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|Male at Cologne Zoo, Germany|
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|The budgerigar's natural habitat is coloured in red|
) or Common Pet Parakeet
), often called a budgie
, is a small parrot
and the only species in the Australian
. A small long-tailed predominantly green and yellow bird with black scalloped markings on the wings and shoulders in the wild, the Budgerigar has been bred extensively with a profusion of colour forms resulting. Thus, aviary birds may be blue and white, all yellow, all white, or various other combinations thereof. Some have even been bred with small crests
. In the wild, it is a predominantly seed-eating species. The budgerigar is found throughout the drier parts of Australia
and has survived for the last five million years in the harsh inland conditions of that continent
The budgerigar is closely related to the lories
and the fig parrots
Although budgerigars are often, especially in American English
, called Parakeets
, this term refers to any of a number of small parrots with long flat tails.
- 1 Etymology
- 2 Evolutionary history
- 3 Anatomy and physiology
- 3.1 Vision
5.1 Cage requirements
5.4 Breeding problems
5.6 Colour mutations
6 Human speech
7 See also
8.2 Cited texts
9 External links
Alternative common names include Shell Parrot, Warbling Grass parakeet, Canary Parrot, Zebra parrot, Flight Bird, Scallop Parrot and the alternate spellings Budgerygah and Betcherrygah.
Although more applicable to members of the genus Agapornis
, the name Lovebird has been applied to them from their habit of mutual preening.
Several possible origins for the English name budgerigar
have been proposed:
- A mispronunciation or alteration of Gamilaraay gidjirrigaa (IPA: [ɡiɟiriɡaː]), possibly influenced by the Australian slang word budgery "good". This is supported by the American Heritage Dictionary.
- A compound of budgery, "good" and gar "Cockatoo". This is supported by the Oxford English Dictionary. The word budgery itself, also spelt boojery, was formerly in use in Australian English slang meaning "good".
The Budgerigar was first described by George Shaw
in 1805, and given its current binomial name by John Gould
in 1840. The genus name Melopsittacus
comes from Greek
and means "melodious parrot".
The species name undulatus
for "undulated" or "wave-patterned".Evolutionary history
|Lories and Lorikeets|
|Fig parrots s.s. (Cyclopsitta and Psittaculirostris)|
|Phylogenetic position of the Budgerigar.|
Traditionally, the budgerigar was thought to be the link between the genera Neophema
based on the barred plumage.
However, recent phylogenetic
studies using DNA sequences place the budgerigar very close the lories
) and the fig parrots
).Anatomy and physiology[You must be registered and logged in to see this image.] [You must be registered and logged in to see this image.]
The anatomy of a male budgerigar.
Budgerigars in their natural-habitats of Australia average 18 cm (7 in) long, weigh 30-40 grams
, and display a light green body colour (abdomen and rumps), while their mantle (back and wing coverts) display pitch-black mantle markings (blackish in fledgelings and immatures) edged in clear yellow undulations. The forehead and face is yellow in adults but with blackish stripes down to the cere in young individuals until they change into their adult plumage
around 3–4 months of age. They display small purple patches (called cheek patches) and a series of 3 black spots across each sides of their throats (called throat-spots) of which the 2 outermost throat-spots are situated at the base of each cheek-patches. The tail is cobalt (dark-blue); outside tail feathers
display central yellow flashes. Their wings have greenish-black flight feathers and black coverts with yellow fringes along with central yellow flashes which only becomes visible in flight and/or when the wings are stretched. Bills are olive grey and legs blueish-grey, with zygodactyl
Budgerigars in their natural habitat in Australia are noticeably smaller than those in captivity
. This particular parrot species has been bred in many other colours and shades in captivity (i.e. blue, grey, greygreen, pieds, violet, white, yellowblue) although they are mostly found in pet stores in blue, green and yellow. Budgerigar plumage is known to fluoresce under ultraviolet light (as most other parrot species do as well), a phenomenon possibly related to courtship
and mate selection.
The colour of the cere
(the area containing the nostrils) differs between the sexes
; royal blue in males, pale-brown to white (non-breeding
) or brown (breeding
) in females and pink in immatures of both sexes (usually of a more even purplish-pink colour in young males). Some female budgerigars develop brown cere only during breeding time and it later disappears. Young females can often be identified by a subtle chalky whiteness that starts around the cere nostril holes. Males that are either Albino, Lutino
, Dark-eyed Clear
and/or Recessive Pied
(aka Danishpied aka Harlequin) always retain the immature purplish-pink cere colour their entire life.[You must be registered and logged in to see this image.][You must be registered and logged in to see this image.][You must be registered and logged in to see this image.]
