Budgerigars (Melopsittacus undulatus), or “betcherrygah” as the Aborigines of Australia call them, are small parrots sporting a long tapered tail. Originally from Australia, the wild budgerigar is a green bird, with a yellow face, and black spots on the mask, black wavy bands on the wings, back and head. Once taken out of their native land and bred, color mutations occurred so that now there are many color strains from which to chose.
Many people wonder if a parakeet and a budgerigar, also called a budgie, are the same thing. A budgie is always a parakeet but a parakeet isn’t always a budgie. To clarify, parakeet means small parrot. There are a number of birds in the psittacine family that have parakeet in their names such as Bourke’s parakeets, green cheeked parakeets, orange chinned parakeets, etc. A budgie is a type of parakeet.
Budgies are readily available at inexpensive prices. But don’t let their inexpensive price fool you. Their small bodies are packed with a huge personalities. Budgies are very playful and mischievous and in most cases, easily tamed. Plenty of toys and playtime should be provided. Balls and bells seem to be big favorites, as well as objects to climb. Be aware that you will need to carefully follow rules of safety when your budgie is enjoying out-of-cage time. They are very curious and can get into trouble very fast. Accidents are the leading cause of death in budgies.
Most young budgies have stripes, or a wavy pattern, across their forehead which they lose after the first molt (molting is the shedding and regrowth of feathers). You may not be able to determine the sex of your budgie until after the first molt; the cere is beige or light pink color in young budgies. After the first molt (4-6 months of age) a male’s cere will turn blue, and a female’s will stay beige/tan. Of course, there are exceptions to the rule depending on the color mutation of your budgie. One way to tell a young male from a female is their way of communicating. A young male will sit and sing away in a very sweet voice. A female sounds more like she is lecturing the world on everything it is doing wrong. Males tend to be much more vocal than females too.
Diet is very important. In the wild budgies eat ripened green seeds and greens, not the dried seeds everyone thinks they eat. While we keep them in cages, we are responsible for providing a balanced diet. Pellets, vegetables, sprouts and some seed gives a varied, well balanced diet. Pellets should be available all the time, a veggie mix during the day, and a token amount of seed offered in the evening seems to work very well. If your budgie was fed a seed only diet, converting to pellets requires much patience, but will be well worth the wait.
Also important to a healthy happy bird is bathing. Budgies seem to think they are in the duck family and love nothing more than to splash around daily. But, like people, some budgies are bath birds and some are shower birds. There are as many creative ways to bathing as there are budgies.
Housing is a huge consideration. Your budgie shouldn’t be in too small a cage. An 18″ cube is a decent size for a single budgie, although the larger the better. Cages that are longer than higher are more preferred. This gives them room to get some exercise because, contrary to popular belief, birds are closer to airplanes, than helicopters. Bar spacing should be no greater than 1/2 inch. If the bird’s head can fit through the space between bars, the cage is not safe for a budgie.