March 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 this new article, to replace our initial information of 2021. It sets out the current situation very clearly, and should be a big help to our members.
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 overseeing imports of animals into the UK, prior to export. Contact details can be found here: https://www.gov.uk/guidance/contact-apha. For queries related to customs fees, taxes or duty on goods being importing, please seek advice from HMRC. Contact details can be found here: https://www.gov.uk/contact-hmrc.
Introduction & Background
The Parrot Society UK has received a number of complaints from members about the difficulties associated with bringing birds into the UK from the EU since Brexit. Ambiguities and logistical difficulties associated with the new legislation have meant that obtaining birds from the continent has become a much more complicated affair, with some arguing that there is no clear legal route to entry at all in many circumstances.
Through its membership of CASC (the Companion Animal Sector Council), the Parrot Society has been looking to clarify the current requirements and try to help members understand the correct and legal process for bringing birds into the UK from Europe.
Members of the Parrot Society keep hundreds of different species of birds in their aviaries, of which there are established captive populations. While for many species, there are large numbers already kept in the UK, with plenty of genetic diversity, for other species, particularly rarer species, there are relatively small numbers of birds and the ability to exchange bloodlines with aviculturists in Europe is important to help ensure the ongoing genetic diversity of captive populations and to prevent inbreeding.
Putting aside poultry, birds that are being brought to the UK by private owners from abroad fall into two predominant legal categories: “Pet Birds” and “Captive Birds”.
Up until February 2023, “Pet Birds” were defined as up to 5 birds, travelling with their owner (or a natural person on behalf of the owner), not intended to be transferred or sold to another owner, that were being moved as a result of their owner moving. The interpretation of this was that pet birds could only be moved if owners were moving to the UK from abroad.
“Captive Birds” on the other hand, were birds not falling within the scope of “Pet Birds”, or other categories less relevant to private aviculturists, like birds that are part of recognised conservation projects or birds being imported for zoos, circuses, or amusement parks. So, if importing more than 5 birds, the birds count as captive birds. If birds are to be resold or transferred to another owner, they count as captive birds. If birds are travelling with a commercial company rather than the owner or a responsible natural person, the birds count as captive birds etc.
Whereas pet birds do not need to come from a specific source and do not need to be quarantined in an approved centre upon arrival, captive birds can only come from an approved breeding premises. Captive birds also must be quarantined for 30 days upon arrival in the UK in an approved quarantine centre. There are very few approved breeding premises in Europe. There are no approved quarantine centres that accept birds from private owners that the Parrot Society is currently aware of in the UK. For this reason, importing “Captive Birds” is not currently feasible for private keepers of birds.
Changes since we started communicating via CASC
There have been two changes that have occurred recently. The first is that for pet birds, the need for the importation to be “as a result of the owner moving” has been dropped. In our discussion with DEFRA, we have clarified that as long as there are less than five birds being imported, the birds are not intended for re-sale and are travelling with the owner (or a natural person on their behalf) – they can be brought to the UK as “Pet Birds” – even if a bird keeper has travelled to Europe specifically to acquire the birds to bring back to the UK for their own aviaries.
The second change is that DEFRA have acknowledged the issues for “Captive Birds” with regards to the lack of approved breeding premises and the lack of approved quarantine centres in the UK. To change the rules however, legislation will need to be updated. DEFRA have confirmed that there will be a review of the rules for importing “Captive Birds”, which will be preceded by a consultation process, where we will be given the chance to give our thoughts on how the process may work longer term. It’s important that the risk of importing infectious diseases into the UK is carefully considered, at the same time as ensuring there is a viable and legal means for birds to enter. Unfortunately, however, any such update of the legislation and consultation process is unlikely to happen until at least 2025.
There is however a legal means to import 5 birds as “Pet Birds” – the steps are listed below:
Guide to Importing Up to 5 Birds as “Pet Birds”
- Step 1 – Ensure that the birds are uniquely identified. They must either be closed rung with a ring number, or they must be microchipped.
