Tips For Traveling With Parrots

Moluccan cockatoo on the road

Summer is the time when many people choose to do their traveling. The children are free from school commitments and the weather is more likely to remain suitable for a road trip. Why not load the kids and the dog into the RV and head out across country?

For we parrot owners, though, decisions like those are more complicated: what do we do with the bird?

On the one hand, there is the fear of boarding. Not only do we assume that we will spend the entire vacation worrying about whether our bird is being looked after and kept well-fed and socialized, there is also the irrational fear that our birds will be angry with us when we return – or worse, will have forgotten about us during our brief absence from their lives.

The worrying always turns out to be for naught. Our birds are returned to us in fine health, and after a brief period of re-adjustment, they slide right back into the rhythm and routine of their home.

But here’s a thought: what if you were to bring the bird with you this year? Not only will it give your bird a chance to bond with everyone on the trip, it will provide countless opportunities to socialize your bird with new people, and will add to your bird’s growing repertoire of experience. What a fun adventure for everyone!

Of course, traveling with a bird is not as easy as traveling with the dog, but with a few special provisions, there is no reason your bird can’t make the trip to Grandma’s this summer.

The Cage

If you are traveling with a large parrot, obviously you will not be bringing the humongous cage from the living room along for the ride. I know that it is unthinkable for you to imagine your bird living out of a carrier or dog crate for the duration of the trip, but it actually works out just fine that way.

As it goes, a small cage or carrier is the best for road travel. In most cases, a smaller space provides a stronger sense of security for a bird – especially in a strange environment.

A smaller enclosure makes it easier to cover part or all of the carrier during travel (as your bird prefers) and it will be more convenient for you to move it around to cooler parts of the car as the sun changes position in the sky. There is the convenience of getting it into hotel rooms and it will allow you to take your bird with you when you need to make any stops that require leaving the car.

Perch is placed low in the carrier and is bolted from the outside


Your bird will be spending a lot of time in the carrier, so take the necessary time now to prepare it properly.

You will need to install a perch. While a bird can handle short trips standing on a flat carrier surface, it is an unnatural position for a bird’s feet to be in for a long duration of time and it would eventually become uncomfortable.

Select a wooden perch or dowel. Never use sandy or cement perches for travel – they are abrasive and will eventually irritate the skin on the feet. A cement perch is also too heavy to be placed in a lightweight enclosure like the one you will be using.

I select a perch diameter that is just slightly smaller than the sizes I use in the house cage to allow for good grip during bumpy travel and I wrap them with vet tape to add addition traction and comfort.

With plastic animal carriers, it is easiest to cut a wooden dowel to size and fasten it using a sharp wood screw that is drilled into the dowel from the outside of the carrier (see above photo).

Perch hardware from

If you are using a wire dog crate for travel, you can install a hanger screw to each end of a wood perch or dowel and attach it to the sides of the crate with washers and wing nuts (see hardware above). You could also notch each end of the perch and slide it onto the bars of the crate. In this case, I would further secure the perch from the outside with a staple gun.

Place the perch low in the carrier so that your bird’s head easily clears the roof of the carrier when on the perch. This is also a safety measure: should a bump during travel cause your bird to lose balance it will only be a single step down to the floor of the cage.

Accessories in the Carrier

Use plastic dishes that attach to the carrier door or crate sides so that your bird has constant access to water and dry food. Choose small, deep dishes that can hold a reasonable amount without taking up too much room inside the carrier.

If you feel must provide toys, avoid wood or plastic toys that could injure your bird by swinging into them and beware of anything that could cause entanglement. I find toys unnecessary because my birds become very engaged by the activities of the people in the car and the view from the windows.

Other Important Considerations

  • Remain aware of your bird’s comfort level and cover the carrier when necessary. I promise that you do not ever need to experience a screaming parrot in a closed car.
  • It is a good idea to secure the carrier or crate with a seat belt, but keep in mind that it may become a chew toy during travel so be careful of how you place the belt.
  • Resist the urge to let your bird out into the car during the trip. As comforting as it might seem to have your bird on your shoulder while you drive, it is unsafe. A honking horn could frighten your bird into flight, causing you to take your eyes from the road or a sudden stop could cause your bird to clamp onto your ear in an effort to stay upright. Further, a parrot is a distracting sight for other drivers on the road. Don’t even make your bird aware that being out of the cage while in the car is an option. You may never again be able to have a peaceful ride with your bird in tow.
  • If you are traveling with more than on bird, it is sometimes best to have them caged separately. Unforeseen stressors during the trip could result in aggression. Even if you feel very sure that your birds will handle travel well together, have enough carriers on hand to make the separation if necessary.

Photo from

 Arriving at Your Destination

Even though Grandma has assured you that bird is welcome at her house, she may not have fully understood what having a bird in the house entails. A bird can quickly become persona non grata when their novelty wears off and they start acting according to their nature. It would be great if you were able find room in the car for a tabletop play stand that will serve as a catch-all for food, poop and shredded toy pieces. (By the way, if you flip over many of the tabletop models you will see that the perch can be separated from the base, making them easier to pack).

