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Budgie Description

Common Name: Budgierigar or Budgirigar

 

Scientific Name: Melopsittacus undulates

Other Names: Budgie, Shell Parakeet, Common Parakeet, Parakeet (misnomer). The name budgierigar probably came from aboriginal people in Australia, but it exact origin or meaning is unknown. “Budgie” is a nick name for the bird.

Basic Description: Small parrot with a long tail coming in a variety of colors

History: Budgies are believed to have inhabited Australia for millions of years. The budgie was first recorded as a species in 1805. The first "pet" budgie was taken to England in 1840, and budgies were first bred in captivity in 1850. 

 

Classification: Budgies are the only species in the genus Melopsittacus. They are closely related to lories, fig parrots, and other “parakeet” family species (parakeet is not a taxonomical group, but rather a name for small parrots with long, tapering tails.

1890 Engraving of Budgie

Sub-Types: There are three different varieties of budgie: Wild, Traditional Pet, English/Show Budgie. The first is the wild budgierigar from Australia. These are the smallest of the budgies. Most “pet” budgies have been bred successively in captivity for many generations, and thus have evolved slightly from the wild version. Most “traditional” or “pet” budgies are very slightly larger and heavier than their wild counterparts. English budgies, in particular, have been further purposefully bred to exaggerate their size and certain appearance characteristics so that they are substantially larger (1-2 inches longer), have larger heads/foreheads, more pronounced feathering around their faces and crowns, and are overall a more hefty bird. This website will focus its attention on the traditional pet budgie.

 

Length: 6.5-7.8 inches/17-20 cm (wild adult); 7-8 inches (Traditional Captive); 8-10 inches (English Budgie).

 

Mass: 30-40 grams/1.1-1.4 oz. (wild adult). Budgies are one of the smallest parrots. Parrotlets have been recorded as small as 18 grams and 3 inches in length.

Wingspan: 30 cm (wild adult; traditional pet).

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Longevity: A healthy budgie will live 15-20 years, but unfortunately because of lack of exercise, inadequate nutrition, stress caused by lack of companionship, or other lack of proper care, most pet budgies only live 4-6 years.

 

Aging: In most color varieties, Budgies under 3-4 months old have black bars covering their entire head down the cere (top of the beak). At 3-4 months old, the feathers molt and the feathers closest to the cere will lose their stripes. Additionally at approximately 4 months old, eye color changes from entirely black to dark grey/brown, and eventually reaches light grey or brown by 8 months old. In some varieties, however, eye color can be different (e.g., lutino/albino, lacewing, fallow, pied). The age of a budgie can also sometimes be determined by its id band. If the band has “ABS” written on it, then the color of the band indicates the year of birth, which can be determined by contacting the American Budgerigar Society.

 

 

 

 

Colors: In the wild, budgies are only of one color combination: green and yellow with black (shell) markings. However, selective breeding has resulted in a wide variety of colors in traditional pet and English budgies: yellow/lutino, albino/white, blue, grey, purple, cinnamon, pied, mixed colors, etc. Some budgies have also been bred to have small crests. These birds are just as healthy and long-lived as the standard green color. In the wild, such color mutations would increase the chances of death because a sole blue budgie in a flock is easier to track for a predator, whereas in captivity, color mutations improve the chances of survival.  

Sexual Dimorphism: Males and females are virtually indistinguishable except for by the color of the cere (the nasal area at the top of the beak) after one year of age. All budgies are born with a cere that is bright pink or violet in color. As the birds approach one year of age (often around 8 months old), the cere may begin to change color. If it changes to brown, you can be sure it is a female. Otherwise, unless the budgie has reached one year of age, the color change might be impermanent and might change again. After one year of age, the cere can usually be used to determine the sex of a bird. If the cere is white, light blue, tan or brown, then the bird is a female. If the cere is blue or purpulish-blue, and the budgie is of the normal green variety, then you can be sure it is a male. Otherwise, you still might not be sure. Another way to distinguish males from females is to watch their behaviors. Males tend to be more active, friendly, and outgoing. They will bob their heads and sing more than females. Females, tend to be more combative and bossy, and usually don’t sing, although they may make aggressive, angry squawking sounds towards other budgies. A male may make the same sound but will do so while singing as opposed to using it as an aggressive communication with other birds. Personalities vary, however, so even behavior is not entirely accurate as a means of identifying sex.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Wild Habitat: Budgies are commonly found throughout the more harsh and arid parts of Australia. Studies indicate that budgies have been a common fixture in this region for millions of years. In times of drought, budgies move to wooded or coastal areas in search of food or water.

Reproduction: Budgies have been bred in captivity since the 1850s. This website does not recommend that a pet owner breed a budgie without extensive study, preparation, and ability to place the offspring in a loving home. As a result, breeding your pet budgies is not recommended, and little space will be devoted to this topic. In the wild, budgies are opportunistic breeders, depending primarily on the abundance of clean water and food. Courtship involves mutual preening and feeding. Four to six eggs are laid in a nest and incubated for 18-21 days. The chicks leave the nest after about 5 weeks and are completely weaned from their parents at 6-8 weeks. Hand-raised chicks take longer to wean, but hand raising budgies is less common that with other parrots due to their small size and ease of taming.

Behavior: Budgies are (1) highly active, (2) extremely social, and (3) one of the most intelligent animal species. While they like their naps, they are generally very active birds that enjoy flying, singing, mimicking, playing, interacting, etc. In the wild, a budgie may fly for up to 250 miles in a single day, so they have a lot more energy than most of us can imagine bound up in their little bodies. They also are one of the most social animals on the planet. Wild budgies will form flocks of 5,000-10,000 birds, and they actively seek out and crave social interaction with other budgies. Finally, they are highly intelligent and thus need regular mental stimulation. It is a common sight to see a budgie playing with a toy or anything it can get it’s beak on. It is because of these traits that they are adored by millions as pets, but these characteristics must also be taken into account in addressing those needs as a responsible pet owner.

Budgies are one of the smaller parrot species. 

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