Budgerigar flock in the wild (SW Queensland, Australia
It is usually easy to tell the sex of a Budgie over 6 months old, mainly by the cere colours but behaviours and head shape also help indicate Budgie's genders.
Mature males' ceres are usually light to dark blue but can be purplish to pink in some particular colour mutations (DarkEyedClears, Danishpieds aka Recessivepieds and Inos) and usually display much rounder heads. Males are typically cheerful, extraverted, highly flirtatious, most peacefully social and very vocal.
Females' ceres are pinkish as immatures and switch from being beigish or whitish outside breeding condition into brown (often with a 'crusty' texture) in breeding condition and usually display flattened back of heads (right above the nape region). Females are typically highly dominant and more socially intolerant.Vision
Like many birds, budgerigars have tetrachromatic colour vision
, but all four classes of cone cells
operating simultaneously requires the full spectrum provided by sunlight
Additionally, budgerigars have been known to see in the ultra-violet
spectrum, which brightens up their feathers to attract mates. The throat-spots in budgerigars have been most notable for reflecting UVs
and for identifying one bird from the other.Ecology[You must be registered and logged in to see this image.] [You must be registered and logged in to see this image.]
Female Budgerigar at Alice Springs Desert Park
Budgerigars are nomadic birds found in open habitats, primarily in Australian scrubland
, open woodland
. The birds are normally found in small flocks
, but can form very large flocks under favourable conditions. The species is extremely nomadic and the movement of the flocks is tied to the availability of food
can drive flocks into more wooded habitat or coastal areas. They feed on the seeds
, grass weeds
, and sometimes ripening wheat
budgerigars have been recorded since the 1940s in the St. Petersburg
area of the United States
, but are much less common than they were in the early 1980s. Increased competition from European Starlings
and House Sparrows
is thought to be primary cause of the population decline.Aviculture[You must be registered and logged in to see this image.] [You must be registered and logged in to see this image.]
The budgerigar is one of only two parrot
species to be genuinely domesticated
along with the Peach-faced Lovebird
).[dubious – discuss]
It is widely acknowledged as the most common pet parrot in the world and possibly the most common cage bird. The budgerigar has been bred in captivity since the 1850s. Breeders have worked over the decades to produce a wide range of colour, pattern and feather mutations, such as albino
, cinnamon-ino (aka lacewinged), clearwinged, crested, dark
, greywinged, opaline, pieds, spangled, dilute (suffused)
, and violet
Standard-type (aka English
or "show") budgerigars are about twice as large as their wild-type (natural form and sized) counterparts. Their overall larger sizes and puffy head feathers give them boldly exaggerated looks. The eyes
can be almost totally obscured by their fluffed head's and forehead's feathers. English budgerigars are typically higher in price than wild-type birds and typically have a shorter life span of 7–9 years. Breeders of English Budgerigars will often exhibit their birds at animal shows
. Most captive budgerigars in the pet
trade are similar in size and body conformation to wild occurring budgerigars and thus aptly called wild-type budgerigars.
Budgerigars are intelligent and social animals and enjoy the stimulation of toys
and interaction with humans as well as with other budgerigars. A common behavior is the chewing of material such as wood
, especially for female budgerigars. When a budgerigar feels threatened they will try to perch as high as possible from the ground and may make themselves appear thin by bringing their feathers close to their body.
Tame budgerigars can be taught to speak
tunes, and play with humans. Both males and females sing and can learn to mimic sounds and words and do simple tricks. Both singing and mimicry are more pronounced and much more perfected in males. As a whole, females rarely if ever learn to mimic more than a dozen words or so. Males can very easily acquire vocabularies ranging between a few dozen to a hundred words. Generally speaking, it is mostly pet budgerigars (and even more so lone pets) and thus, receiving the most attention which talk the best and the most.[You must be registered and logged in to see this image.] [You must be registered and logged in to see this image.]
A flock of budgerigars in an aviary
In captivity, budgerigars live an average of five to eight years, but are reported to occasionally live to 15-20 if well cared for.
