The budgerigar

Male specimens of budgerigars are considered to be one of the top five talking champions amongst parrot species! You can meet the budgerigars in Papagoi Keskus!

The budgerigar (Melopsittacus undulatus), also known as common pet parakeet or shell parakeet and informally nicknamed the budgie, is a small, long-tailed, seed-eating parrot. Budgerigars are the only species in theAustralian genus Melopsittacus, and are found wild throughout the drier parts of Australia where the species has survived harsh inland conditions for the last five million years.

Wild budgerigars average 18 cm (7 in) long, weigh 30–40 grams. Budgerigars are naturally green and yellow with black, scalloped markings on the nape, back, and wings, but have been bred in captivity with colouring in blues, whites, yellows, greys, and even with small crests. Budgerigars are popular pets around the world due to their small size, low cost, and ability to mimic human speech. The origin of the budgerigar’s name is unclear. The species was first recorded in 1805, and today is the third most popular pet in the world, after the domesticated dog and cat. The budgerigar is closely related to the lories and the fig parrots.  They are one of the parakeet species, a non-taxonomical term that refers to any of a number of small parrots with long, flat and tapered tails. In both captivity and the wild, budgerigars breed opportunistically and in pairs. Wild budgerigars are usually found to be mostly green in colour. Selective breeding, by breeders, over the years has caused changes in colour. Cage bred budgerigars are also larger in size than wild budgerigars.

The budgerigar has been bred in captivity since the 1850s. Breeders have worked to produce a variety of colour, pattern, and feather mutations, including albino, blue, cinnamon-ino (lacewinged), clearwinged, crested, dark, greywinged, opaline, pieds, spangled, dilute (suffused), and violet. English “budgie” (left), as compared to wild-type budgerigars. English or “show” budgerigars are about twice as large as their wild counterparts, and with a larger size and puffier head feathers have a boldly exaggerated look. The eyes and beak can be almost totally obscured by these fluffy head feathers. English budgerigars are typically more expensive than wild-type birds, and have shorter life span of about seven to nine years. Breeders of English budgerigars often exhibit their birds at animal shows. Most captive budgerigars in the pet trade are more similar in size and body conformation to wild budgerigars. Budgerigars are social animals and require stimulation in the shape of toys and interaction with humans or with other budgerigars. Budgerigars, and especially females, will chew material such as wood. 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. 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. Budgerigars will chew on anything they can find to keep their beaks trimmed. Mineral blocks (ideally enriched with iodine), cuttlebone, and soft wooden pieces are suitable for this activity. In captivity, budgerigars live an average of five to eight years, but life spans of 15–20 years have been reported. The life span depends on breed, lineage, and health, being highly influenced by exercise and diet. Budgerigars have been known to cause “bird fancier’s lung” in sensitive people, a type of hypersensitivity pneumonitis.

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 reasonable-sized nest box. The eggs are typically one to two centimetres long and are pearl white without any colouration if fertile. Female budgerigars can lay eggs without a male partner, but these unfertilised eggs will not hatch. When the female is laying eggs, her cere turns a crusty brown colour. 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 and eight eggs, which she will incubate (usually starting after laying her second or third) for about 21 days each. Females only leave their nests for very quick defecations, stretches and quick meals once they have begun incubating and are by then almost exclusively fed by their mate (usually at the nest’s entrance). Females will not allow a male to enter the nest, unless he forces his way inside. 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. At times, the parents may begin eating their own eggs due to feeling insecure in the nest box.

Male specimens of budgerigars are considered to be one of the top five talking champions amongst parrot species, alongside the African grey, the Amazon, and the Eclectus parrots, and the ring-necked parakeet. Puck, a male budgerigar owned by American Camille Jordan, holds the world record for the largest vocabulary of any bird, at 1,728 words. Puck 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, stated 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 verified by scientific analysis. Critics argue Victor’s speech in the recordings is not coherent enough to be determined as spoken in context. Pet budgies have continued to make headlines all over the world for their mimicry, talking ability, and charm. One budgie, named Disco, has become an internet superstar. As of 2013, Disco has been viewed over 6,067,744 times on his YouTube channel. Some of Disco’s most popular key phrases include, “I am not a crook” and “Nobody puts baby bird in a corner!”

You should feed your budgies with good quality, commercially available budgie food. Complete pelleted foods are recommended because they contain the right amount and type of essential nutrients. In addition, fruit and vegetables can be offered in small quantities.