Parrots aren’t native to North America (aside from the thick-billed Parrot). The various parrots were brought in from other countries, which may also be bred from imported parrots.
Parrots are usually legal in the United States, but quaker parrots are banned in certain states or counties.
When importing and exporting parrots, the laws are much stricter. Endangered or threatened parrot species aren’t always legal to own. Likewise, selling, buying, or trading them can have legal repercussions.
A parrot is considered a harmful invasive species, and those endangered are illegal to own or breed in certain U.S. states. Other birds protected by the Endangered Species Act are legal to own, but they can’t be sold to residents of other states.
Are Parrots Illegal in the U.S.?
Parrots aren’t illegal in the U.S., but there are restrictions from one state to another.
Certain species may be illegal or banned. For example, the quaker parrot is banned in California as an invasive species. Also, Hawaii restricts what types of parrots are allowed on the islands.
The United States is very strict about which pets you’re 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.
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 dropped. It was no longer over a hundred thousand per year but only a few hundred birds.
Why Are Quaker Parrots Banned in Some States?
Quaker parrots are a small parrot species with a distinct green and white color pattern. While they’re not that different from other parrots, they’re banned in many states.
Quakers are native to South America and usually live in large 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, enabling them to live out the winter.
This means a pet quaker parrot that escapes has the potential to breed and multiply outdoors. That’s likely why they’re banned, along with these reasons:
Threat to Agriculture
Quakers eat a diet consisting mostly of nuts, berries, fruits, and seeds. These birds forage for food out in the wild in their South American native countries.
Non-captive or escaped quakers in the United States delight in consuming crops, making them a pest in certain states. That’s a problem when agriculture production is a major contributor to the local economy.
Harm to Native Birds
Quakers are very territorial birds, so they’re often aggressive toward other species that enter their territory. This may not be seen 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 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 might develop a flock and drive other species.
Quaker parrots spread a disease called psittacosis. This illness quickly transmits from bird to bird, a process made 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, whose organs aren’t as resilient.
Quakers build intricate nests out of twigs and grass, which can be quite large and become a nuisance in 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 collapse. So, states have become 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 them.
- Nebraska: The state considers quakers to be wild birds 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 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 as long as 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 is prohibited as of September 1st, 1990. This includes importation, sales, breeding, and 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, 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 as well.
- Maine: The state’s legislature voted to ban quaker ownership in 2017. It is currently illegal to own, import, and sell these birds in the state.
- Pennsylvania: Quaker ownership is prohibited, including their sale. 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, 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.
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 (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 present 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.
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, which has led to restrictions for owners wishing to bring exotic animals into the country.
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
How To Bring Parrots To Hawaii
Are you planning to bring some of the permitted parrot varieties into Hawaii with you? Then, you must ensure they meet the state’s requirements.
Hawaii is strict about bird imports, as 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 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, owners will require a Poultry and Bird Permit.
Can I Bring a Parrot to the U.S.?
The United States takes illegal parrot trading seriously. Many parrot species have become endangered after being taken from the wild and sold on the black market.
You can bring parrots into the U.S. if they haven’t been taken 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 must 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.
Wildlife inspectors are stationed at specially designated entry ports. They’ll inspect your 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’ll 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 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’re traveling 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 hardest parts are done, there’s still more paperwork.
- Once in the U.S., you must 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 veterinary services port veterinarian will conduct the inspection and examine the bird’s paperwork.
You can now move on to wherever you intend to stay. 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 be taken to the Animal Import Center (A.I.C.) for their quarantine.
- If you’re coming 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 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 U.S.A.?
The United States is strict about wildlife brought in from Mexico. If you bring parrots into the country, you must abide by certain rules. To bring your 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)
Are Parrots Legal 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. It should sustain its current weight for two weeks without assistance from a human or parent.
- Pet shops with five or fewer employees can’t 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 can’t keep an unweaned parrot. An exception is if at least two employees have completed the PIJAC Avian Certification Program.
- Pet shops may not sell unweaned parrots to a bird mart or at a swap meet, only to private owners.
Can I Own a Cockatoo in New York State?
You can legally own a cockatoo, parakeets, and macaws in New York 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 the ownership of parrots, and 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
- Philippine cockatoo
- Salmon-crested cockatoo
- Yellow-crested cockatoo
- Seychelles lesser vasa parrot
- Little blue macaw
- Ground parrot
- Red-capped parrot
- Thick-billed parrot
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 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 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. That is, as long as the buyer and seller reside in the same state. You can sell E.S.A. parrots across state lines only if they count as the exempted species mentioned above.
If your parrot falls under the “threatened” category, you can’t sell them across state lines. The rare exception may occur if you 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 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 Your Parrot Is Legal to Own?
If you’ve 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 vet or an expert who can identify the species.
- Check if your bird is a quaker: Quakers are illegal to own in many 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 E.S.A.: If your parrot isn’t a quaker, you should still look them up on the E.S.A. parrot list. If your bird is 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 E.S.A. rules.
As mentioned, ownership of ESA-protected parrots isn’t illegal. You’re unlikely to get into trouble for purchasing an ESA-protected parrot without realizing it.