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are parrots illegal in the U.S?

Are Parrots Legal In America? A State-by-State Guide!

Last Updated on January 27, 2024 by Carrie Stephens

Except for the thick-billed parrot, parrots aren’t native to North America. Different species were brought in from other countries, and some may have been bred from imported parrots.

Parrots are usually legal in the United States, but Quakers are banned in some states and counties.

The laws are stricter when importing or exporting parrots. Endangered or threatened parrot species aren’t always legal to own. Likewise, selling, buying, or trading parrots can have legal repercussions.

A parrot is an invasive species, and those that are endangered are illegal to own or breed in certain U.S. states. Other birds may be legal to own, but they can’t be sold to residents of different states.

Legal Vs. Illegal Parrot Ownership in America

Parrots aren’t illegal to own in the U.S., but there are restrictions in some states.

Certain species may be illegal or banned. For example, Quaker parrots are banned in California as an invasive species, and Hawaii restricts the number of parrots allowed on the islands.

The United States is strict about which pets you’re allowed to own.

Many exotic animals, like big cats and foxes, were made illegal to own in the United States to stop unlawful trading. Others are banned to prevent them from becoming pests to the local environment.

Parrots also qualify as “exotic” animals. That said, most species remain legal to own.

Laws on Parrots

Parrots were initially imported from South America, Asia, and other parts of the world, and hundreds of thousands crossed into the United States each year.

The Wild Bird Conservation Act (WBCA) was introduced in October 1992 to address illegal wildlife trading.

This act made it illegal to own animals covered by the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES).

After the WBCA was passed, the number of parrots imported into the United States fell significantly.

Why Quaker Parrots Are Banned in Some States

Quaker parrots are medium-sized species with distinct green and white colors. While they’re not radically different from other parrots, they’re banned in many states.

Quakers are native to South America and usually live in large flocks. Due to low temperatures, South American parrots are usually unable to survive the harsh winters.

However, Quakers build well-insulated nests from twigs and grass, enabling them to survive.

This means a pet Quaker parrot that escapes has the potential to breed and multiply outdoors. That’s why they’re banned, along with the following reasons:

why are quaker parrots banned in some states?

Threat to Agriculture

Quakers eat a diet of grains, nuts, fruits, and seeds in their South American native countries.

Non-captive or escaped Quakers in the United States delight in consuming crops, making them a pest when agriculture significantly contributes to the local economy.

Harm to Native Birds

Quakers are territorial birds, so they’re often aggressive toward other species that enter their territory. This may not be perceived as a problem, given that they’re only 11-12 inches long.

However, Quakers travel in large flocks, making it easy for them to invade the territories of native species. In some cases, they may harm or even kill native birds.

States that prioritize the protection of native birds have banned the importation and ownership of Quakers. Otherwise, a few escaped parrots will result in a large flock and drive out other species.

Diseases

Quaker parrots spread a disease called psittacosis. This disease quickly transmits from bird to bird, a process made easier by their large flocks.

Additionally, psittacosis can be transferred to humans (zoonotic), causing the following symptoms:

  • Chills.
  • Muscle aches.
  • Fever.
  • Pneumonia in severe cases.

Psittacosis is especially risky for seniors, whose organs aren’t as resilient.

Nests

Quakers build intricate nests out of twigs and grass, which can be quite large and become a nuisance in rural and urban areas. In the past, Quaker nests built on power lines have caused power outages.

Some nests become so large and heavy that they cause the structures holding them up, such as trees and poles, to collapse. So, certain states are strict about banning residents from owning Quakers.

Quaker Ownership in Different States

States that Quaker ownership is permitted with no restrictions include the following:

  • Alabama.
  • Alaska.
  • Arizona.
  • Arkansas.
  • Delaware.
  • District of Columbia.
  • Florida.
  • Illinois.
  • Indiana.
  • Iowa.
  • Louisiana.
  • Massachusetts.
  • Michigan.
  • Minnesota.
  • Mississippi.
  • Missouri.
  • Montana.
  • New Hampshire.
  • New Mexico.
  • North Dakota.
  • Oklahoma.
  • Oregon.
  • South Carolina.
  • South Dakota.
  • Texas.
  • Utah.
  • Washington.
  • West Virginia.

