker to handle the release for customs into the country.

USDA/ JFK will automatically take the bird to Newburgh for quarantine, and return it to JFK at the end of 30 days unless other arrangements are made.

If your bird is a USA origin returning bird, it may avoid quarantine in Newburgh IF you have the original health certificates and copies of export documents. USDA will inspect & test twice, and you may be allowed do home quarantine at a given location registered with USDA for 30 days. The bird can also arrive in Newark (or other ports of entry) rather than go into JFK, as long as US Fish and Wildlife and USDA can do inspections upon arrival.

After quarantine we can forward birds domestically all over the USA to wherever you may be living.

Exporting a bird from the USA:

Almost any bird, other than a parakeet (Melopsittacus undulatus), Lovebird (Agapornis roseicollis /spp) or Cockatiel (Nymphicus hollandicus), we must first apply to US Fish and Wildlife (USFW) for an export CITES (the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora) permit.

This can take 2-4 months to receive. Once it is issued in the USA, then the country of arrival must also issue an import CITES permit, as well as any other import permit required.

Once both CITES permits are in hand, we can start to arrange the process of export. We have to also file a declaration for any species of bird with USFW prior to export.

Usually a 30 day quarantine is required prior to departure. Each country will have their own requirements, which may include other permits, testing prior to shipment, or quarantine upon arrival.

USFW will require 48 hours’ notice for an inspection. Typically, we take the birds (or other exotic) to their office for the inspection and permit validation just prior to the flight.

A USDA accredited veterinarian must do an exam and sign off on appropriate health certificates, usually within 48 hours of shipment. Documents then must be hand carried to the USDA office for the state/regional vet to sign and endorse.

All original documents travel with the bird/pet to the country of destination.

We HIGHLY advise an agent in country handle the arrival of any bird or exotic as it can be difficult to obtain the CITES and any import permits if not in country, and get to all the right government agencies, and inspections upon arrival if you do not know the procedures. Many countries will think nothing of confiscating and euthanizing a bird who does not meet requirements.