Can I Travel with My Bird Safely?

Let’s review the basics. Why do we keep birds in cages? Because if we didn’t, they would fly away.
 
The weather is getting warm which causes humans to make travel plans. We love our birds, we want them to travel with us. We love our birds, we want them to experience the out-of-doors, something we regretfully deprive them of the majority of their lives.
cockatoo chews out of hard plastic bird carrier

Whaaaat?
There are four ways to look at traveling with your bird. 1) You just want to take your bird outside for a few hours or visit somewhere close. 2) It’s time for a getaway weekend and there’s no way you’re going to leave your feathered bundle of joy at home 3) It’s time to cash in those airline reward miles. 4) Road trip!
Oh, you want to take your bird outside in a fabric backpack? What could possibly go wrong with that? There’s no way your bird could chew out of something fabric and you would never notice your backpack losing 10 ounces of featherweight, right? Never underestimate your birds desire, ability and speed to escape from unfamiliar surroundings. Please use your best judgment when using a fabric carrier, you’ve been warned.
It’s a bird, it’s a plane, no, it’s a bird on a plane. The rules here are murky. If you plan on traveling with your bird on an airline we suggest you call the airline and get all of the requirements. Then hang up call back and talk to somebody else to see if they give you the same set of requirements. Find links to air travel websites here

When going through security, be prepared to take your bird out of the carrier for inspection. We can’t promise this will happen but we’ve had customers tell us it’s happened to them. We have a rigid plastic carrier that will fit under the seat of most airliners. We also offer a more purse like carrier that was used by one of our customers to bring her Amazon from the Amazon to the US. You can find her experience chronicled here.

There are two sides to traveling with your bird. The trip and the destination. Let’s start with the trip. In that any trip in or on any sort of vehicle whether it be a bicycle, automobile, motorcycle or motor home your bird has to deal with something called “inertia”.
 
I like riding very fast motorcycles. On my really really fast motorcycle I have a backrest so when I accelerate rapidly, I’m not pushed to the back seat which would make driving a bit problematic. When I break or decelerate, because my hands are on the handlebars I’m able to use my arms to resist catapulting myself forward (and yes I have played the role of human catapult off a motorcycle but that’s another story).
Prevue pop up portable bird play area
You can take your kid to the Park….
In most every carrier I see, birds are asked to stand on a bird perch that goes side to side. So if your bird is in say, an automobile facing forward, every time you accelerate and brake your bird must grab that perch as tight as his muscles allow so he isn’t forced backward (or forward when breaking). This puts an unusual amount of physical and mental stress on your bird.
 
For this reason we recommend installing a U or L shaped soft rope perch in any travel cage. Think public transportation. If you’ve ever had occasion to ride a bus there are grabs and poles along the top portion of the bus that you can hold onto for offsetting inertia.
Booda rope perch and U-shaped shown in hard plastic bird carrier

Booda’sare comfy on a birds feet for long periods of time. The bird will sit in the middle of the “U” and the vertical sides allow them to grab a higher point which will help counteract the acceleration and deceleration of the vehicle they are in
By allowing your bird to sit at the bottom of the “U”, when they sense a change of speed (inertia) they can raise 1 foot and grab the vertical portion of the “U” with the other foot remaining at the bottom thereby helping them offset the inertia.
 
If you have an SUV or minivan it’s best to secure the travel cage to an area on the floor. If you have a sedan and the travel cage is going to be placed on a back seat, keeping it in place with the seat belt is a no-brainer. Knowing to place a spacer between the back of his seat and the carrier so they can’t chew your Corinthian leather, is why you read this newsletter.
Speaking of inertia, make sure that if you have toys in the cage and you’ll be traveling by motor vehicle, the toys are placed so they don’t bang into your birds with every stop and turn.
 
If your mode of travel is road trip and you plan on driving past sundown, it’s important to cover the cage before the bright flickering of on coming vehicle headlights become a nervous distraction. Birds don’t like that.
 
Fast food is a staple of road warriors. Keeping your bird fed and watered while in motion can be a bit of a challenge. Counterintuitive as it may be, birds do in fact get car sick. How do you know if your bird will get car sick? Take him or her for a practice run or two before you learn how such a small body can spew that much birdie vomit just at the moment you’ve reached the point of no return on your road trip.
We’ve read bird car sickness remedies ad nauseam (pun intended). As far as we’re concerned, you’re on your own with any of the remedies that you find on the web or Facebook. We are old-school so we recommend if you find you do have a bird that gets carsick, it’s best not to feed them 6 to 12 hours before prolonged travel allowing them to travel on an empty crop. Problem solved.
 
For hydration, place a single large ice cube in the travel cage dish. It keeps water sloshing to a minimum and your bird will enjoy running their tongue across the cold ice.
Prevue pop up playground for birds shown partially open
…or you can take the park to your FID.
Whether your destination be a condominium, log cabin or tent in the woods. It is important that the travel cage has some toys, just like at home and a cover for nighttime. Your bird might be a great traveler. We have a customer that travels with four or five macaws in big wire dog crates. One of the blue and Golds, hangs upside down from the roof of his crate for 1400 miles chattering to himself the entire way.
 
Other birds might not be as comfortable with the ride and/or the destination. When you get to wherever you’re going, it’s important to spend some time with your bird at least in the the same room talking to help reassure him that you – (and the rest the flock are not abandoning him or her).
Prevue pop up playground for birds
So what’s the best type of carrier to use? It’s like determining the right size bird cage. It’s based upon your relationship with your bird. Opaque plastic or even fully clear see-through plastic carriers are fine for use with category 1, short trips with smaller birds. Or by necessary category 2, airline travel.
 
Birds are about superhuman eyesight (literally) and lung function/capacity. Keeping birds in even partial darkness and without 360 degree ventilation is stressful.

Mitch Rezman

He's handled a 1000 birds of numerous species when they visited monthly birdie brunches in the old Portage Park (Chicago, IL) facility. The one with the parrot playground. Mitch has written and published more than 1100 articles on captive bird care. He's met with the majority of  CEO's and business owners for most brands in the pet bird space and does so on a regular basis. He also constantly interacts with avian veterinarians and influencers globally.

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