Budgies are also known as budgerigars or parakeets and are an extremely popular pet bird. 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 human speech.
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
Budgies can live for 10-15 years but have sometimes been recorded to be up to 20 years old.
Budgies in the Wild
Budgies are native to the woodland, grassland, and shrub land regions of Australia where they roam in flocks and forage for food. Like most other birds, they spend all their time in the sky or trees.
Colors of Budgies
The normal wild coloration of a budgie is a light green with black bars on their wings, back, and head. Typically 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 young budgie since both sexes have pink ceres.
Young budgies also have bar markings on their foreheads that recede 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.
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 them 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 types of parrots.
Choosing a Budgie
It is best to choose a young budgie that has been handled regularly if you want to easily tame your 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 to make the hand taming process quicker and easier. 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 by themselves with puffed feathers might be ill and is best avoided. Their feathers should be smooth, shiny, and lay flat on the body. Their vent should be clean, dry, and free of fecal matter.
The scales on the feet should be smooth, the nails and beak should be smooth and not overgrown, and the nostrils should be clear and clean with no clumping of the feathers surrounding them.
Budgies are active and playful and should have a large cage to allow room for toys, sleeping, eating, and 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 for your budgie to comfortably move between them. Offering a variety of perch sizes, shapes, and textures will also help keep your budgie's feet in good shape. A nest to sleep in, dishes for food and water, various toys, and things to chew should all fit inside the cage.
Even if they have a large cage, budgies will still need playtime and socialization opportunities outside of their cage. Flight is very natural and important for a bird but you should only allow your budgie to fly in a very secure and safe area, otherwise you may consider having the wings trimmed some to decrease the flying abilities.
Variety is the key to a healthy diet for your budgie since budgies in the wild will forage and eat various items. Seeds can be a nutritious part of a budgie's diet but are high in fat so they should only make up a portion of the diet. Pelleted diets are often a good choice for birds as they are nutritionally balanced and your budgie 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 but avocados, chocolate, sugar, and salt must be avoided.
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 your budgie eats too much.
Edited by Adrienne Kruzer, RVT