The Parakeet aka Budgie – Big Personality in a Small Package
The third most popular pet in the world, after the domesticated dog and cat and have been bred in captivity since the 19th century.
The budgerigar is closely related to lories and the fig parrots. Although in general, budgies as pets live an average 8 to 10 years, they are fully capable of living closer to 20 years with proper care and nutrition. I have personally worked with several budgies that were 18 years old and still going strong.
One of the many interesting things about Budgies is that they are sexually dimorphic, meaning you can determine male and females just by looking at them, which is not always the case in the parrot world. You can also tell how old they are, more specifically, how young they are to a certain degree by observing them closely. Chicks have barring (dark band markings on their head) down the forehead to near the cere (waxy fleshy covering at the base of the upper beak or mandible where the nares (nostrils) are located). If your budgie has barring down its forehead you can be sure it is a chick. Another feature to look for is a dark tip on a chick’s beak. Also, chicks do not have an iris ring (the light ring around the iris in the eye). They get the ring as they mature which fully develops at about 4-6 months. Another way to determine the sex of the young birds is by looking at the cere. A dull, not shiny, white ring surrounding the actual nares is a good indication of a female. Often there will be a slight blue shade surrounding the white ring, this is not an indication of a male but a common feature of a young hen. In young males, the cere lack a white ring and is often a pink/purple shade, they look very much like the adult male flesh/pink cere. So… in young budgies blue is likely to be a girl and pink is likely to be a boy!
What about adults?? Girls first – adult females or hens have a cere that is anywhere from whitish-blue to a deep brown color. The color changes during the breeding season, often becoming much darker and rough surfaced and growing into a more bulging shape. Adult males or cocks cere color is most commonly a clear, bright blue. It may become a darker shade during the breeding season and fade a bit at other times.
What about their personality… do they make good pets???
Absolutely, Budgies make one of the best pets in all the bird world. That is one reason they are the third most popular pet in the world.
Every budgie has its own unique personality, but all budgies are naturally curious, active and playful as well as incredibly intelligent. A budgie will entertain you constantly and it is important to encourage your budgie’s curiosity and playfulness by making sure you interact with him several times daily. You should also provide various toys in the largest cage you can manage and a variety of healthy food daily. Many owners of fully tamed budgies will swear that their budgie thinks it’s a human! Even a budgie that is not fully tamed can still be an enjoyable pet. Their antics and singing will brighten up any room in your home. And budgies who are not finger tame still can become friendly towards you, and some may even still learn to talk.
Did I say talk?? Budgies are so small; can they really talk? Unquestionably!! While their voices are small and gravelly-sounding, budgies have an impressive ability to pick up on human words and phrases, and even using them in proper context. They are a great choice for those who want to own a talking parrot.
How should they be fed? Even though Budgies originated in the dry grasslands of Australia, a diet consisting only of seeds is not good for them and will eventually cause health problems. Instead, avian veterinarians like me recommend a budgie diet that includes mostly pellets with fresh vegetables and fruits including dark, leafy greens. It’s OK to feed budgies seeds as part of this diet, but no more than about 10% – I like to use them as treats and rewards for learning new tricks.
I hope you have learned something new about one of my favorite birds. It is very common for people to comment that Parakeets or Budgerigars are great” first” birds for those wanting to learn how to care for a bird as a pet. Although that is true, Budgies are also a fantastic pet and companion for those of us that have been bird pet parents and care takers of animals for many years. This is a small bird with a big personality that will bring enjoyment and companionship to your life for many years!!!
Meet Petland’s Consulting Veterinarian, Dr. Thomas Edling, DVM, MSpVM, MPH:
Dr. Edling received his BS in Industrial Engineering from Texas A&M University in 1981 and his degree in Veterinary Medicine (DVM) from Colorado State University. He previously served as Vice President of Veterinary Medicine for Petco and was on the faculty of the University of Wisconsin Veterinary Medical Teaching Hospital. In addition, Dr. Edling completed the American Board of Veterinary Practitioner’s residency program for Companion and Wild Avian Medicine and Surgery, at North Carolina State University, where he also received his Master in Specialized Veterinary Medicine (MSpVM) in 2001. In 2011, Dr. Edling completed the Master of Public Health (MPH) program at Johns Hopkins University. As a veterinarian, Dr. Edling works closely with the Pet Industry Joint Advisory Council (PIJAC), the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the National Association of State Public Health Veterinarians (NASPHV).