Shipping birds can be made to be less stressful by following some sensible advice from experienced shippers and adhering to the rules and regulations of the shippers. What follows is an outline of how to avoid undue stress, accidents, loss, and/or injury to the birds that you want to ship. This is also a useful guide when buying a bird that needs to be shipped.
BIRD PREP - It's important that you condition your birds for at least a week before shipping. Babies on formula don't need any extra vitamin supplements, but an older bird may. Fortify them all with a stress reduction preparation such as Ornabac™. This is a granular powder to be administered to their soft foods for at least a week before shipping and a week afterward shipping. The lactobacillus and low ph level will help avert bacterial infections resulting from stress. The B-Complex vitamins will help with the stress level itself. You can administer this freely to babies as well as adults.
CONTAINERS - Commercial hard plastic kennel cabs are the standard container for shipping. Some breeders construct heavy-duty wooden crates with a slanted top on
one side for better air circulation since all containers may have other cargo stacked around and on top of it. The container should not be too large or the bird(s) may get thrown around in it during air turbulence. If you are traveling with your bird and taking the bird on board with you, you will need to have an underseat carrier. Large birds cannot travel this way. Costs for containers vary and are usually paid for by the recipient or asked for a deposit until
the recipient can return the carrier.
CONTAINER PREP - Remove the water receptacles included with the kennel cab. Most airlines now require that a perch be installed (screwed in from the outside of the container) for birds. It's best to have the perch no higher than an inch from the bottom. This way, a bird won't fall hard or get caught under the perch during turbulence. Line the bottom of the carrier with newspaper or crumpled then tamped down paper toweling so that the bird has a better foothold if it stays on the bottom. You might want to tape a thick piece of cardboard halfway up the front door if the weather is inclement or if you are shipping babies. For birds that are large and can chew through most material, be sure to line the carrier with hardware cloth. Covering most of or the entire cab with a lightweight cloth will also reduce stress upon the bird(s). Container must be able to be inspected by airline, though. Even bonded pairs should be shipped separately or in a separate compartment within the cab to avoid stress wounds.
Fill the bottom of the carrier with seed (and/or pellets if that is their diet). It works as a good bedding liner and gives them nourishment if they want to eat during the flight. Place cubes of juicy fruit in the container on the floor - grapes, apples, oranges, etc. This will provide the bird(s) with liquids during the flight and any layovers. Just be sure that there is enough food for the bird(s) in case of a 1 or 2 day delay!
Finally, it would be wise to secure an extra piece of hardware cloth over the entire door of the container so that no one is tempted to open the door to take a closer look or to take the bird. Tie wraps should be added to all sides and the front door for extra security. Be sure to advise the recipient to have wire cutters handy to remove the wire and tie wraps quickly after getting the birds home or to be able to examine the bird(s) at the airport. Some carriers now have specific requirements for covering sides and front of the container with wire mesh.
Larger parrots with more destructive beaks should be shipped in chrome vented carriers rather than the plastic vented carriers that they can chew out of. An alternative to that is to have a three-sided hardware cloth cage inside the carrier.
Containers must have the "LIVE ANIMAL" label on it, which is generally provided by the airline.
GUIDELINES- Each carrier has special requirements for accepting shipments of birds. They do change from time to time, so you should be sure that you are aware of them before making the trip to the airport. Some states require that the airlines obtain a veterinary health certificate (usually paid for by the recipient with costs ranging from $20 and up) and that the bird(s) be banded. Hawaii has special regulations regarding air travel for pets. Health certificates dated no more than ten days prior to origin of travel are required for all live animal shipments into Hawaii. Some airlines require proof of your business and breeder status. Please note that it is ILLEGAL to ship parrots through the USPS. There are fines and confiscation of birds for doing so. If you are unable to prove that the birds are domestic, you may not be able to retrieve them at all.
Be sure to call your shipper to ask how soon before the flight departs that you need to bring in the carrier. Delta's official policy is 2 hours. Continental's is 1½ hours. However, each local office may have different guidelines that vary according to the method of shipping (counter-to-counter or regular cargo).
Under NO circumstances are any type of parrot - including canaries, lovebirds, finches, and cockatiels - allowed to be shipped via USPS. It is against Federal law (See USPS Publication 52 section 525.1). You not only risk having the birds confiscated, but you risk whatever the penalties are. The Postmasters sending and receiving these shipments without reporting them are also at risk of losing their jobs.