The life span depends on each particular budgerigar's breed (show budgerigars typically do not live as long as wild-type budgerigars), lineage and overall health, which is highly influenced by exercise
Budgerigars (as do most other parrot species) and most particularly females enjoy chewing on anything they can find in their cages and environments. This comes from the females' instinct in adapting by gnawing the all around interior of existing wild bird's nests. Mineral-blocks (ideally enriched with iodine) and cuttlebone
and soft wooden pieces must be provided to help them satisfy their desire to chew and keep their beaks trimmed.
Bird lovers often comment on the differences in personality in each individual bird. Budgerigars each have their own unique ideas about how much they like to be handled, which toys are their favorites, and even what music they like or are indifferent to.
Budgerigars have been shown to cause "bird fancier's lung
" in sensitive people, a type of hypersensitivity pneumonitis
This is primarily an issue with people keeping large numbers of budgerigars within a bird room.Cage requirements
Budgerigars are small but are very active, energetic, and lively birds. The absolute minimum
size cage for one or two tame pet budgerigars that are allowed out for several hours a day is 18 inches (46 cm) long by 18 inches wide
. However, larger cages and flights will be appreciated by these energetic little birds. An ideal cage is longer than high (since birds fly horizontally like planes and not vertically like helicopters) and would be at least 30 inches (76 cm) long.
The cage should not have bar spacing greater than 1/2 inch between bars. Budgerigars are not particularly destructive birds, and spacious cages, while not always easy to find, are usually not overly expensive.
Care should be taken when placing several female budgerigars together, as they can do serious harm to one another if they do not get along.Diet[You must be registered and logged in to see this image.] [You must be registered and logged in to see this image.]
Food variety sold for parakeets. Millet
is the primary ingredient in budgerigar pet mix.[You must be registered and logged in to see this image.] [You must be registered and logged in to see this image.]
Pet budgerigars eating fruit
Although budgerigars in their natural-habitats of Australia eat mainly grass seeds
, captive budgerigars feed on either dry, sprouted and/or soaked seeds. A diet of only dry seeds is inadequate for budgerigars and/or any parrot species' optimum health. Avian veterinarians
recommend pet birds' diets be supplemented with foods such as:
- Whole Cereals and whole Grains : Amaranth, Barley, Couscous, Flax, whole-grain Pastas, Oat, Quinoa (truly a Fruit but used as a Cereal), whole-Wheat, Wild-Rice, whole Rices.
- Edible Blossoms and Flowers: Carnations, Chamomille, Chives, Dandelion, Day Lilies, Eucalyptus, Fruit tree's blossoms, Herbs' blossoms, Hibiscus, Honeysuckle, Impatiens, Lilac, Nasturiums, Pansies, Passion Flower (Passiflora), Roses, Sunflowers, Tulips, Violets. Note that the leaves of some of these plants are poisonous to budgies.
- Greens and/or Weeds:
- mainly ; Bok-Choi, Broccoli and/or Cauliflower leaves, Cabbage leaves, Collard greens, Dandelion leaves, Kelp, Mustard leaves, Seaweeds, Spirulina, Water cress.
- occasionally and sporadically ; Amaranth leaves, Beet leaves, Carambola (Starfruit), Chards, Parsley, Spinach and Turnip leaves. All of these feature high Oxalic-Acid contents that induces production of Calcium Oxalates (crystals/stones) by binding Calcium and other trace Minerals present in foods and goods with which they're ingested. Possibly, leading to Calcium deficiencies and/or Hypocalcemia in minor cases. Liver's &/or other internal organs' damage or failure in more severe cases.
- Fruit (except Avocados which are toxic): all Apple varieties, Banana, all Berries varieties, all Citrus varieties, Grapes, Kiwi, Mango, Melons, Nectarine, Papaya, Peach, all Pear varieties, Plum, Star-fruit. Pits and seeds from every Citrus and Drupe species must always be discarded as they are intoxicating. However, achenes and tiny seeds from pseudo and true Berries (Bananas, Blueberries, Elderberries, Eggplants, Persimmons, Pomegranates, Raspberries, Strawberries, Tomatoes) are all okay.
- Legumes: Almonds, Beans, Lentils, Peas, Nuts and Tofu.
