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No-Hassle Pet Bird Travel Tips

Tips for traveling with pet birds on short trips, long trips and airplanes.

Elise Kaplan

Before you attempt that cross-country ride, give your pet bird experience on shorter trips. Visit a nearby friend or relative, have a snack at an outdoor café, or even pick up some toys at a pet store. Provide some fun destinations: that is, somewhere other than the avian veterinarian or groomer.

A few things to consider as you are heading out:

1) Never take your pet bird outside without it being inside a carrier, travel cage or attached to an avian harness.

2) Your bird’s carrier should be firmly belted to the back seat of your car. (The front seat can be dangerous if your car has a passenger-side airbag.)

3) Reassure your bird by making sure it can see you during the ride and can hear you talking.

4) If the day is excessively cold, hot or windy, and the trip is optional, wait until the weather is more accommodating.

5) Covering the carrier with a sheet or towel can protect your bird from the elements. However, Dr. Jorge Mayer, DVM, of Massachusetts advised not to cover the bird completely. Birds that are in the dark can stumble off the perch when the carrier is jostled. 

6) Make sure your destination is not only pleasant but also safe for your parrot. Avoid anywhere that is dark, smoky, overly crowded or that might otherwise overwhelm your bird. If you are visiting friends with dogs or cats you are unfamiliar with, can you find a secure room for your parrot? Do your friends know how important it is to keep windows closed and to keep your parrot away from lit stoves and other hazards? Even though your hosts are well-meaning, be vigilant; they are probably not aware of some of the commonplace dangers to parrots, such as salty foods, chocolate, air freshener sprays, and so on.

7) Enjoy your trip! Your bird will "read" your manner and relax, even if it’s not quite ready to socialize and prefers to just observe.

Get Ready For A Longer Trip
A few things to consider if you and your parrot will be away for a night or longer:

1) Pack for both you and your parrot. A supply of your pet bird’s particular food brand is essential, as it might not be available at your destination. A stash of treats, toys, perches and dishes also makes life easier, depending on the duration of your trip. Also, a small carrier might be fine for a quick trip across town, but if your parrot will be spending a few days away from home it will probably need something larger. Luckily, there are collapsible travel cages available that you can assemble once you reach your destination.

2) If you travel to another state, confirm that there are no quarantines in effect and that your species of parrot is legal there. Quaker parakeets, for example, are illegal to own in California, New Jersey and several other states.

Flying With Parrots
When Jen Silva recently relocated her brown-headed parrot and two cockatiels from Texas to Japan, she learned how complicated it can be to coordinate such a move. Her first piece of advice?

"If someone is only going overseas for a vacation, I recommend finding a good bird sitter," she said. Assess the difficulties and expenses to you as well as the stress on your birds, especially if the country you are visiting imposes a quarantine period.

Nevertheless, Silva had some good tips for domestic and international flights:

1) Talk to the airline, and make sure you understand their regulations for traveling with birds. Airlines differ not only in their policies, such as whether birds are allowed to travel in the cabin, what size birds are allowed and any extra fees. Silva learned that no pets are allowed in the cabin for international flights, and there is a limit to the number of hours the birds can stay in the cargo hold. Also, make sure your travel plans do not involve switching planes to another airline, with a whole new set of regulations and fees.

Check the airline’s specifications for carriers. Silva was able to adapt Chihuahua-size crates by outfitting them with wooden perches, spill-proof water bottles and a supply of food.

2) Obtain a health certificate from an accredited vet no more than 10 days before your flight. For international travel, you will need the Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service, (APHIS) form 7001, signed by both the vet and the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) person in your city; this form has a raised seal.

3) Also, if you are leaving the country, you will need a CITES (Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora) permit, which might take three weeks to obtain. Keep a copy of all your paperwork, Silva advised. You will need it for your return trip.

4) Make sure your birds are banded if you are traveling abroad.

5) Have your bird’s wing-feathers trimmed, or have it in a secure, safe harness. Airport personnel might ask you to remove the bird from the carrier to pass through security checkpoints, and you’ll want to avoid a panicked bird flying in a crowded terminal.

6) Research the types of bird food, equipment and veterinary care available at your destination. Bring enough food and supplies with you to last through your trip. If you are not likely to find an avian vet once you arrive, follow Silva’s lead: have your vet perform the full battery of tests on your birds before you leave home, and keep them indoors once you arrive to prevent exposure to new diseases.
Help Your Parrot Like Her Travel Cage
1) If the travel cage resembles your parrot’s regular cage in some way, things may go more smoothly. A vastly different appearance can be off-putting, especially at first.

2) Make sure the carrier is big enough for your bird, which should at least be able to turn around and enjoy some movement.

3) Leave the cage around for a few days or weeks so your parrot can get used to it and see that it doesn’t pose a threat. 

4) Put some tempting toys or treats in the cage where your parrot can see them and investigate; for example, most of our birds can’t resist a sprig of millet.

5) Avoid dangling toys to prevent your bird from getting knocked around when the carrier is in motion.

6) Avoid a water dish in the carrier; your parrot probably won’t appreciate a sudden bath. Water bottles can be a great alternative as long as you are sure your parrot knows how to use one. Jen Silva, who recently relocated with her parrots from Texas to Japan, found investing in non-spillable bottles well worth the price. Juicy pieces of fruit can also provide liquid on short trips.

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Posted: October 4, 2006, 9:45 a.m. PDT

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No-Hassle Pet Bird Travel Tips

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Reader Comments
I'm just now planning (or HOPING to plan) a trip to Florida (from Canada) with my Double Yellow-headed Amazon.
3 words: what a nightmare!!!
CITES, the USDA and the Canadian Food Inspection Agency make it almost impossible to take your pet parrot on vacation.
Whatever the rules and regulations try to achieve (keeping me from 'stealing' a 'native' Amazon parrot from the wilds of Canada???) all they've managed to do is make me feel almost stupid for even owning such a wonderful pet in the first place.

Shame on all bureaucrats and do-gooders.
Michael, St. Catharines, ON
Posted: 8/14/2014 4:50:05 PM
I just wanted to mention that the advice though great but not totally accurate. Some airlines will allow a bird in the cabin when you travel international. I just took my pet canary this month from Dubai, UAE to Budapest, Hungary in the cabin on Turkish. Not all birds require a CITES certificate. Only some birds.
Beth, St. Augustine, FL, FL
Posted: 7/24/2014 10:50:24 AM
If you're traveling internationally, you must check to see if your bird is on the CITES list. If you're traveling in/out of U.S., check with your local USDA vet office. It's not simple for most birds to travel. Check with each country to see if permits are needed for entry/leaving. I have cockatiels so no permits needed for travel from AK-CAN-WA.
Ann, Palmer, AK
Posted: 9/10/2013 10:42:34 PM
When I travel long distances by plane, I leave my 4 parrots at home with a pet/house sitter. Im concerned about taking them on an airplane because I fear their ear drums may get damaged from the pressure. Any ideas?
Chris, St. Petersburg, FL
Posted: 3/4/2013 5:46:09 PM
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