TIPS - Try to avoid shipping birds around major holidays and on Fridays and weekends. It's best to ship in the morning and arrange for arrival times before the regular Air Cargo staff goes home. If there is a flight delay, you may have the bird(s) sitting at an airport for days. Avoid shipping during any national security crisis too.
A direct flight is the safest if you have access to a major airport and the recipient does too. There are stopover locations that should be avoided if possible. I believe that one of them is the bustling Atlanta GA terminal.
Check with your carrier to see how much insurance they will cover your shipment for. They may give you the option of purchasing extra insurance to fully cover the bird(s). Birds are only covered for disappearance, injury or loss resulting from the carrier's negligence. You will not be able to collect anything if it is discovered that the bird(s) health was compromised before shipment.
Air Cargo vs. Counter-to-Counter: All birds are shipped air cargo. The counter-to-counter feature pays off when there are layover stops. Rather than sitting on a hot or cold tarmac, the birds are taken inside. On final arrival, the birds are immediately taken to the counter rather than the air cargo office. In most cases, air cargo is sufficient. In some locations, it's better because the birds are handled by experienced animal cargo staffers. Counter-to-counter may also not be as secure as air cargo in some larger airports since the carriers are more accessible to the general public.
WEATHER - It's wise to check with your airline before shipping to be sure that there will be no weather restrictions. This includes the weather at departure point and the weather at arrival point. The USDA has clear guidelines on temperature limits (45° to 85° limits).
SAMPLE RATES* - as of 5/28/10
*Bear in mind that if you are the BUYER, you may be asked to pay for the SELLER'S transportation costs (mileage, etc.) to the airport in addition to the shipping and crating fees. Rates also do not include any fuel, security, or tax surcharges that may apply. Generally, the rates are listed for up to 9 lbs. per crate or kennel cab and range from $72.00 to $150.00 within the continental United States.
Top 5 Airlines for Traveling with Pets - Pet Friendly Airlines
American Airlines (1-800-433-7300) - American Airlines Pet Information
Continental (1-800-421-2456) - Continental Pet Info
Delta Airlines (1-888-736-3738) - Delta Pets First Program
United Airlines (1-800-822-2746) - United Cargo
Track your flight.
Foreign travel with birds - Fish & Wildlife Service
U.S.D.A. - (1-800-545-8732)
Shipping birds to the UK - The United Kingdom Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs
CITES - http://www.ukcites.gov.uk/default.asp
Shipping to Hawaii - Hawaiian Department of Agriculture
Shipping birds to Canada has become prohibitive. Be sure to check with CITES or Canadian customs before trying to drive or ship birds into that country.The shipper needs an export permit, CITES permit (and some species cannot be shipped depending on which appendix of CITES they are on), and a vet certificate. The paper work is not easy, it's lengthy and can become costly. The person receiving the bird(s) also needs an import permit, CITES permit, and then there is quarantine. If the receiver has birds, they cannot quarantine the bird(s) themselves. A friend with no birds can do it, but only if the government inspector approves the site. All of this is very costly and time consuming. If one country is late on the paper work, it can become outdated in the other country and you have to start all over again. Then there is the cost of the flight - not cheap either.
Shipping birds to the US from Canada are exempt from quarantine requirements. If you plan on bringing a pet bird into the United States from Canada by car, you must arrange for a veterinary inspection at a USDA land border inspection station. There are 19 such stations located along the US/Canadian border. No import permit or health certificate is required.You must arrange for your bird's veterinary inspection 3 to 5 days before you enter the United States. There is an inspection fee.
If you are transporting your pet bird from Canada to the U.S. by air or ship, you will needs an import permit. There is a fee for this permit. The application (VS form 1-179) may be downloaded from the internet at
http://www.aphis.usda.gov/vs/ncie. You must notify the port veterinarian at least 72 hours prior to your arrival. A health certificate from a certified veterinarian of the Canadian Food Inspection Agency is needed. Contact Veterinary Services National Center for Import Export at 4700 River Road, unit 39, Riverdale, MD, 20737 for information about ports of entry. You can also call (301) 734-8364 or fax your questions to (301) 734-6402. The cost of the import permit is $94.00. A chart from http://www.ncbs.org/birds_entering_from_canada.htm shows the approximate fees for birds entering by air/ship to be approximately $174.