- Grain and/or Legume sprouts: Adzuki beans, Alfalfa beans, Buckwheat, Lentils, Mungo beans, Pinto beans, Red Kidney beans, Sesame seeds, Sunflower seeds. Caution with only Lima and Navy beans' sprouts which are toxic.
- Vegetables (except Uncooked Potatoes, Uncooked Onions and all Mushrooms): Beet, Broccoli, Cauliflower, Carrots, Cucumber, all Cabbage varieties, fresh Beans, fresh Romane Lettuce, fresh Peas, Parsnip, all Pepper varieties, all Squash varieties, Sweet potatoes, Tomato, Turnip, Yams, Zucchini.
- Pellets specifically formulated for budgerigars, for Australian grass budgerigars and/or for small parrots are all healthy additions.
- Other fat-free, healthy and nutritious human foods.
Adding these foods provides additional nutrients
and can prevent obesity
, as can substituting millet
, which is relatively low in fat
, for higher-fat seed mixes. Adult budgerigars often do not always adapt readily to dietary additions, so care must be taken to introduce healthy diets as young as possible (ideally weaned onto fresh foods before introducing chicks onto seeds). Parrots and budgerigars learn mainly by mimicry and thus most adult budgerigars will be easily encouraged to try new foods by observing another bird eating the food, or by placing the new food on a mirror.
Parrot species (including budgerigars) are herbivores
. Consequently, they should be fed plant-based diets that are ideally supplemented with vegetable proteins, for example, produced by a combination of any type of whole grain
with any type of legume
(hard-boiled and/or scrambled) are the only appropriately healthy source of animal protein, mostly for birds in either breeding, growing, moulting and/or recovering conditions. High levels of proteins (particularly animal proteins) are unhealthy for budgerigars and other Grass Parakeet species living under any alternate conditions (i.e. non-breeding, pets).Alcohol
, products containing lactose
present a danger of toxicosis and should not be fed.Breeding[You must be registered and logged in to see this image.] [You must be registered and logged in to see this image.]
Head detail of a male Budgerigar.
Breeding in the wild generally takes place between June and September in northern Australia and between August and January in the south, although budgerigars are opportunistic breeders
and respond to rains when grass seeds become most abundant.
Budgerigars show signs of affection to their flockmates by preening or feeding one another. Budgerigars feed one another by eating the seeds themselves, and then regurgitating it into their flockmates' mouth. Populations in some areas have increased as a result of increased water availability at farms
are made in holes in trees, fence posts, or even logs lying on the ground; the 4-6 eggs
are incubated for 18–21 days, with the young fledging
about 30 days after hatching.
In the wild, virtually all parrot species require a hollow tree or a hollow log as a nest site. Because of this natural behavior, budgerigars most easily breed in captivity when provided with a nest box. The eggs are typically 1 to 2 centimetres long and are plain white without any coloration. Female budgerigars can lay eggs without a male partner but these eggs are unfertilized and will not hatch. When the female is laying eggs her cere turns a crusty brown color. A female budgerigar will lay her eggs
on alternate days.
After the first one, there is usually a two-day gap until the next. She will usually lay between four to eight eggs, which she will incubate (usually starting after laying her 2nd or 3rd) for about 21 days each.
Female Budgerigar only leave their nests for very quick defecations and stretches once they've begun incubating and are by then almost exclusively fed by their mate (usually at the nest's entrance).
Depending on the clutch size and the beginning of incubation, the age difference between the first and last hatchling
can be anywhere from 9 to 16 days.Breeding problems[You must be registered and logged in to see this image.] [You must be registered and logged in to see this image.]
Female Budgerigar, nominate colouring
Breeding difficulties arise for various reasons. Some chicks may die
and attacks from adults. Other budgerigars (virtually always females) may fight over the nest box, attacking each other or a brood. Sometimes budgerigars (mainly males) are not interested in the opposite gender, and will not reproduce with them. Sometimes a flock setting—several pairs housed where they can see and hear each other—is necessary to stimulate breeding. Another problem may be the birds' beak being under lapped. This is where the lower mandible is above the upper mandible.
It is very important to realize that most health issues and physical abnormalities in budgerigars are genetic. Care should be taken that birds used for breeding are active, healthy, and unrelated. Budgerigars that are related or who have fatty tumours or other potentially genetic health problems should not be allowed to breed. Parasites (lice, mites, worms) and pathogens (bacteria, fungi and viruses), are contagious and thus transmitted between individuals through either direct or indirect contact. Nestboxes should be cleaned between uses.
