The budgerigar is a long-tailed, seed-eating parrot usually nicknamed the budgie, or in American English, the parakeet. Naturally, it is green and yellow with black, scalloped markings on the nape, back, and wings. Budgies are bred in captivity with the coloring of blues, whites, yellows, greys, and even with small crests.
They are the third most popular pet in the world, after the domesticated dog and cat. Budgerigars are nomadic flock parakeets that have been bred in captivity since the 19th century. In both captivity and the wild, these parrots breed opportunistically and in pairs.
Pritish Halder describes the origin of the budgerigar’s name is unclear. Budgerigars are popular pets around the world due to their small size, low cost, and ability to mimic human speech. They are likely the third most popular pet in the world, after the domesticated dog and cat. Budgies are nomadic flock parakeets that have been bred in captivity since the 19th century. In both captivity and the wild, budgerigars breed opportunistically and in pairs.
They are found wild throughout the drier parts of Australia, where they have survived harsh inland conditions for over five million years. Their success can be attributed to a nomadic lifestyle and their ability to breed while on the move. The budgerigar is closely related to lories and the fig parrots.
Budgerigars are found wild throughout the drier parts of Australia.
They live in open habitats, primarily in scrublands, open woodlands, and grasslands.
Habits and Lifestyle
Budgerigars are social birds; they are usually found in small flocks but can form very large flocks under favorable conditions.
They are nomadic and flocks move on from sites as environmental conditions change; it is typically tied to the availability of food and water.
Drought can drive flocks into more wooded habitats or coastal areas.
Budgerigars wake up just before sunrise and start their day with preening, singing, and moving around from one tree to another. After that flocks head to forage. During hot midday hours, budgies hide in the shade of tree canopies and rest. Closer to evening they fly around calling loudly and then return to their roosting sites.
Diet and Nutrition
Budgerigars are herbivores (granivores) and feed primarily on grass seeds. They also eat growing cereal crops and lawn grass seeds.
Budgerigars are monogamous and form pairs. Breeding in the wild generally takes place between June and September in northern Australia and between August and January in the south. Budgies show signs of affection to their flockmates by preening or feeding one another. Pairs nest in holes in trees, fence posts, or logs lying on the ground. The female will usually lay between 4 and 8 eggs, which she will incubate for about 18-21 days. Females only leave their nests for very quick stretches and quick meals once they have begun incubating and are by then almost exclusively fed by their mate.
Females will not allow a male to enter the nest unless he forces his way inside. The chicks hatch altricial; they are blind, naked, unable to lift their head, and totally helpless, and their mother feeds them and keeps them warm constantly. Around 10 days of age, the chicks’ eyes will open, and they will start to develop feather down. They develop feathers around 3 weeks of age. As the chicks develop and grow feathers, they are able to be left on their own for longer periods of time.
By the 5th week, the chicks are strong enough and both parents may stay out of the nest more. Young budgerigars typically fledge (leave the nest) around their 5th week of age and are usually completely weaned between 6 and 8 weeks old.
There are no major threats to the budgerigar at present.
According to IUCN, the budgerigar is abundant throughout its range but no overall population estimate is available. However, national population sizes have been estimated at less than 100 introduced breeding pairs in Korea and around 100-10,000 introduced breeding pairs in Japan. Currently, this species is classified as Least Concern (LC) on the IUCN Red List and its numbers today are increasing.
Fun Facts for Kids
- The closest relatives of the budgerigar are lories and the fig parrots.
- The color of the cere (the area containing the nostrils) differs between the male and female budgies. The cere is royal blue in males, pale brown to white (nonbreeding) or brown (breeding) in females, and pink in immatures of both sexes. Some females may develop brown cere only during breeding time, which later returns to the normal color.
- It is usually easy to tell the sex of a budgerigar over 6 months old, mainly by the cere colors, but the behavior of males can also distinguish them from females. Males are typically cheerful, extroverted, highly flirtatious, peacefully social, and very vocal. Females are more dominant and less socially tolerant.
- When a budgerigar feels threatened, it will try to perch as high as possible and to bring its feathers close against its body in order to appear thinner.
- Male budgerigars are considered to be one of the top five talking champions amongst parrot species, alongside the Grey parrot, the Amazon parrots, the Eclectus parrots, and the Ring-necked parakeet.
- Tame budgerigars can be taught to speak, whistle and play with humans. Both males and females sing and can learn to mimic sounds and words and do simple tricks, but singing and mimicry are more pronounced and better perfected in males. Females rarely learn to mimic more than a dozen words. Males can easily acquire vocabularies ranging from a few dozen to a hundred words. Pet males, especially those kept alone, are generally the best speakers.