Shipping Birds Made Easy


Shipping is sometimes the only option for a pet owner hunting for that specific bird or a breeder who has to send one someplace else. Shipping birds via air, fortunately, is safe and simple provided one does their study and follows the guidelines. Remember that birds are used to being confined, so they do not experience the stress that dogs and cats do.

First, you must determine whether airlines transport birds, since some do not. The airlines listed below transport live birds. To access shipping information such as rules, regulations, limits, policies, methods, and costs, follow the links given.

AirlineCounter ServiceAir Freight
Alaska Airlines/Horizon AirYesYes
American AirlinesYesYes
Continental AirlinesYesYes
Delta Air LinesYesYes
Frontier AirlinesN/AYes
Northwest AirlinesYesYes
United AirlinesYesYes
US AirwaysYesYes

The next step is to select whether the bird should be sent through air freight or counter-to-counter service. They are not given any particular treatment when carried as freight. This implies they might be sitting in the plane’s storage or cargo hold for hours before flight. Between flights, they will also wait in the hold or on the tarmac. Shipping birds air freight has two advantages: 1) it is inexpensive, and 2) there is no limit to the number of containers that may be sent.

Counter-to-counter service is more costly, but it is well worth it. The pricing difference is due to the fact that with counter-to-counter transportation, the bird is never just left in the aircraft or on the runway. In addition, the bird is the final item to be hand-carried aboard the aircraft and the first item to be hand-carried out. Although each airport must be examined, most pick-ups and deliveries are performed at the air cargo center.

Some airlines will only allow “recognized shippers” to utilize cargo service due to increased security measures. A “known shipper” is someone who has been examined and inspected by airlines and has met the security standards to ship. This applies to any shipment, not only birds. You must check with each airline to verify their policies on “known shippers.”

Prior to shipping, call the airline to verify for flights, prerequisites (such as health certificates), and limitations such as weather or reservation notifications. It is recommended to book a direct flight. Many airlines need a 2-hour stopover between flights when utilizing cargo. When making the reservation, provide enough time for the airline workers to get the bird onto its connecting aircraft. Once the reservation has been made and all conditions have been met, you must prepare for the actual shipping.

If you’re just shipping one or two birds, use the same container that fits beneath the seat. Two small-animal transport cages (8-1/2″ x 6″) can easily fit inside a normal Airline Carrier Number 100. If just one bird is being sent, a bigger inner cage may be used. Set up the cage with seed/pellet and water dishes. Even though the water may spill, always give a cup so that it can be replenished if the flight is delayed. Make sure to include millet spray and plenty of fresh, juicy fruits like oranges, kiwis, and melon. In case of an unexpected delay, place a week’s supply of the bird’s basic seed/pellets in a tiny bag in the container. Most airlines need written care instructions to be posted on the shipping container, so be sure you include these.

Clip the bird’s wings the day before the trip. If the new owner insists on not having them trimmed, make it clear that you will not be held liable if the bird escapes. Create a shipping label that includes your name, address, and phone number (including area code). Include the new owner’s details as well. It is also a good idea to provide the same information within the carrier in case anything goes missing. Just don’t place it too near to the bird or it may turn into confetti by the time it arrives! Finally, arrive at the airport at least an hour before the flight for counter-to-counter flights and two hours for cargo flights. Believe me, the airline employees and the parrotlets will keep each other amused till the aircraft departs. Bring all relevant papers, including health certificates, a checkbook, and your driver’s license. Call the new owner with the flight number and air bill number when the bird has been checked in. This will enable the package to be tracked and the new owner to pick them up as soon as they arrive. For security reasons, new owners should have photo identification.

Tell your consumer to double-check the flight arrival time by calling the airline. Make certain that you are at the airport when the plane arrives. If you have other birds at home, isolate the bird and give it a medical inspection. Place him in his new cage, which has already been outfitted with food, water, and toys. Allow the bird a few hours to get acquainted with his cage and settle in.

Just one more thing: it is standard politeness to phone the breeder and notify them that the bird has arrived safely. After all, excellent breeders want to ensure that their birds arrive safely and in good condition.

*Confirm any needs, such as import or other special permissions, with the State Veterinarian of the state to which you are shipping.

**Within 30 days of delivery, all 50 states, including Guam, Puerto Rico, and the US Virgin Islands, need a health certificate certified by a veterinarian. For precise import rules, all shippers should consult each state’s import requirements.

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