Budgies (also called budgerigars or parakeets) are an extremely popular pet bird and for good reason. These small parrots make delightful pets and are usually friendly and easy to tame. While they can sometimes be difficult to understand, they are also quite capable of mimicking speech.
There are also two types of budgies - the American budgie or parakeet, and the English budgie. The American variety is the one most commonly found in pet stores, while the type often seen in exhibitions and shows is the larger English budgie. English budgies have a different appearance than American budgies but all budgies belong to the same species, Melopsittacus undulatus.
Life Span of Budgies
10-15 years (but sometimes up to 20 years)
Native Habitat of Budgies
Budgies are native to the woodland, grassland, and shrubland regions of Australia. They roam in flocks and forage for food.
Colors of Budgies
The normal wild coloration of a budgie is a light green with black bars on their wings, back, and head. Mature females have a tan or beige cere (the fleshy part around the nostrils) and the males have a bluish cere, but this is an unreliable way to sex a budgie in some color variations and young birds of both sexes have pink ceres.
Young budgies have bar markings on their forehead that recedes with age and their eyes typically have dark irises that gradually become gray with age. Through selective breeding, a huge variety of colors and patterns are available in the pet trade such as violet, blue, yellow, pied, albino, and the classic neon green.
Behavior of Budgies
Budgies are gentle and docile birds. They are also very easy to tame, especially if acquired at a young age. Pairs of birds make good company for each other but usually will not bond as well with their owners or mimic speech as well. A single bird can be fine as long as you spend a significant amount of time interacting with the budgie on a daily basis but the mental stimulation and conversation of a bird of the same species cannot be replaced by a human. Budgies are also very playful, active, and quieter than some other parrots.
It is best to choose a young bird that has been handled regularly if you want the easiest route to a tame budgie. You can expect to pay more for a hand reared or very young bird, but it may be worth the extra cost to you. Pet stores typically have over bred and older birds so hand taming them may be more of a challenge.
Look for a bird that is bright, alert, and active when you decide to pick out a budgie. A bird sitting quietly with puffed feathers might be ill and is best avoided. The feathers should be smooth, shiny, and lay flat on the body. The feathers around the vent should be clean, dry, and free of fecal matter. The scales on the feet should be smooth, the nails should be in good condition, the beak should be smooth and well-shaped, and the nostrils should be clear and clean (also check the feathers above the nostrils to make sure they aren't clumped from nasal discharge).
Cages for Budgies
Budgies are active and playful and should have a large cage to allow room for toys, sleeping, eating, and ideally, flight. The spacing of the cage bars should be half an inch or less to avoid escapes or your bird getting stuck. Horizontal cage bars offer the best opportunity for climbing and exercise. There should be space to place at least a couple of perches at different levels with enough space to comfortably move between them. Offering a variety of perch sizes will also help keep your budgie's feet in good shape (using pesticide free, non-toxic tree branches for perches is another good option). A nest to sleep in, dishes for food and water, various toys, and things to chew should all fit inside the cage. Even with a large cage, though, budgies need playtime and socialization opportunities outside of the cage.
While flight is very natural for a bird you should only allow your budgie to fly in a very secure, safe area, otherwise consider having the wings trimmed some to decrease the flying abilities.
Variety is the key to a healthy diet as wild budgies will forage and eat various things. Seeds can be a nutritious part of the diet but are high in fat so they should only make up a part of the diet. Pelleted diets are often a good choice for birds as they are nutritionally balanced and birds can't pick out their favorite seeds and leave the rest (although budgies have a reputation for stubbornly refusing pellets if they are used to a seed diet). Seeds and pellets can be fed in combination but a wide variety of other foods should also complement the diet. A variety of fresh vegetables (carrots, broccoli, corn, spinach, beans, etc.) and fruit should be offered. Have patience with your budgie anytime you introduce a new food as they can be scary to birds. Sprouted seeds are also an excellent way to add variety to your bird's diet. Avocados, chocolate, sugar, and salt must be avoided. See "Parrot Nutrition" for information on providing a balanced diet.
A cuttlebone can be provided as a source of calcium but contrary to the advice given in older references and by a number of pet stores, grit is not needed and can be harmful if the bird eats too much.
Edited by Adrienne Kruzer, RVT