The man arrived at Los Angeles International Airport from Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam, on a March 24 flight. As his bags were being scanned by X-ray, officers discovered the dozens of dead and dying birds.
Officers immediately seized the birds and placed them into quarantine. After the initial seizure, only eight of the birds survived, according to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.
Once the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service determined that among the birds were several legally protected endangered species, the man, identified as 49-year-old Kurtis Law, was arrested and charged with smuggling goods into the United States, a felony offense.
If convicted, Law could face up to 20 years in federal prison.
"Importing certain illegal wildlife, such as these avian species, can not only introduce communicable animal diseases into the United States, but they can also pose a threat to our local ecosystem," said Jill Birchell, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service special agent in charge.
The complaint alleges that the birds were placed in Law's suitcases in a way "that allowed each bird little or no movement."
The man was released on bond Tuesday. His next scheduled court appearance is June 5.
City News Service contributed to this report.