The states where quakers are legal but with restrictions include:

  • Maryland: Quaker ownership is allowed if owners don’t intend to release them.
  • Nebraska: The state considers quakers to be wild birds kept in captivity. Ownership is permissible only if they have a Captive Wildlife Permit.
  • New Jersey: Quaker ownership is permissible only after acquiring a permit from the New Jersey Division of Fish and Wildlife. However, this permit is issued only if owners can prove they meet specific criteria for safe ownership of this potentially harmful species.
  • New York: Quaker ownership is allowed if the parrots are ‘banded’ if sold or boarded by a pet shop.
  • Nevada: Quaker ownership is allowed. However, owners aren’t allowed to release them into the wild.
  • North Carolina: Quaker ownership is permitted, but some counties restrict these birds.
  • Ohio: Quaker ownership is permitted only if the bird’s wings have been clipped.
  • Rhode Island: Quaker ownership is permitted, with some restrictions. Owners will require a permit to keep these birds as pets.
  • Vermont: Quaker ownership is permitted with restrictions, and owners need a permit to keep them. In addition, all psittacine birds brought into the state must be banded and micro-chipped.
  • Virginia: Quaker ownership, sale, and breeding are legal if the birds are bred in captivity. They must be close-bonded using a seamless band.

States quakers are banned include:

  • California: Quaker ownership is prohibited, including importation and sales.
  • Colorado: Quaker ownership hasn’t been allowed since September 1st, 1990. This includes importation, sales, breeding, and releasing these birds into the wild. However, it’s permissible to transport Quakers out of the state.
  • Connecticut: Quaker ownership hasn’t been permitted since March 1st, 2012. This also includes breeding, selling, or transporting these birds.
  • Georgia: Quaker ownership is prohibited, including breeding, selling, transferring, importing, or releasing these birds in the state. Pet owners who wish to keep Quakers in the state aren’t provided with permits. However, you may apply for a permit to travel through the state with the bird.
  • Hawaii: Quaker ownership is prohibited in all cases, including selling and importation. The state makes no exceptions and doesn’t grant permits.
  • Kansas:  Quaker ownership is prohibited without a permit. However, these permits are often difficult to acquire due to the Department of Fish and Wildlife’s reluctance to issue them.
  • Kentucky: Quaker ownership is prohibited, with no exceptions. This includes sales.
  • Maine: The state’s legislature voted to ban Quaker ownership in 2017. It is currently illegal to own, import, and sell them.
  • Pennsylvania: Quaker ownership is prohibited, including their sale. Pet Quakers discovered by the state will be euthanized.
  • Tennessee: Quaker ownership is illegal, including the sale of these birds.
  • Wisconsin: Quaker ownership is prohibited, so it’s illegal to own, sell, and import them. Exceptions can be made in cases where owners can acquire a special permit. The Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources (WDNR) is currently targeting the sale and breeding of quakers.
  • Wyoming: Quaker ownership or sales are prohibited with no exceptions.

The Legality of Owning A Macaw

Macaws are exotic parrots prized for their vibrant colors. They’re also among the largest species, with the hyacinth macaw reaching up to 40 inches.

These birds are native to Bolivia and are among the most widely traded birds in illegal markets.

For this reason, the United States protected scarlet macaws in the Endangered Species Act (E.S.A.). You can no longer import them into the United States.

Macaws are legal to own in the United States, but the only way to acquire one legally is through a breeder already in the country. However, there are additional restrictions you’ll need to abide by if you wish to acquire a blue-throated macaw, including:

  • The bird must be purchased from a breeder residing in the same state.
  • Sellers or those wishing to use the bird for commercial purposes or scientific research will need a special permit.

Most Parrots Aren’t Allowed in Hawaii

Hawaii is among the strictest states on exotic pet ownership.

The state is home to many protected native species, which has led to restrictions for owners wishing to bring in exotic animals.

Hawaii doesn’t permit the importation of certain pet species. The few species that are allowed are still placed under special conditions.

Unfortunately, many parrot breeds are on the restricted list. So, if you own:

  • Black parrot.
  • Greater vasa parrot.
  • Rose-ringed parakeet.
  • Thick-billed parrot.

You can’t bring these birds into Hawaii with you. However, other parrot varieties are permitted in the country, including:

  • Amazon parrots.
  • Macaws.
  • Cockatiels.
  • Cockatoos.
  • Parakeets.

How To Bring Parrots To Hawaii

If you plan to bring some of the permitted parrot varieties to Hawaii, you must ensure they meet the state’s requirements.

Hawaii is strict about bird imports because it doesn’t want to introduce birds with the West Nile Virus into the country, as the virus could spread to native bird species.

For this reason, owners must quarantine their birds for 168 hours following their arrival. This isolation period must start within 36 hours or 1.5 days of entering the state.

In addition, owners will require a Poultry and Bird Permit.

Bringing A Parrot to the U.S.

The United States takes illegal parrot trading seriously. Many species have become endangered after being taken from the wild and sold on the black market.

Parrots can be imported into America unless they’re taken from the wild. Importing a parrot into the country is similar to importing other birds.

law on parrots

Steps to Bring a Parrot Into the U.S.

Owners must follow these steps when bringing their birds into the United States.

  • Contact the Animal Import Center and inform them how you intend to transport the bird to quarantine after arrival.
  • Contact the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and ask about any processes or fees involved with the importation of the bird.

Wildlife inspectors are stationed at specially designated entry ports. They’ll inspect the bird on an appointment basis. The bird’s flight into the U.S. must be through a designated port without stopovers.

Are you not entering the country through one of the designated ports? Then, you must apply for a Designated Port Exception Permit by submitting a form. This allows the inspection to occur at a different border crossing. Once you’ve completed this, you can move on:

  • Apply for a VS import permit. This takes weeks, so apply at least 30 days before departure.
  • This import permit is valid for 30 days, so finalize your travel dates before applying for the permit.
  • The import permit should be submitted to the Animal Import Center if you travel from a country free from Highly Pathogenic Asian Avian Influenza (HPAI).
  • If you’re traveling from a country affected by HPAI, your import permit must be submitted to the Strategy and Policy Live Animal Imports Office.
  • Owners will need to acquire a health certificate from an official government veterinarian from the country they are coming from. The certificate should follow this format.

Steps Necessary Once Inside The U.S.

Although the most challenging parts are done, there’s still more paperwork.

  • Once in the U.S., you must declare the parrot to U.S. Customs and Border Protection. This is only if the bird travels with you and not in cargo.
  • U.S. Customs and Border Protection will inspect the bird, and the veterinary services port veterinarian will examine the bird’s paperwork.

You can now move on to wherever you intend to stay. However, the steps haven’t been finished yet.

  • After inspection at the port of entry, the parrot must be quarantined for a certain period. The bird will be taken to the Animal Import Center (A.I.C.) for their quarantine.
  • If you’re arriving from an HPAI-free country, the quarantine period is 30 days in the U.S.
  • If you’re traveling from a country affected by HPAI, you must quarantine the parrot in its country of origin. This lasts 21 days in addition to the 30-day federal quarantine inside the U.S.
  • The parrot will be released from quarantine in the U.S. after 30 days. That is, assuming it is healthy and has passed the sample tests conducted by veterinary services.

Bringing A Parrot from Mexico to the U.S.

The United States is strict about wildlife brought in from Mexico. If you bring parrots into the country, you must abide by specific rules. To get the parrot into the U.S. from Mexico, you’ll need the following:

  • Import permit.
  • Veterinary health certificate.
  • Veterinary inspection at the port of entry.
  • 30-day quarantine inside the U.S.

The above procedure applies to parrots brought in via an airport or a seaport. Bringing a parrot from Mexico to the U.S. via a land border is prohibited.

Mexican Parrot Species You Can’t Export To The U.S.A.

It’s permissible to bring different parrot varieties into the U.S. from Mexico.

However, the sale, import, and export of certain Mexican parrot species from Mexico are prohibited. This includes the following species:

  • Aratinga holochlora (green parakeet).
  • Aratinga holochlora brevipes (socorro parakeets).
  • Aratinga strenua (pacific parakeet).
  • Aratinga nana (olive-throated parakeet).
  • Aratinga canicularis (orange-fronted parakeet).
  • Ara militaris (military macaw).
  • Ara macao (scarlet macaw).
  • Rhynchopsitta pachyrhyncha (thick-billed parrot).
  • Rhynchopsitta terrisi (maroon-fronted parrot).
  • Bolborhynchus lineola (barred parakeet).
  • Forpus cyanopygius (Mexican parrotlet).
  • Brotogeris jugularis (orange-chinned parakeet).
  • Pionopsitta haematotis (brown-hooded parrot).
  • Pionus seniles (white-crowned parrot).
  • Amazona albifrons (white-fronted amazon).
  • Amazona xantholora (yukatan amazon).
  • Amazona viridigenalis (red-crowned amazon).
  • Amazona finschi (lilac-crowned amazon).
  • Amazona autumnalis (red-lored amazon).
  • Amazona farinosa (southern mealy amazon).
  • Amazona oratrix (yellow-headed amazon).
  • Amazona auropalliata (yellow-naped amazon).

Most Parrots Are Legal To Own in California

Parrots are legal to own in California, except for Quaker parrots. Pet shops have to follow some special requirements when selling parrots in this state, including:

  • The parrot being sold isn’t unweaned, which means the bird should be able to eat independently and sustain its weight for two weeks without assistance from a human or parent.
  • Pet shops with 5 or fewer employees can’t keep unweaned parrots. The exception is if 1 employee has completed the Pet Industry Joint Advisory Council’s (PIJAC) Avian Certification Program.
  • Pet shops with six or more employees can’t keep an unweaned parrot. An exception is if at least 2 employees have completed the PIJAC Avian Certification Program.
  • Pet shops can’t sell unweaned parrots to a bird mart or at a swap meet.
are parrots legal in California?

Owning A Cockatoo in New York State

In New York State, you can legally own cockatoos, parakeets, and macaws. The only restriction applies to Quakers, which require the parrot to be banded if sold or boarded by a pet shop.

Owning A Parakeet in Michigan

You can legally own a parakeet in Michigan. This state has no laws restricting the ownership of parrots, and you can even get a Quaker without following any special conditions.

Rules for Parrots on the Endangered Species List

Many parrot breeds are covered under the Endangered Species Act, including the following:

  • Glaucous macaws.
  • Indigo macaws.
  • Blue-throated macaws.
  • Red-tailed parrots.
  • Yellow-billed parrots.
  • St Vincent parrots.
  • Imperial parrots.
  • Bahaman or Cuban parrots.
  • Red-spectacled parrots.
  • Red-browed parrots.
  • St. Lucia parrots.
  • Vinaceous-breasted parrots.
  • Puerto Rican parrots.
  • White cockatoos.
  • Philippine cockatoos.
  • Salmon-crested cockatoos.
  • Yellow-crested cockatoos.
  • Seychelles lesser vasa parrots.
  • Little blue macaws.
  • Ground parrots.
  • Red-capped parrots.
  • Thick-billed parrots.

These species are classified as “endangered.” The yellow-billed parrot, white cockatoo, and salmon-crested cockatoo are also classified as “threatened.” These parrots were placed on this list because:

  • Their natural habitat is threatened with destruction or was destroyed or modified in the past.
  • They’ve been overutilized for commercial, scientific, recreational, or educational purposes.
  • They’re vulnerable to disease or predators.
  • They don’t possess sufficient regulatory mechanisms.
  • Natural or manmade conditions threaten their continued existence.

Rules for Parrots Protected Under E.S.A.

The parrot species covered under E.S.A. can’t be:

  • Imported into the U.S. or exported outside.
  • Trapped, harmed, or killed.
  • Delivered or transported across state lines for commercial purposes.
  • Sold to residents of other states or outside the country.

Importing and Exporting Parrots Under E.S.A.

You can’t import or export parrots under E.S.A. protection. However, certain parrot species are exempt from these rules. This applies if the owner obtains the proper permits concerning the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES).

This also concerns the Wild Bird Conservation Act (WBCA) if:

  • The wild parrot was placed in captivity before a specific date.
  • The parrot was bred in captivity.

Owners may fail to import or export an ESA-protected parrot without acquiring the appropriate permits. In this case, it’s a violation of the E.S.A. Parrots under E.S.A. protection can be kept as personal pets.

The exempted species can also be transported across state lines and used for commercial purposes without an E.S.A. Permit.

Selling Parrots Under E.S.A.

Owners are allowed to sell these parrots protected under E.S.A. as long as the buyer and seller reside in the same state. However, you can sell E.S.A. parrots across state lines only if they count as the exempted species mentioned above.

If the parrot falls under the “threatened” category, you can’t sell it across state lines. A rare exception may occur if you demonstrate that selling the bird across state lines helps the species’ survival.

It’s also allowed if it’s for scientific research purposes.

Breeding Parrots Under E.S.A.

Owners can breed parrots protected under E.S.A. However, they must also abide by the sale restrictions on E.S.A. parrots.

How To Tell If A Parrot Is Legal To Own

If you’ve recently acquired a parrot from a friend or private seller, ensure it’s legal. You can determine this by following these steps:

  1. Identify the species: You should take the parrot to a vet or an expert who can identify the species.
  2. Check if the bird is a Quaker: Quakers are illegal to own in many states. Check if the bird belongs to this species and whether or not your state allows ownership of these birds.
  3. Look up the bird on E.S.A.: Even if the parrot isn’t a Quaker, you should still look it up on the E.S.A. parrot list. If the bird is on this list and was bought from a seller in another state, your purchase may have been illegal.
  4. Contact authorities: If you discover that your purchase was illegal, contact wildlife authorities and let them know that the seller is violating E.S.A. rules.

As mentioned, ownership of ESA-protected parrots isn’t illegal. You’re unlikely to get into trouble for purchasing one without realizing it.