Parrots are among the most popular types of pet birds in America. However, these creatures are not actually native to North America. The various parrots that parrot-lovers own in the country were brought in from outside the nation. They may also be bred from birds that were imported. To make sure your parrot is legal to own, be sure to check regulations.
Parrots are usually legal in the United States. However, quaker parrots are banned in certain states or counties. When it comes to importing and exporting parrots, the laws are much stricter. Endangered or threatened parrot species are not always legal to own. Likewise, selling, buying, or trading them can have legal repercussions.
A parrot is considered a harmful invasive species, and those that are endangered are illegal to own or breed in certain U.S. states. If you bring a parrot to Hawaii, for example, you may need to follow strict procedures. This will include a large amount of paperwork and long quarantine times. Other birds protected by the Endangered Species Act (ESA) are legal to own, but they cannot be sold to residents of other states.
Are Parrots Illegal in the U.S?
Parrots are not illegal in the U.S., but there are restrictions from one state to another. This will not concern parrots as a whole, but certain species may be illegal or banned. For example, the quaker parrot is banned in California as an invasive species. Likewise, Hawaii has restrictions on what types of parrots are allowed on the islands.
The United States is very strict about which pets you are allowed to own. Many exotic animals, such as big cats and foxes, were made illegal to own in the United States to stop illegal trading. Others are banned to prevent them from becoming pests to the local environment.
Parrots also fit the definition of “exotic” animals. However, most varieties are still legal to own. No one is sure why certain varieties are strictly illegal, while others get a pass. That makes it wise to assess each breed individually, alongside the laws for each state.
Laws on Parrots
Parrots have remained popular pets in the United States for many decades. However, these birds were initially imported from South America, Asia, and other parts of the world. Hundreds of thousands crossed into the United States each year.
To address the problem of illegal wildlife trading, the Wild Bird Conservation Act (WBCA) was introduced in October 1992. This act made it illegal to own animals covered under 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 dropped. It was no longer over a hundred thousand per year, but only a few hundred.
Why Are Quaker Parrots Banned in Some States?
Quaker parrots are a small parrot species. They have a distinct green and white color pattern. While they’re not terribly different from other parrots, they are still banned in many states across the country.
Quakers are native to South America and usually live in huge flocks. South American parrots would normally be unable to survive the winters in America due to low temperatures.
However, quakers stand out because they can build well-insulated nests made from twigs and grass. This enables them to live out the winter peacefully.
This means any pet quaker that escapes its owner has the potential to breed and thrive outdoors. That may be the reason for why they are banned, along with these reasons:
Threat to Agriculture
Quakers eat a diet consisting of mostly nuts, berries, fruits, and seeds. These birds forage for such food out in the wild when in their South American native countries.
On the other hand, non-captive or escaped quakers in the United States delight in consuming crops produced by farmers. This makes quakers a pest in certain states. That’s especially true when agriculture production is a major contributor to the local economy.
Harm to Native Birds
Quakers are very territorial birds. They often act out aggressively towards other species that enter their territory. This may not be viewed as a problem, given that the parrots are relatively small in size.
However, quakers move around in large flocks, making it easy for them to invade the territories of native species. In some cases, quakers may actually harm and kill native birds.
For this reason, states that prioritize the protection of native birds have banned the importation and ownership of quakers. Otherwise, a few escaped parrots might develop a flock and drive other species to extinction.
Quaker parrots are also prone to spreading a disease known as psittacosis. This illness quickly transmits from bird to bird; a process made all the easier by their large flocks. Additionally, psittacosis can be transferred to humans. This disease causes symptoms such as:
- Muscle aches
- Pneumonia in severe cases
Psittacosis is especially risky for seniors, as their organs aren’t as resilient. This may lead to them succumbing to this disease.
As mentioned earlier, quakers build intricate nests out of twigs and grass. These nests can be quite large and become a nuisance in both rural and urban areas. Quaker nests built on power lines have caused power outages in the past.
Some nests become so large and heavy that they cause the structures holding them up, such as trees and poles, to fall down. For this reason, many states have become very strict about banning residents from owning quakers.
Quaker Ownership in Different States
States where quaker ownership is permitted with no restrictions include:
- District of Columbia
- New Hampshire
- New Mexico
- North Dakota
- South Carolina
- South Dakota
- West Virginia
The states where quakers are legal but with restrictions include:
- Maryland: Quaker ownership is allowed as long as owners have no intent to release these birds.
- Nebraska: The state considers quakers as wild birds that are kept in captivity. Ownership is permissible only if owners 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 certain 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 are not allowed to release them into the wild.
- North Carolina: Quaker ownership is permitted, but some counties have restrictions on 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 if they wish to keep these birds as pets.
- Vermont: Quaker ownership is permitted with some restrictions. Owners will need a permit to keep these birds. In addition to this, all psittacine birds brought into the state are required to be banded and micro-chipped.
- Virginia: Quaker ownership, sale, and breeding are considered legal so long as the birds are bred in captivity. They must be close-bonded using a seamless band.
States where quakers are banned include:
- California: Quaker ownership is prohibited. This includes importation and sales.
- Colorado: Quaker ownership is prohibited as of September 1st, 1990. This includes importation, sales, breeding, and/or releasing these birds into the wild. However, it is permissible to transport quakers out of the state.
- Connecticut: Quaker ownership is prohibited as of March 1st, 2012. This also includes breeding, selling, or transporting these birds.
- Georgia: Quaker ownership is prohibited. This includes breeding, selling, transferring, importing, or releasing these birds in the state. Permits are not provided to pet owners that wish to keep a quaker in the state. However, you may apply for a permit to travel through the state with the bird.
- Hawaii: Quaker ownership is prohibited in all cases. This includes selling and/or importing these birds. The state makes no exceptions, and does not 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 as well.
- Maine: The state’s legislature voted to ban quaker ownership in 2017. It is currently illegal to own, import, and/or sell these birds in the state.
- Pennsylvania: Quaker ownership is prohibited. This includes the sale of these birds. Pet quakers discovered by the state will be euthanized.
- Tennessee: Quaker ownership is illegal. This includes sales of these birds.
- Wisconsin: Quaker ownership is prohibited. It is illegal to own, sell, and/or import these birds. Exceptions can be made in cases where owners are able to acquire a special permit. The Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources (WDNR) is currently targeting the sale and breeding of this bird, but has not yet gone after private owners of quakers.
- Wyoming: Quaker ownership or sales are prohibited with no exceptions.
Is it Legal to Own a Macaw?
Macaws are an exotic variety of parrots that are prized for their vibrant colors. These birds are also among the largest breed of parrot that exists. The hyacinth macaw reaches up to 40 inches in height.
These birds are native to Bolivia but are also one of the most widely traded birds in illegal markets. For this reason, the United States placed scarlet macaws under protection in the Endangered Species Act (ESA). You can no longer import these birds 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 present in the country. However, there are additional restrictions you will need to abide by if you wish to acquire a blue-throated macaw. This includes:
- The bird must be purchased from a breeder residing in the same state.
- Sellers or those that wish to use the bird for commercial purposes or scientific research will need to acquire a special permit.
Can You Bring a Parrot to Hawaii?
Hawaii is one of the strictest states concerning exotic pet ownership. The state is home to many native species that are heavily protected. This has led to restrictions for owners that wish to bring an exotic animal into the country.
Hawaii does not 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 cannot bring these birds into Hawaii with you. However, other parrot varieties are permitted in the country, including:
- Amazon parrots
How To Bring Parrots To Hawaii
Are you planning to bring some of the permitted parrot varieties into Hawaii with you? Then you will need to ensure they meet the state’s requirements. Hawaii is very strict about bird importations, as Hawaii does not wish to introduce birds with the West Nile Virus into the country. They could spread the virus to native bird species.
For this reason, owners will need to isolate 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 to this, owners will require a Poultry and Bird Permit.
Can I Bring a Parrot to the U.S?
As we’ve seen so far, the United States takes illegal parrot trading very seriously. Many parrot species have become endangered due to being plucked from the wild and sold on the black market.
You can bring parrots into the U.S, as long as they have not been plucked from the wild. Importing a parrot into the country is similar to importing other birds.
Steps to Bring a Parrot Into the U.S
Owners will need to follow these steps when bringing their birds into the United States.
- Contact the Animal Import Center and let them know how you intend to transport your bird to quarantine after arrival.
- Contact the U.S Fish and Wildlife Service and ask them about any processes or fees involved with the bird’s importation.
The wildlife inspectors are typically stations at specially designated entry ports. They will inspect your bird on an appointment basis. The bird’s flight into the U.S must be through one of these designated ports without stopovers.
Are you not entering the country through one of the designated ports? Then you will need to apply for a Designated Port Exception Permit by submitting a special 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 several weeks, so you should apply at least 30 days before departure.
- This import permit is valid for a total of 30 days, you should finalize your travel dates before applying for the permit.
- If you are traveling from a country that is free from Highly Pathogenic Asian Avian Influenza (HPAI), the import permit should be submitted to the Animal Import Center.
- If you are traveling from a country affected by HPAI, your import permit will need to 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.
Now you’ve arrived in the U.S. Although some of the hardest parts are done, there is still more paperwork necessary.
- Once in the U.S., you will need to declare your parrot to U.S Customs and Border Protection. This is only if the bird was traveling with you, and not in cargo.
- Your bird will be taken for an inspection by U.S Customs and Border Protection. The inspection will be conducted by the veterinary services port veterinarian, who will also examine the bird’s paperwork.
You can now move on to wherever you intend on staying. However, the steps aren’t finished yet.
- After inspection at the port of entry, your parrot will need to be quarantined for a certain period. Your bird will typically be taken to the Animal Import Center (AIC) for their quarantine.
- If you are coming from an HPAI-free country, the quarantine period will need to be 30 days in the U.S.
- If you are traveling from a country affected by HPAI, you will need to quarantine your parrot in your country of origin. This lasts for 21 days in addition to the 30-day federal quarantine inside the U.S.