Splay leg, a relatively common problem in baby budgerigars – in which one of the budgerigar's legs is bent outward, preventing it from being able to stand properly and compete with the other chicks for food and can also lead to difficulties in reproducing in adulthood, results from young budgerigars slipping repeatedly on the floor of a nestbox. It is easily avoided by placing a small quantity of a safe bedding or wood shavings in the bottom of the nestbox. Alternatively, several pieces of paper may be placed in the box for the female to chew into bedding.Development[You must be registered and logged in to see this image.] [You must be registered and logged in to see this image.]
A baby chick 11 days old. (more
)[You must be registered and logged in to see this image.] [You must be registered and logged in to see this image.]
The eggs will take about 18–20 days before they start hatching. The hatchlings are altricial
– blind, naked, totally helpless, and their mother feeds them and keeps them warm around the clock day and night. Around 10 days of age, the chicks' eyes will open, and they will start to develop feather down. The appearance of down occurs precisely at the ages (around 9 or 10 days of age) for closed banding of the chicks. Budgerigar's closed band rings must be neither larger or smaller than 4.0 to 4.2 mm.
They develop feathers around 3 weeks of age. (One can often easily note the colour mutation of the individual birds at this point.) At this stage of the chicks' development, the male usually has begun to enter the nest to help his female in caring and feeding the chicks. Some budgerigar females, however, totally forbid the male from entering the nest and thus take the full responsibility of rearing the chicks until they fledge.
Depending on the size of the clutch and most particularly in the case of single mothers, it may then be wise to transfer a portion of the hatchlings (or best of the fertile eggs) to another pair. The foster pair must already be in breeding mode and thus either at the laying or incubating stages and/or rearing hatchlings.
As the chicks develop and grow feathers, they are able to be left on their own for longer and longer periods of time. By the fifth week, the chicks are strong enough that both parents will be comfortable in staying more and more out of the nest. The youngsters will stretch their wings to gain strength before they attempt to fly
. They will also help defend the box from enemies mostly with their loud screeching. Young budgerigars typically fledge (leave the nest) around their fifth week of age and are usually completely weaned a week later. However, the age for fledging as well as weaning can vary slightly depending on whether it is the oldest, the youngest and/or the only surviving chick. Generally speaking, the oldest chick is the first to be weaned. But even though it is logically the last one to be weaned, the youngest chick is often weaned at a younger age than its older sibling(s). This can be a result of mimicking the actions of older siblings. Lone surviving chicks are often weaned at the youngest possible age as a result of having their parent's full attention and care.
Hand-reared Budgies may take slightly longer to wean than parent-raised chicks. Hand feeding is not routinely done with budgerigars, due to their small size, and the fact that young parent raised birds can be readily tamed.Colour mutations
Main article: Budgerigar colour genetics[You must be registered and logged in to see this image.] [You must be registered and logged in to see this image.]
Adult females (top) display beige to brown ceres while adult males (bottom) typically have blue ceres or purplish-pink in Albinistic and recessive-pied varieties.
All captive budgerigars are divided into two basic series of colours; namely, white-based (i.e. blue, grey & white budgerigars) and/or yellow-based (i.e. green, greygreen & yellow budgerigars). There are presently at least 32 primary mutations
in the budgerigar, enabling hundreds of possible secondary mutations (stable combined primary mutations) and colour varieties (unstable combined mutations).Human speech
Male specimens of budgerigars are considered one of the top five talking champions amongst parrot species, alongside the African Grey Parrot
, the Amazon parrot
species, the Eclectus Parrot
and the Ring-necked Parakeet
A budgerigar named Puck holds the world record for the largest vocabulary of any bird, at 1,728 words. Puck, a male budgerigar owned by American Camille Jordan, died in 1994, with the record first appearing in the 1995 edition of Guinness World Records
In 2001, recordings of a budgerigar called Victor got some attention from the media. Victor's owner, Ryan B. Reynolds of Canada, states that Victor was able to engage in contextual conversation and predict the future.
Though some believe the animal was able to predict his own death as was claimed
, further study on the subject is difficult without the bird. The recordings still remain to be proven or disproven by scientific analysis.
Critics argue that Victor's speech in the recordings is not coherent enough to be determined as spoken in context.