- Step 2 – Check if the species is a CITES species that is listed under the EU wildlife trade regulations. All parrot-like birds, apart from budgerigars, cockatiels, peach-faced lovebirds, and ring-necked parakeets are CITES listed. CITES is an international treaty that regulates trade in endangered or threatened species. Many non-psittacines are not CITES listed. To check if a species is listed, use the Species Plus database here: https://speciesplus.net/
- Step 3 – If the bird(s) is(are) a CITES species, the seller in Europe must first apply for a CITES export permit (EU annex A and B) or for annex C, a CITES certificate of origin. Once that is granted, the buyer in the UK must apply for a CITES import permit (using the export permit number). The application form for a UK CITES import permit is here: https://assets.publishing.service.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/1065600/FED0172.pdf and a list of fees is here: https://www.gov.uk/guidance/apply-for-cites-permits-and-certificates-to-trade-endangered-species. Currently an import permit application costs £67.00. The CITES import and export permits should not list the purpose as “Commercial” (code “T”) – as if they do, it is difficult to attest that the import is “non-commercial”, as is necessary for birds to be considered “Pet Birds”. Instead, a purpose such as “Personal” or “Breeding in captivity or artificial propagation” can be stated.
- Step 4 – Once CITES permits are in order (if applicable), you can apply for an export health certificate through the origin country’s competent authority (i.e., their country’s equivalent of APHA). The model certificate is here: https://assets.publishing.service.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/1109111/GBHC058E_Pet_birds__2007-25__from_EU_countries_v3.0_September-22.pdf
- Step 5 - The bird(s) must be isolated for 10 days prior to dispatch
- Step 6 - Not earlier than on the third day of isolation, the bird(s) must be tested for avian influenza by an official veterinarian in the country of origin.
- Step 7 - On the last working day prior to dispatch/within 48h of dispatch, the bird must be presented again to the official veterinarian, who will sign the export health certificate (EHC) to confirm that the avian influenza test was negative, and the bird(s) is free from obvious signs of disease when examined that day. The EHC is filled out on behalf of the owner (i.e., the importer and final owner, not the breeder/seller in Europe). The owner (i.e. the importer), or the natural person representing the owner (importer) that is responsible for the bird(s) on their behalf, must therefore be present at the time that the EHC is completed and must also sign a declaration on the EHC to confirm that the bird(s) is not intended to be sold, or transferred to a new owner, that the bird(s) will remain under the responsibility of them for the duration of their movement, that the bird(s) will remain isolated from other birds from the time of the pre-export vet check and departure, that the bird(s) will be moved to a household or other residence in Great Britain and not entered into shows, fairs, exhibitions, or other gatherings of birds for 30 days.
- Step 8 – The bird(s) can be brought to the UK. In the case of CITES species, the birds must enter via a CITES designated port of entry. A list of these is available here: https://www.gov.uk/guidance/trading-cites-listed-specimens-through-uk-ports-and-airports
*Note that from 2024 onwards, there may also be a need to apply for an APHA import permit too (different to the CITES import permit) for pet birds – but until the end of 2023, this is not a requirement*
Customs Fees & Duty/VAT
- When bringing goods into the UK for personal use, there is a personal allowance for “other goods” (other than alcohol and tobacco), which we understand to be £390 (£270 if travelling by private plane or boat) at present. If birds are worth more than this, we understand that they are therefore liable for tax and duty on their total value.
- If importing birds by air, your pet clearing agent will likely facilitate the payment of any tax and duty due, speak to them for further advice.
- You should obtain a receipt from the seller of the birds with the price paid clearly stated, for checking at customs.
- For non-commercial goods and goods for personal use (including “Pet Birds”), payment of tax and duty can be paid online, or to a customs agent at the border. To calculate taxes due, you can do this online here:
For commercial goods including “Captive Birds” – a customs clearing agent and pre-import declaration is likely to be needed to facilitate payment of tax and duty prior to the shipment arriving in the UK, however as above, due to the present situation with a lack of “approved breeding premises” and “approved quarantine centres” – it is unlikely that private owners will be able to bring “Captive Birds” into the UK for the foreseeable future.
APHA guidance notes for importing “Pet Birds” can be found here:
APHA guidance notes for importing “Captive Birds” from the EU can be found here: