Parrots are among the most popular UK pets, but the legal challenges future owners face can be confusing. The rules also vary based on locality. So, can you own a parrot in the UK without a license?
Parrots are legal to own in the UK. You can buy common species without a license or paperwork, such as budgies and cockatiels. However, several species, such as African greys, are on the CITES list. You’ll need an Article 10 Certificate for Commercial Use to own these parrots from the government.
If you don’t apply for the relevant paperwork, you risk receiving an unlimited fine and jail time. Check whether your parrot is on the CITES list before handing over any cash.
Is It Legal To Own a Parrot in the UK?
As mentioned, UK citizens from England, Scotland, Wales, and Northern Ireland can legally own a parrot and, in many cases, can do so without a license.
However, there are limitations to this rule. While some of the more common parrots are easy to buy in pet stores unrestricted, some species require certification as proof of ownership.
Specifically, the UK government doesn’t allow its citizens to own a wild bird, its eggs, or its nest unless they can prove it was taken or killed legally. This includes some of the rarer species of parrots.
As per UK law, “taken legally” means the parrot was:
- Taken under license
- Unfit to be released into the wild
- Found dead or killed accidentally
The UK government states that citizens are allowed to own a parrot as long as it’s:
- Been bred in captivity.
- Taken from the wild outside of the UK or a European Union country.
- Taken from the wild before June 10, 1994.
- An exempted species that appear on the EC Habitats Directive.
- A European protected species obtained legally before October 31, 1981.
This means that as long as UK citizens buy a parrot from a reputable source who obtained or bred the bird using legal means, they can legally own the parrot without a license, certificates, or paperwork.
You should always check whether your chosen species requires these things before you commit to buying, or you could land yourself in trouble.
Parrots You Need a License for in The UK
While UK citizens can own certain parrots, several species appear on the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES) list. This list documents the most endangered parrot species where trade is controlled to preserve wild populations.
Potential owners require special paperwork to own parrots, known as a CITES Article 10 Certificate for Commercial Use. This certificate is required for the following scenarios:
- Displaying a bird in a pet shop.
- Displaying a bird in a collection that’s open to the public.
- Using the bird during an animal encounter with the public.
- Using the bird during a bird display.
- Breeding the bird and selling the offspring.
There are two types of Article 10 certificates:
- The Transaction Specific Certificate (TSC) is valid for one sale and shows the bird was legally acquired.
- A Specimen Specific Certificate (SS) accompanies the bird for the rest of its life.
Similarly, most birds need either:
- A uniquely numbered, seamless closed ring for birds.
- An ISO-compliant uniquely numbered microchip.
If you don’t have a valid certificate or permit and own a CITES-controlled species, you could be liable to an unlimited fine, a seven-year prison sentence, or both.
The following parrot species are on the list:
Amazon parrots are popular due to their intelligence and vivid color variations.
They come from parts of Mexico, South America, and the Caribbean, where they live in rainforests, scrub forests, savannas, and palm groves.
Unfortunately, many Amazon parrot species are on the CITES list because they’re routinely captured from the wild for the pet trade. As a result, they’ve become threatened, and their numbers have dwindled in recent years. The following Amazon species require certification:
- Saint Vincent
- Saint Lucia
The trapping of wild Amazon parrots is now illegal, which is why they’re so hard to get hold of in captivity.
Macaws are another parrot species that are at risk in the wild. Large numbers were exported into the US and Europe at the beginning of the 20th century, sending their numbers into rapid decline.
Most macaws are now endangered or threatened with extinction due to deforestation, illegal trapping for the pet trade, and hunting. You’ll need a certificate to own or sell one of these macaws:
Many macaws thrive in captivity, and it’s not too tricky to get hold of young birds. However, conservation efforts are still ongoing to increase their numbers.
Although one of the more popular parrot species, cockatoos aren’t immune to the effects of the illegal pet trade. As a result, their numbers have dwindled significantly in recent years.
There are sadly only 3,000 individual cockatoos left in the wild. Unfortunately, breeding them in captivity doesn’t help their numbers increase in the wild.
That’s because captively bred birds could never be released into the wild due to the risk of disease facing the wild populations. CITES, therefore, protects the following cockatoo species:
- Lesser sulphur-crested
You’ll find that because their numbers are now so few, you’ll need to pay about $2,000 – $4,000 to buy a pet cockatoo.
African Grey Parrots
You might wonder, “are African grey parrots legal in the UK?” They’re not illegal to own, but they’re one of the latest additions to the CITES Appendix I list.
That’s because, as the International Journal of Avian Science explains, the species has undergone rapid population decline in recent years due to:
- Felling large trees where they live.
- Trapping for the illegal pet trade.
There are two types of African grey parrots – the Congo and the Timneh, and the CITES list protects both. They retail for around $1,500 – $3,000 on average, making them one of the more expensive parrots.
There are only a couple of conure species that are on the CITES list, including:
Because of the restrictions on these species, you might want to consider choosing a conure that’s less at risk and more commonly found in captivity.
The red-and-blue lory is classed as vulnerable and is now confined to a single island in Indonesia’s Talaud Islands. The population’s rapidly declining, which is why it appears on the CITES Appendix 1 list.
You can’t find them legally in captivity anywhere in the world, let alone in the UK.
Where Can I Buy A Parrot in the UK?
You must buy a parrot from a reputable breeder or shop in the UK. Traping and keeping a wild bird is illegal, so do your due diligence before handing over any money.
You’re more likely to find a parrot from a specific breeder, as they’re less commonly kept in pet stores in Britain due to the negative publicity they’ve historically faced with storing and selling live birds.
When buying a parrot, ask questions about the parrots:
- Personality and temperament
You’ll want a healthy bird, so ask for evidence of any hereditary conditions your parrot could inherit.
Where Can I Buy Parrot Eggs in the UK?
Possession of wild eggs is illegal in the UK and many other countries. However, a cheaper way to purchase parrots is to buy eggs from captive birds, hoping they’ll hatch.
While you can physically buy parrot eggs, doing so is frowned upon. Hatching them is also risky. There are many things to consider, such as:
- The eggs may not hatch.
- There’s a high chance of chick mortality.
- It’s time-consuming to hand-rear chicks.
- You need specialized equipment, such as incubators.
- Long-term care costs increase quickly.
You can buy eggs from reputable parrot breeders, but only experienced owners should attempt to incubate and hatch parrot eggs. The chicks will need constant care, and the chances of mortality are high.
Are Quaker Parrots Legal in the UK?
Quaker parrots are banned in several states in the US because they’re seen as pests and cause a nuisance with where they choose to nest.
There are no restrictions in the UK, but they were once culled to reduce the feral populations in Britain.
Are Budgies Legal in the UK?
Budgies are legal to own in the UK. Budgies are one of the only parrot species that don’t appear on the CITES list, and they’re the most popular companion birds in the country.
Not only are they cheap and small, fitting into UK houses that are typically smaller than in other countries, but they’re intelligent and affectionate birds.
Are Cockatiels Legal in the UK?
Cockatiels are another popular pet parrot species in the UK. Alongside budgies, they’re not on the CITES list, so there are no specific requirements to own one.
Before choosing a pet parrot in the UK, perform research to ensure no restrictions could get you in trouble. As long as you get the right paperwork, you shouldn’t have any problems.