Transporting Your Bird - Car and Air Travel

By Laurie Hess, DVM; Rick Axelson, DVM

Care & Wellness, Pet Services

transporting_your_bird-1At some time, you may be faced with the task of transporting your bird. You may be taking the bird to your veterinarian, moving to a new residence, or traveling a long distance. Birds can be great travelers. Most tolerate cars and airplanes very well, and some actually love the excitement of travel. However, some birds that are never taken out of the house may be very stressed by travel. Planning ahead will ensure a safe, enjoyable trip for both you and your bird.

What sort of container should I use?

If traveling by car, birds may be transported in small cages. Bird carriers that contain perches and small food cups also are commercially available for travel. It is not safe (for you or your bird) for your bird to be roaming freely in the car while you are driving.

"It is not safe (for you or your bird) for your bird to be roaming freely in the car while you are driving."

Small birds such as budgies, canaries, and cockatiels may be put in a cardboard box with holes in the lid to provide air for short trip to the veterinarian's office. The cover should be secured to prevent accidental escape. Remember, many birds are capable of chewing their way out of a box, so they should not be left for long periods in boxes and should be monitored at all times. Toys and swings should be removed from the cage or box to prevent injury to the bird during rough trips. All containers should be secured with a car seat belt to prevent movement or shifting.

What about bad weather?

Birds may still travel in bad weather. In cold weather, pre-warm your car and cover the cage or carrier using towels or blankets. In hot weather, your bird must have adequate ventilation or fresh air and should never be left unattended in the car due to risk of overheating. Even birds naturally from hot climates can suffer heat stroke very quickly.

What if I travel by airplane?

Airlines vary in their regulations for allowing birds to travel. You must contact specific airlines to determine their policies regarding pet travel. Often a bird can be kept in a pet carrier that fits under the seat. Food and water should be available for your bird at all times. In warm weather, you can freeze the water prior to departure so that it will not spill early in the trip and will be accessible to the bird as it thaws out. Succulent fruits, such as oranges and grapes, may be provided as well, for nutrition and fluids. Tranquilizers or sedatives should not be used in birds during travel due to potential risk of reaction. Certain hotels or motels will not allow pets; therefore, consult your hotel ahead of time to determine its policy.

Can I travel out of the country with my bird?

Before making any travel plans, contact the consulate or border authorities of the country you are planning to enter. Medical testing and health certificates may be required before your bird is allowed to enter the country. Each country has its own specific rules and regulations with respect to traveling with pet birds, importing birds, endangered species, and disease control. Record the name of the person supplying the information as a reference should you encounter problems. Obtain this information in writing well in advance of your trip.

"Your bird will likely need a physical examination and written health certificate from a federally accredited veterinarian (if you are going out of the country) within a certain number of days of travel, depending on the airline and your destination."

Your bird will likely need a physical examination and written health certificate from a federally accredited veterinarian (if you are going out of the country) within a certain number of days of travel, depending on the airline and your destination. You may also require specific documentation, such as the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES) certificate. Certain countries require quarantine of birds for a period of days to weeks after arrival to prevent spread of potential disease. Remember to inquire about the regulations regarding your return trip to your home country with your bird.

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