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Forum » Specific Breeds » Budgies, Parakeets & Cockatiels » PARAKEET SPECIES INFORMATION
AdminDate: Wednesday, 2011-05-25, 8:54 AM | Message # 1
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The budgerigar is widely acknowledged as the most popular pet parrot in the world and possibly the most popular cage bird. It has been bred in captivity since the 1850s. Breeders have worked over the decades to produce a wide range of colour, pattern, and feather mutations, such as albino, blue, cinnamon-ino (aka lacewinged), clearwinged, crested, dark, greywinged, opaline, pieds, spangled, dilute (suffused), and violet.

Standard-type (aka English or "show") budgerigars are about twice as large as their wild-type counterparts. Their overall larger sizes and puffier head feathers give them 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 typically have a shorter life span of 7–9 years. Breeders of English Budgerigars often exhibit their birds at animal shows. Most captive budgerigars in the pet trade are similar in size and body conformation to wild 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 behaviour is chewing material such as wood, especially for females. When a budgerigar feels threatened, it will try to perch as high as possible and may make itself appear thin by bringing its feathers close against its body.

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 better perfected in males. Females rarely learn to mimic more than a dozen words. Males can easily acquire vocabularies ranging between a few dozen to a hundred words. Pet males, especially those kept alone, are generally the best speakers.

In captivity, budgerigars live an average of five to eight years, but life-spans of 15–20 years have been reported. The lifespan depends on breed, lineage, and health, being highly influenced by exercise and diet.

Budgerigars enjoy chewing on anything they can find. Mineral blocks (ideally enriched with iodine), cuttlebone, and soft wooden pieces must be provided to pet birds to satisfy their desire to chew and to keep their beaks trimmed.

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.

Cage requirements

Budgerigars are small but energetic. The absolute minimum size cage for one or two tame pet budgerigars that are allowed out for several hours a day is 45 centimetres (18 in) long by 45 centimetres (18 in) wide[citation needed]. However, larger cages and flights will be appreciated by these energetic little birds. An ideal cage is longer than high (since birds fly horizontally like planes and not vertically like helicopters) and would be at least 75 centimetres (30 in) long.[citation needed] The cage should not have bar spacing greater than 1 centimetre (0.4 in) between bars. Budgerigars are not particularly destructive birds, and spacious cages, while sometimes hard to find, are usually inexpensive.

Minimum size for 1 budgerigars — 45×45×45 cm (18×18×18 in) Volume = 91,125 cm3 (5,561 cu in)

Minimum size for 2 budgerigars — 75×45×45 cm (30×18×18 in) Volume = 151,875 cm3 (9,268 cu in)

Minimum size for 3 budgerigars — 80×45×50 cm (31×18×20 in) Volume = 180,000 cm3 (10,984 cu in)

Minimum size for 4 budgerigars — 85×45×63 cm (33×18×25 in) Volume = 240,975 cm3 (14,705 cu in)

Minimum size for 5 budgerigars — 90×45×75 cm (35×18×30 in) Volume = 303,750 cm3 (18,536 cu in)

Minimum size for 6 budgerigars — 100×45×80 cm (39×18×31 in) Volume = 360,000 cm3 (21,969 cu in)

Care should be taken when placing several female budgerigars together, as they can do serious harm to one another if they do not get along.


Although budgerigars in their natural habitat eat mainly grass seeds, captive budgerigars feed on dry, sprouted, or soaked seeds. A diet of only dry seeds is inadequate for budgerigars. Avian veterinarians recommend pet birds' diets be supplemented with foods such as whole cereals and whole grains like amaranth, barley, couscous, flax, pasta, oat, quinoa, wheat, and rice; and certain edible flowers, including carnation, chamomile, chive, dandelion, day lily, eucalyptus, hibiscus, honeysuckle, impatiens, lilac, nasturtium, pansy, passion flower (Passiflora), rose, sunflower, tulip, and violet (but the foliage of some of these plants is poisonous to the birds). Occasionally and sporadically budgerigars may be fed amaranth leaves, beet leaves, carambola (starfruit), chards, parsley, spinach, and turnip leaves, but the high oxalic acid content of these foods may cause health problems.

