Budgie (aka Parakeet)


Melopsittacus undultatus

Budgie View

Baby budgies. First a word on definitions: Budgie is the correct term to use when referring to (M. undultatus). Though they are parakeets, a parakeet is any small parrot with a long tail. This includes cockatiels, kakarikis, all the birds in the genus Psittcula, most of the parrots in Australia, and many more. But there is only one budgie. Two more terms you'll often hear in reference to budgies are "American" and "English." These are not seperate species, just different breeds (Like dogs are all one species but there are many different breeds. The same goes for cats, chickens, and canaries.). Budgies are have the distinction of being the only psittacine with different breeds. English budgies are bred for show. They are large- about three times the size of an American. Americans are your typical pet shop budgie. All mine are American. I breed for color.

In the Wild
Budgies are native to the deserts of Australia. This means two things:

  1. They are hardy.
  2. They breed like rabbits.
In the desert rain is scarce; birds who live there have to be able to nest and raise young very quickly whenever food becomes available. This ability to breed constantly has made budgies the most common pet bird in America and led to the establisment of hundreds of designer colors.

A male budgie (left) trying to attract a female (right).  Behavior can be used to sex birds.  Click to enlarge. Noise
Male budgies chatter almost constantly and this is a good indication of a happy bird. Females don't make much noise. Budgies are one of the top ten talking birds but none of mine have ever said a word.

Lifespan
They can live 10-15 years, sometimes more. Unfortunately, most don't make it past 5. Many people see them as cheap, disposable pets and don't take proper care of them. Most succumb to malnutrition, cats, windows, etc. before they can live very long. Others get tumors (see Weaknesses).

Sexing
Budgies are very easy to sex, both visually and by behavior. As I stated above, males chatter more than hens. Males will often show off and chatter endlessly when presented with a mirror but so will some females kept singly. To sex visually you have to look at the cere. Adult males have a bright blue cere (unless they are a color that contains no black pigment, such as albino or lutino) and females have a crusty brown cere when in breeding condition (all colors). Hens may also have tan or white ceres.

A male budgie.  Click to enlarge. A female budgie (bottom).  Click to enlarge. A female budgie (left) watching a male feed chicks.  Click to enlarge.

Weaknesses
Budgies are tumor factories. If you take good care of your budgie and suddenly something is wrong with it (paralysis, blindness, etc.) a tumor is a good assumption (of course that doesn't mean you don't have to go to the vet). Tumors are usually seen in birds over 3 years of age. A female budgie at play.I've had three cases myself: Moonbeam, age 4, tumor pinched optic nerve and caused blindness; Arnold, age 5, tumor the size of my thumb on his abdomen caused him to stop breeding; Sweatpea, age 4-5, tumor on kidney pressed against spinal cord causing sudden paralysis, looked similar to egg-binding. Psittacosis is also seen frequently in budgies, but this maybe just because they are the most common pet birds.

Husbandry
Budgies are very active and deserve as big a cage as possible. Also, if you plan on owning a single budgie make sure you pay a lot of attention to it. If you can't please get a second bird to keep it company. Budgies are very social and need other budgies to talk to.

Breeding
Just add a nestbox. Actually you should be more worried about getting them to stop breeding. Usually removing the box after 2-3 clutches will get them to stop, though some hens will continue to lay in their feed dish. Budgies are also prone to all kinds of nitpicky problems when bred communally. Baby budgies usually have stripes all the way down to their cere and a bit of black on their beak.

Pepper and Maggie hang out on my brother. Diet
Regular psittacine diet. Budgies particularly love green foods like parsely, carrot tops and lettuce. Unfortunately I don't know anyone that has managed to convert a budgie to pellets.

Personality/Behavior
Budgies aren't very pettable but they make great pets. I started out with one budgie and she's what got me hooked on birds in the first place. They're very active and sociable which makes them fun to watch, especially if you have an aviary full of them.

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1999 Feisty Feathers