Happy Travels

Retailers can help arm customers with all the tools, accessories and information they need for safe and stress-free travel with their pet birds.


Whether it is a short trip to the veterinarian or a long one across country, travel can be very stressful on pet birds. Although most birds travel well, and many parrots enjoy riding in a car, some birds that are sensitive may have more trouble. It is important to be sure pet owners are prepared and have the right supplies and equipment whenever taking their birds outside the home.

One important preparation that all bird owners should have in place when first bringing any bird home or relocating their pet to a new area is to know exactly where the closest exotic/avian veterinarian is located. Most veterinarians work with dogs and cats, and they must go through a specialized program to learn how to deal with exotic pets such as reptiles, small animals and birds, as each group must be treated differently. Pet stores selling livestock should always have a good exotic vet they can work with and recommend to new bird owners in the area.  A pet owner who is moving to another area should research veterinarians near their new home before relocating.

All bird owners should have a sturdy carrier on hand for taking their bird to the veterinarian. The carrier should be able to withstand a bird’s powerful bill, especially if transporting a large parrot. It must be strong, with thick walls and thick bars that are spaced appropriately. The carrier also must be large enough to easily accommodate the bird from the top of its head to the end of the tail and fitted with a very stable and tough perch. Pet owners traveling by air must use an airline-approved carrier and obtain a veterinarian health certificate within 10 days before travel. Health certificates are also sometimes required if traveling over state lines.

For longer journeys, the travel crate or cage should be equipped with deep, securely attached food and water dishes, or a water bottle for birds accustomed to using one. Be sure to bring water from home that the bird has been drinking or bottled water. If going by plane, don’t worry about water except to give the bird some “wet” food items that it is used to eating, like sliced up fruits and vegetables.

When traveling by car in cold weather, pet owners should warm up the car beforehand and wrap a towel or blanket around the carrier when walking to and from the car to keep the bird protected. In very hot weather, pet parents should keep the bird cool by either having the air conditioning on if available or, if not, by keeping the bird out of direct sunlight and misting with plain water as needed. Also, it is important to be sure the bird always has water available when it is hot outside. 

Pet birds must always be kept in the carrier during travel, no matter how long or short the trip, since a loose bird in a vehicle can be very distracting and cause an accident. It is best to have a bird’s wings trimmed before it leaves the house, so if it does get loose, it will not get very far. It is better to err on the side of caution when traveling with a bird, as it is unlikely the owner will ever see their pet again if it gets outside and can fly. Owners can have their bird’s wings trimmed at a pet store that offers this service or at a veterinarian clinic.

When traveling long distances with birds, the owner should have some sort of emergency kit with them, or at least some supplies in case an accident occurs. This should include something to wrap around the bird like vet wrap, a long towel to stabilize a hurt or broken wing, hemostats or strong tweezers if a blood feather (a new feather where the shaft still has blood in it) needs to be pulled, and styptic powder to stop bleeding from a broken toenail, blood feather or cut. Bottled water, Pedialyte or a similar product, cotton and alcohol swabs, gauze bandages, nail file, scissors, syringes and so on may also be good to have in an emergency kit.

Birds can be very healthy pets if cared for properly. Generally, they do not need veterinary care unless they become ill or injured—although it is wise to have larger parrots seen for a physical soon after purchase and as needed (if breeding is planned, for example) so a relationship can be built between a local avian veterinarian, the owner and the pet bird. When traveling, be sure that the proper paperwork such as a health certificate is acquired as needed before the trip, and that all preparations, supplies and equipment are in place to keep the trip as stress free as possible for the pet bird and the owner. 

Robyn Bright has a master’s degree in parrot biology and more than 35 years of pet retailing experience.


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