- Your parrot will be released from quarantine after 30 days in the U.S. That is,, assuming it is healthy and has passed the sample tests conducted by veterinary services.
Can I Bring a Parrot From Mexico to the USA?
The United States is very strict about wildlife brought in from Mexico. If you do bring parrots into the country, you will need to abide by certain rules.
Similar to the aforementioned procedure, to bring your parrot into the U.S from Mexico, you will need:
- Import permit.
- Veterinary health certificate.
- Veterinary inspection at the port of entry.
- 30-day quarantine inside the U.S.
It should be noted that 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 Cannot Export to U.S.A
It is permissible to bring many different parrot varieties into the U.S from Mexico. However, the sale, import, and/or export of certain Mexican parrot species from Mexico itself is prohibited. This includes the following species:
- Aratinga holochlora (green parakeet)
- Aratinga holochlora brevipes (socorro parakeet)
- 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)
Are Parrots Legal in California?
Parrots are legal to own in California, except for quaker parrots. Pet shops do have to follow some special requirements when selling parrots in this state. This includes:
- The parrot being sold is not unweaned. This means the bird should be able to eat independently. It should sustain its current weight for two weeks without assistance from a human or a parent.
- Pet shops with five or fewer employees cannot keep an unweaned parrot. The exception is if at least one employee has completed the Pet Industry Joint Advisory Council’s (PIJAC) Avian Certification Program.
- Pet shops with six or more employees cannot keep an unweaned parrot. An exception is if at least two employees have completed the PIJAC Avian Certification Program.
- Petshops may not sell unweaned parrots to a bird mart or at a swap meet. They can only be sold to private owners.
Can I Own a Cockatoo in New York State?
You can legally own a cockatoo in New York State. You can also own parakeets and macaws in this state. The only restriction applies to quakers, which require the parrot to be banded if sold or boarded by a pet shop.
Can I Own a Parakeet in Michigan?
You can legally own a parakeet in Michigan. This state has no laws restricting ownership of parrots. You can even own a quaker without needing to follow any special conditions.
Rules for Parrots on the Endangered Species List
Many parrot breeds are covered under the Endangered Species Act. This includes:
- Glaucous macaw
- Indigo macaw
- Blue-throated macaw
- Red-tailed parrot
- Yellow-billed parrot
- St vincent parrot
- Imperial parrot
- Bahaman or cuban parrot
- Red-spectacled parrot
- Red-browed parrot
- St. Lucia parrot
- Vinaceous-breasted parrot
- Puerto rican parrot
- White cockatoo
- Phillipine cockatoo
- Salmon-crested cockatoo
- Yellow-crested cockatoo
- Seychelles lesser vasa parrot
- Little blue macaw
- Ground parrot
- Red-capped parrot
- Thick-billed parrot
The aforementioned parrot 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 currently threatened with destruction or modification, or was destroyed or modified in the past.
- They have been overutilized for commercial, scientific, recreational, or educational purposes.
- They are vulnerable to disease or predators.
- They do not possess sufficient regulatory mechanisms.
- Natural or manmade conditions threaten their continued existence.
Rules for Parrots Protected Under ESA
The parrot species covered under ESA cannot 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 ESA
You cannot import or export parrots under ESA protection. However, certain parrot species are exempt from these rules. This applies if the owner obtains the right 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 ESA. Parrots under ESA protection can be kept as personal pets.
The exempted species can also be transported across state lines and used for commercial purposes without an ESA Permit.
Selling Parrots Under ESA
Owners are also allowed to sell these parrots protected under ESA. That is, so long as the buyer and seller both reside in the same state. You can sell ESA parrots across state lines only if they count as the exempted species mentioned above.
If your parrot falls under the “threatened” category, you cannot sell them across state lines. The rare exception may occur if you can demonstrate that selling the bird across state lines helps species’ survival. It’s also allowed if it’s for scientific research purposes.
Breeding Parrots Under ESA
Owners can breed parrots protected under ESA. However, they will also need to abide by the sale restrictions on ESA parrots.
How to Tell if Your Parrot Is Legal to Own?
If you have recently acquired a parrot, either from a friend or purchased from a private seller, you should ensure that it is legal to own. You can determine this by following these steps:
- Identify the species: You should take your parrot to a veterinarian or an expert who can identify what species the bird is.
- Check if your bird is a quaker: Quakers are illegal to own in many different states. Check if your bird belongs to this species, and whether or not your state allows ownership of these birds.
- Look up the bird on ESA: If your parrot is not a quaker, you should still look them up on the ESA parrot list. If your bird falls on this list, and was bought from a seller in another state, your purchase may have been illegal.
- Contact authorities: If you discover that your purchase was illegal, contact wildlife authorities and let them know that the seller is violating ESA rules.
As mentioned earlier, ownership of ESA-protected parrots is not illegal. You are unlikely to get in trouble for purchasing an ESA-protected parrot without realizing it.
The legality of parrots in the United States can be a complex matter. However, owners should generally be in the clear. Just make sure you do not own a quaker parrot in an illegal state.