It is also a good idea to agree upon a schedule for the bird (in cage time/out of cage time) and, if possible, designate a room where the bird can rest peacefully at night. The more effort you put into these matters now, the better the results will be for your bird, and ultimately you.


1)      Make several travel test runs BEFORE your trip to see how your bird handles it. It is unusual, but some birds want no part of car travel. You don’t want to find this out 30 minutes into your big trip. Some birds also experience serious motion sickness, complete with vomiting, and a long journey could make this bird miserable. Practice trips that slowly increase in duration will let you know if your bird is up to a long journey.

2)      Since you are taking steps to provide this great experience for your bird (and your family), go the whole distance and harness train him before you leave. This way, he can accompany you on sight-seeing trips and nature outings.

3)      Pat yourself on the back for being a great bird owner!

Patty Jourgensen specializes in avian health, behavior and nutrition and has been working with and caring for rescue birds since 1987.



I have 3 cockatoos and they scream the whole way covered or not music or not it’s unbearable


harness training/? Ah,that is the rub. How?


I have no problem traveling with my Umbrella Cockatoo. We live in our Motor home. Hes cage is a large dog crate. bar spacing same as his old at home cage. we also have 4 small dogs. It is really all about how you train your bird. I have trained this one from birth. I did not make the mistake of putting him on a schedule, as so many avian dr. wish. He is a go with the flow fellow. and very happy. So conatact me if you want info on training bird.

Jamie Beatty

these are great tips! my parents are divorced and my dad is moving to dallas, oregon. we have it arranged where if i am staying at his house for longer than a weekend, my budgie sunny absolutley has to come. i didn’t exactly know how to go about getting her there though, and now i do! :)

Jamie Beatty
Houten Speelgoed

Great tips, thanks man!

Houten Speelgoed

Kosmo, my umbrella cockatoo, get extremely carsick, even just going to the vet. I wouldn’t put him through the stress and suffering. He gets his own vacation at the bird vet while I’m gone and I think he enjoys the attention from different people. The only time I had an issue was when the receptionist hand fed him everything, holding the food for him! Ha! He had a rude awakening when he returned home and I didn’t spoil him like that, though he tried to get me to the hold the food and still tries every once in a while.

Nora Klinger

When traveling with a bird(s) or any animal for that matter whether in or out of state remember a health certificate just in case you are stopped at any border crossing at state lines. Each state also has their own set of rules and regulations. You should check to see what they are. Make sure that the bird can be identified by micro chip, leg band, or tattoo in the event that something goes wrong. This is very important. If traveling out of the United States US Fish and Wildlife have their regulations and permits for travel and also for returning. The US Department of Agriculture also mandates a 30 day quarantine upon return to the US. Returning with a pet bird. If you can identify the bird as the same bird via a micro chip, tattoo, or leg band the bird can be home quarantined. All records and permits must be saved and in order for this to happen. Canada is a little different. You should still check with US Fish and Wildlife and USDA so you can fulfill their requirements.

Nora Klinger
Candice C

my cockatiel is fine in the car, but the first time I took my conure in the car with me, he got motion sick and threw up all over the towel in the carrier, and all over himself…my poor baby. Since then, he does much better in the car. But…he has a busy beak and seems to have separation anxiety at times, because the last time I took him (and my cockatiel) on a trip (that was only across town and back to a photoshoot with me), he had chewed a hole through the peep holes in the side of the crate large enough for him to climb through. So when I uncovered their crates when I got back inside the studio from my outdoor session alone with the photographer, he was sitting in the hole and Matisse (my cockatiel) was very distressed and I was absolutely horrified. I had covered their crates up with one of the sheets on the stage set for the indoor session with them, when I was asked to change into my second outfit and go outside with the photographer, because I knew being in the studio without me would be stressful, but I didn’t want to close them up in my car without me either. since then, I haven’t taken either of them out on a trip with me—especially since on that trip Tipsy (conure) escaped through that hole he chewed through the side of the crate and somehow made it from the backseat (where the crates were covered with a beach towel large enough to cover both crates at once AND were seat belted in right next to each other) to the front seat and climbed up the cloth seat cover to my shoulder. For one, Tipsy chewed a hole through his crate (so it can’t be used anymore) and seems to be Houdini reincarnated. And for two, I lost a bird outside because I was an idiot. I’m scared to take either of them outside anymore, even in their secured sleep cages, so they don’t get enough direct sunlight and I know that’s not good for them. I should harness train them, but I don’t know how to without getting my fingers bitten off by Tipsy (I’m positive he actually could sever a fingertip), and I should buy new travel crates for them that are actually those well-built powder coated travel cages, like miniature day cages.

Candice C

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