December 2023 Update: Since the transition period for leaving the EU came to an end on 31st December 2020, there have been significant changes to the requirements for moving live birds between the UK and the EU and vice versa. This has puzzled, frustrated, confused, and annoyed many Parrot Society members, who wish to buy, sell or exchange parrots with colleagues in Europe. To assist with sorting out the confusion, our trustee Tariq Abou-Zahr has produced an article in March 2023, posted here earlier. This has now been revised in the light of more recent information, and will be added to as negotiations with Defra continue on your behalf.
Importing Birds into the UK from the EU: A Guide for Private and Hobbyist Aviculturists
Dr Tariq Abou-Zahr BVSc CertAVP(ZooMed) DipECZM(Avian) MRCVS
RCVS and EBVS European Veterinary Specialist in Zoological Medicine(Avian)
Trustee of the Parrot Society UK
*Disclaimer* - The following article is based on our understanding of the current legislation and requirements at the time of writing. Guidance may be subject to change at short notice and for confirmation on any particular import or the current requirements, it remains the responsibility of importers to speak to the Animal & Plant Health Agency (APHA) Centre for International Trade, which is the authority for overseeing imports of animals into the UK, prior to export/import. Contact details can be found below or from the government website. For queries related to customs fees, taxes or duty on goods being imported, please seek advice from HMRC.
Updated by Tariq Abou-Zahr, December 2023 (Chair of CASC: Companion Animal Sector Council & Trustee of the PSUK).
This month I had a follow-up online call with a senior DEFRA policy advisor, to clarify the position RE bird imports into the UK, as we’d received reports from CASC member organisations (predominantly via the Parrot Society UK) that individuals have been advised by APHA that “recently acquired” birds being brought to the UK must come in as “captive birds” rather than pet birds and as such, would need to quarantine.
DEFRA acknowledged that there are still no known quarantine centres that can be used by private bird keepers in the UK, but discussed that ultimately, this is a decision for business. Opening a quarantine centre, provided it meets the requirements and passes the necessary inspections – is perfectly possible and DEFRA are happy to approve new centres.
It was confirmed that up to 5 birds can be brought in by bird keepers as “pet birds”, providing that:
- They travel with their UK-based owner
- The owner has the necessary health certificate, in their name
- The health certificate is completed and correctly certified by an official veterinarian in the country of origin and the necessary disease tests have been carried out
- The non-commercial declaration has been made by the owner on the health certificate, which confirms that the birds are not intended for re-sale or for transfer of ownership in the UK
- As detailed on the health certificate, the birds must be moved to a household/residence in Great Britain and must not be entered into shows, fairs, exhibitions or other gatherings of birds for 30 days following entry.
To recap, our understanding of the process for bringing up to 5 birds as pet birds to the UK from the EU is as follows:
- Ensure birds are uniquely identifiable, i.e. with a closed ring or microchip
- Apply for CITES export permit in the country of origin (the breeder will need to assist with this and to confirm the source of the birds). The use code should be “P” – i.e. personal for birds coming in as pet birds, not any other purpose, e.g. “T” – commercial.
- Once the CITES export permit is granted, apply for CITES import permit in the UK.
- Once that’s granted, the birds must go through the necessary steps for export as follows:
1. An official veterinarian in the country of Origin (i.e. a vet in practice that is approved to certify exports in that country) must be consulted to complete the necessary health certificate, which they can apply for from their country’s management authority (equivalent of APHA) for moving pet birds to the United Kingdom. The model certificate is here: GBHC058E_Pet_birds__2007-25__from_EU_countries_v3.0_September-22.pdf (publishing.service.gov.uk).
2. The bird(s) must be isolated for at least 10 days prior to dispatch (likely this would be at the breeder/source), which the vet will need to certify
3. After day 3 of isolation, the birds must be tested for avian influenza and must test negative and must remain isolated until dispatch
4. On the day of dispatch, or within 48h of dispatch, or on the last working day prior to dispatch, the birds must be examined by the official vet, who will sign the paperwork to confirm that the birds have been isolated and tested as above and that at the time, the bird has been clinically inspected and free from signs of disease. The owner will need to be present and will also need to declare that the movement is non-commercial and that the bird will remain isolated during movement, moved to a household in GB and not entered into gatherings of birds for 30 days from entry. The bird(s) can then be moved.
5. The bird(s) must travel in an IATA approved transport container (regardless of whether travelling by air or road). IATA guidelines for transport containers are available for consultation from IATA, but at a cost of £275: IATA - Live Animals Regulations (LAR)
6. The bird will need to enter the UK via an approved point of entry. For CITES species, the list of ports of entry are as follows: Trading or moving CITES-listed specimens through UK ports and airports - GOV.UK (www.gov.uk)
7. You must notify the APHA centre for International Trade Imports at least one working day prior to the expected arrival in GB, that the birds are coming. More notice would be preferable. The centre’s contact details are as follows: Centre for International Trade - Carlisle Eden Bridge House Lowther Street Carlisle CA3 8DX Email: Imports@apha.gov.uk Telephone: 03000 200 301.
8. It may be necessary to pay customs fees/VAT on arrival in the UK. It would be a good idea to retain receipts from when you acquired the bird(s) to confirm their value. For non-commercial goods, our understanding is that any tax due can be paid to a customs agent at the border. If importing birds by air, your pet clearing agent will likely facilitate the payment of any tax or duty due, speak to them for further advice.
Please note that the above only applies for birds not intended for re-sale or change of ownership in the UK and only up to 5 birds. Any transfer of ownership MUST have already occurred prior to the birds being exported.
You can read the guidance notes for importing pet birds here:
For those bringing in more than 5 birds, or wishing to bring in birds to sell/for commercial purposes – those birds cannot come in as “pet birds” and must come in as “captive birds”, which will require them to quarantine. A quarantine centre will need to be opened/approved by APHA and available to allow this to happen. Birds can also only originate from “approved facilities”, not from just any breeder/source. The guidance notes for captive birds are available here: