We (two people) live in the US and we have two cockatiels. We will eventually move to a different country (air travel). This question is about how to execute the move in a way that is safe for the birds. There are two main parts, 1. safety/practical 2. legal/customs.

  1. What is the safest way to travel by air with parrots? I am not comfortable letting them travel in the cargo hold. Unlike dogs and cats, parrots can freak out very easily, can start flapping and fatally injure themselves in the cage. They are also more sensitive to quick temperature changes.

    Some airlines allow taking small pets in the cabin, with conditions (usually one per person--we're two people--and the pet carrier has to fit under the seat). Which airlines flying from the US allow this, and what are the typical conditions? What can we do to ensure that this option will be available (I assume advance planning and booking will be necessary).

    Are there other safe options than trying to take the birds in the cabin (when the destination country allows this)?

  2. What are the requirements to allow exporting cockatiels (not CITES-listed) from the US? What is required for the export and what is recommended to ensure that it will be possible to return or travel to a third country in the future? (Example of what tips I'm looking for: I got the person we acquired the bird from to write a signed letter with details about the bird and the transaction; I wouldn't be able to contact them after leaving the country, so even if this is not strictly required for leaving the US, it may be necessary to have it in the future.)

    What are the recommended steps before the move to make everything as smooth as possible (e.g. avoid a quarantine on arrival when possible)?

    The birds are of 90 g in weight, which means that microchipping is likely not safe/possible.

I'd be grateful for advice on preparing for this move, especially for advice based on first-hand experience (I've already done a fair bit of online research: some of the info is unreliable/contradictory or implicitly assumes dogs/cat when listing requirements that would be unreasonable for small birds).

Destination country is not clear yet, but my job does not offer much geographical stability, so the move will be necessary. This question focuses on things that do not depend on the destination country. I expect this not to be easy and I need to plan well in advance.

Useful links:

  • 1
    I had a similar (not quite duplicate) question on Pets.SE a month ago, which did not receive an answer. There is very little information about parrots (most information is about dogs and cats). It is not completely clear to me what is and what isn't on-topic here. Let me know what needs to be done (remove parts or split up the question) to make it acceptable (as I did on Pets.SE). If necessary, I can remove the Pets.SE question to satisfy any no-duplicates policy. I'm really just looking for some useful information, very difficult to find.
    – Szabolcs
    Commented Aug 19, 2014 at 0:06
  • It's amazing, almost unbelievable, that (some) airlines will let you take a largish bird cage, in cabin baggage! amazing! you learn something every day
    – Fattie
    Commented Aug 19, 2014 at 10:16
  • @JoeBlow They don't. The carrier has to fit under the seat in front of you.
    – Szabolcs
    Commented Aug 19, 2014 at 12:37
  • astounding. As I understand it, very few bird cages would fit under the seat. Couldn't it go in the overhead, BTW?
    – Fattie
    Commented Aug 19, 2014 at 14:52
  • @JoeBlow Of course it couldn't! They would suffocate and/or freak out in the dark. It does not necessarily have to be a cage, there are different types of carriers, some of them soft. The best carriers appear to be ones like this. They come in small sizes and since it's completely transparent, TSA is less likely to want to get the bird out (unsafe) and put the carrier through the x-ray machine. Unfortunately they are also extremely expensive. I'm still trying to find a standard wire cage of the right size.
    – Szabolcs
    Commented Aug 19, 2014 at 17:52

3 Answers 3


If you haven't seen this page yet, check this one out. There seem to be few requirements to exporting cockatiels from the US, because as you said, they aren't CITES-listed.

At a minimum, you'll have to get a veterinary health report usually within 30 days of travel and you'll need this report if you want to bring the birds back into the US. There are also restrictions depending on which country or countries the birds have been in. Right now, most of Asia and part of Africa are on further restrictions due to certain diseases.

You might want to put leg bands on the birds, if not already done, and have that information included in the vet's report or elsewhere. Much easier to prove they're the same birds and may help to recover them if they ever escape.

Also confirm with airlines if there is a restriction on the number of animals traveling on a plane. United limits it to 4 pets in economy, 1 in the other classes and no pets to Australia, Hawaii, or Guam.

Beyond that, this feels like a shopping list question. I certainly can't give more information without knowing what the destination country is. Their requirements will drive what's needed before you leave the US.

  1. I would ask your vet, or a good vet that specializes in birds. I think that would give you the best options for travelling. For instance, when we travelled with our cats (Denmark to US) our vet recommended the cargo hold, and no drugs. In her option drugs would stress their systems as much as the travel, and the lower temp in the cargo hold would make them drowsy. In addition, this would allow for a larger crate, they would be crammed in one that fit under the seat. I would not have thought of that myself, even though we have had cats for many years.

  2. I am not sure I fully understand the issue, but beyond looking at relevant government agencies in the US/destination country, I don't have good advice. If you have found something specific to cats/dogs on a government website, I would contact that agency and ask where to find information on pet birds.

Lastly, I know there are companies that handle international pet transport, and I am sure they also know about how to handle paperwork. You may look into that as a different option.


even if you're allowed to take them out of the US (don't see why not unless they're listed as endangered in which case even having them as pets might be illegal) you may want to check whether you're allowed to import them to Sweden... Some countries have severe restrictions on importing life animals.

If that's all settled (and all the paperwork properly arranged, better safe than sorry) your best bet is likely a specialised transport company that deals in the international shipment of exotic animals (and they'll likely be able to handle the paperwork as well, for a fee).
You do NOT want to end up at customs with 2 dead parrots in your bag. Not only would your precious pets are dead but you're liable to be arrested on animal cruelty and attempted smuggling charges (and who knows, a charge for attempting to import unlicensed animal parts may well be thrown in for good measure).

  • I'm sorry, I don't understand what you mean. Why would you doubt the legality of either the importation of exportation? (No, it is not illegal.)
    – Szabolcs
    Commented Aug 19, 2014 at 12:18
  • 1
    @Szabolcs many countries restrict what animal species you're allowed to take out or bring into that country (either alive or dead, sometimes differences between living and dead animals of the same species even). And for animals that are legal, you may or may not a special import or export license (or a license to own them). Whether that applies to your situation I can't tell, but it bears keeping in mind, don't want to end up at customs and have your pets impounded and yourself arrested...
    – jwenting
    Commented Aug 19, 2014 at 12:38
  • Cockatiels are common, and there's no problem with importation/exportation. Of course it's necessary to do the correct paperwork. That is why I asked the question. This answer is not helpful because it just rehashes some of the question, but does not answer any point.
    – Szabolcs
    Commented Aug 19, 2014 at 12:45
  • Reading your answer, I think my question was not well phrased or maybe it was just too long. Can you suggest how to clarify my question? I was trying to ask about the 1. specific legal/customs requirement for exporting cockatiels, and 2. how to ensure the safety of birds.
    – Szabolcs
    Commented Aug 19, 2014 at 17:49

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