Avian Species Menu

Budgerigar

Budgerigar

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Species Organizations

National Audubon Society
Website: www.audubon.org
Cornell Lab of Orinthology
Website: www.birds.cornell.edu
The Avian Web
Website: www.avianweb.com

Classification
Order Psittaciformes, Family Psittacidae
Scientific Name
Melopsittacus Undulatus
Other Common Names
N/A
Species Description
Budgerigars in their natural-habitats of Australia average 18 cm (7 in) long, weigh 30-40 grams, and display a light green body color (abdomen and rumps), while their mantle (back and wing coverts) display pitch-black mantle markings (blackish in fledgelings and immatures) edged in clear yellow undulations. The forehead and face is yellow in adults but with blackish stripes down to the cere in young individuals until they change into their adult plumage around 3-4 months of age. They display small purple patches (called cheek patches) and a series of 3 black spots across each sides of their throats (called throat-spots) of which the 2 outermost throat-spots are situated at the base of each cheek-patches. The tail is cobalt (dark-blue); outside tail feathers display central yellow flashes. Their wings have greenish-black flight feathers and black coverts with yellow fringes along with central yellow flashes which only becomes visible in flight and/or when the wings are stretched. Bills are olive grey and legs blueish-grey, with zygodactyl toes.

Budgerigars in their natural-habitats of Australia are noticeably smaller than those in captivity. This particular parrot species has been bred in many other colors and shades in captivity (i.e. blue, grey, greygreen, pieds, violet, white, yellow...) although they are mostly found in pet stores in blue, green and yellow. Budgerigar plumage is known to fluoresce under ultraviolet light (as most other parrot species do as well), a phenomenon possibly related to courtship and mate selection.

The color of the cere (the area containing the nostrils) differs between the sexes; royal blue in males, pale-brown to white (non-breeding) or brown (breeding) in females and pink in immatures of both sexes (usually of a more even purplish-pink colour in young males). Some female budgerigars develop brown cere only during breeding time and later disappears. Young females can often be identified by a subtle chalky whiteness that starts around the cere nostril holes. Males that are either Albino, Dark-Eyed-Clear, Lutino and/or recessive pied (aka Danishpied aka Harlequin) always retain the immature purplish-pink cere colour their entire life.

It is usually easy to tell the sex of a Budgie over 6 months old, mainly by the cere colors but behaviors and head shape also help indicate Budgie's genders.

Mature males' ceres are usually light to dark blue but can be purplish to pink in some particular color mutations (DarkEyedClears, Danishpieds aka Recessivepieds and Inos) and usually display much rounder heads. Males are typically cheerful, extroverted, highly flirtatious, most peacefully social and very vocal. Females' ceres are pinkish as immatures and switch from being beigish or whitish outside breeding condition into brown (often with a 'crusty' texture) in breeding condition and usually display flattened back of heads (right above the nape region). Females are typically highly dominant and more socially intolerant.


Habitat
The birds are normally found in small flocks, but can form very large flocks under favourable conditions. The species is extremely nomadic and the movement of the flocks is tied to the availability of food and water.

Distribution
Budgerigars are nomadic birds found in open habitats, primarily in Australian scrubland, open woodland and grassland.

Captivity
The budgerigar is one of the few parrots to be domesticated as a pet. Believed to be the most common pet parrot in the world, it has been bred in captivity since the 1850s. Breeders have worked over the decades to produce a wide range of colour and feather mutations, such as yellow, blue, white, violet, olive, albino and lutino (yellow), clearwing and spangled. Feather mutations can produce crests or overly long shaggy feathers known as "feather dusters".

Modern show budgerigars, also called English budgerigars, are larger than their wild cousins, with puffy head feathers, giving them an exaggerated look. The eyes and beak can be almost totally obscured by feathers. Such birds are reported to be more prone to genetic mutations because of inbreeding. Most budgerigars in the pet trade are not of the show variety and are similar in size and body conformation to wild budgerigars.

Budgerigars can be taught to speak, whistle tunes, and play with humans. They are intelligent and social animals and enjoy the stimulation of toys and interaction with humans as well as with other budgerigars. A common behaviour is the chewing of material such as wood, especially for female budgerigars.

In captivity, budgerigars live an average of five to eight years, but are reported to occasionally live to 15 if well cared for. The life span depends on the budgerigar's breed (show budgerigars typically do not live as long as the common budgerigars) and the individual bird's health, which is influenced by exercise and diet.


Summary
It is widely acknowledged as the most common pet parrot in the world and possibly the most common cage bird. The budgerigar has been bred in captivity since the 1850s. Breeders have worked over the decades to produce a wide range of color, pattern and feather mutations, such as albino, blue, cinnamon-ino (aka lacedwings), clearwinged, crested, dark, greywinged, opaline, pieds, spangled, suffused, and violet.

Standard-type (aka English or "show") budgerigars are about twice larger than their wild-type (natural form and sized) counterparts. Their overall larger sizes and puffy head feathers give them boldly exaggerated looks. The eyes and beak can be almost totally obscured by their fluffed head's and forehead's feathers. Most captive budgerigars in the pet trade are similar in size and body conformation to wild occurring budgerigars and thus aptly called wild-type budgerigars.

Budgerigars are intelligent and social animals and enjoy the stimulation of toys and interaction with humans as well as with other budgerigars. A common behavior is the chewing of material such as wood, especially for female budgerigars. Tame budgerigars can be taught to speak, whistle tunes, and play with humans. Both males and females sing and can learn to mimic sounds and words and do simple tricks. Both singing and mimicry are more pronounced and much more perfected in males. As a whole, females rarely if ever learn to mimic more than a dozen words or so. Males can very easily acquire vocabularies ranging between a few dozen to a hundred words. Generally speaking, it is mostly pet budgerigars (and even more so lone pets) and thus, receiving the most attention which talk the best and the most.

In captivity, budgerigars live an average of five to eight years, but are reported to occasionally live to 15-20 if well cared for. The life span depends on each particular budgerigar's breed (show budgerigars typically do not live as long as wild-type budgerigars), lineage and overall health, which is highly influenced by exercise and diet.

Budgerigars (as do most other parrot species) and most particularly females love to chew on anything they can find in their cages and environments. This comes from the females' instinct in adapting by gnawing the all around interior of existing wild bird's nests. Mineral-blocks (ideally enriched with iodine) and cuttlebone and soft wooden pieces must be provided to help them satisfy their desire to chew and keep their beaks trimmed.

Bird lovers often comment on the differences in personality in each individual bird. Budgerigars each have their own unique ideas about how much they like to be handled, which toys are their favorites, and even what music they like or are indifferent to.

Budgerigars have been shown to cause "bird fancier's lung" in sensitive people, a type of hypersensitivity pneumonitis. This is primarily an issue with people keeping large numbers of budgerigars within a bird room.


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