- Fruit (except grapefruit, lemons, plums, and avocadoes, which are toxic): all Apple varieties, Banana, all Berries varieties, Oranges, Grapes, Kiwi, Mango, Melons, Nectarine, Papaya, Peach, all Pear varieties, Star-fruit. Pits and seeds from every Citrus and Drupe species must always be discarded as they are intoxicating. However, achenes and tiny seeds from pseudo and true Berries (Bananas, Blueberries, Elderberries, Eggplants, Persimmons, Pomegranates, Raspberries, Strawberries, Tomatoes) are all okay.

- Legumes: Almonds, Lentils, Peas, Nuts and Tofu.

- Grain and/or Legume sprouts: Adzuki beans, Alfalfa beans, Buckwheat, Lentils, Mungo beans, Pinto beans, Red Kidney beans, Sesame seeds, Sunflower seeds. Caution with only Lima and Navy beans' sprouts which are toxic.

- Vegetables (except uncooked potatoes, uncooked onions, mushrooms, and all members of the cabbage family): Carrots, corn, cucumber, fresh romaine Lettuce, green peppers, zucchini.

- Pellets specifically formulated for budgerigars, for Australian grass budgerigars and/or for small parrots are all healthy additions.

- Other fat-free, healthy and nutritious human foods.

Adding these foods provides additional nutrients and prevents obesity and lipomas, as can substituting millet, which is relatively low in fat, for higher-fat seed mixes.. Parrots and budgerigars learn mainly by mimicry and thus most adult budgerigars will be easily encouraged to try new foods by observing another bird eating the food, or by placing the new food on a mirror.

Parrot species (including budgerigars) are herbivores. Consequently, they should be fed plant-based diets that are ideally supplemented with vegetable proteins, for example, produced by a combination of any type of whole grain with any type of legume. Eggs (hard-boiled) are the only appropriately healthy source of animal protein, mostly for birds in either breeding, growing, moulting and/or recovering conditions. High levels of proteins (particularly animal proteins) are unhealthy for budgerigars and other Grass Parakeet species living under any alternate conditions (i.e. non-breeding, pets).

Alcohol, avocado, chocolate, caffeine, products containing lactose, garlic and onions present a danger of toxicosis and should not be fed.


Breeding in the wild generally takes place between June and September in northern Australia and between August and January in the south, although budgerigars are opportunistic breeders and respond to rains when grass seeds become most abundant. Budgerigars show signs of affection to their flockmates by preening or feeding one another. Budgerigars feed one another by eating the seeds themselves, and then regurgitating it into their flockmates' mouth. Populations in some areas have increased as a result of increased water availability at farms. Nests are made in holes in trees, fence posts, or even logs lying on the ground; the 4-6 eggs are incubated for 18–21 days, with the young fledging about 30 days after hatching.

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 nest box. The eggs are typically 1 to 2 centimetres long and are plain white without any coloration. Female budgerigars can lay eggs without a male partner but these eggs are unfertilised and 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 to eight eggs, which she will incubate (usually starting after laying her 2nd or 3rd) for about 21 days each. Female Budgerigar only leave their nests for very quick defecations and stretches once they've begun incubating and are by then almost exclusively fed by their mate (usually at the nest's entrance). 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. Rarely female has the habit of eating the eggs in case of insecurity.

Breeding problems

Breeding difficulties arise for various reasons. Some chicks may die from diseases and attacks from adults. Other budgerigars (virtually always females) may fight over the nest box, attacking each other or a brood. Sometimes budgerigars (mainly males) are not interested in the opposite gender, and will not reproduce with them. Sometimes a flock setting—several pairs housed where they can see and hear each other—is necessary to stimulate breeding. Another problem may be the birds' beak being under lapped. This is where the lower mandible is above the upper mandible.

Most health issues and physical abnormalities in budgerigars are genetic. Care should be taken that birds used for breeding are active, healthy, and unrelated. Budgerigars that are related or who have fatty tumours or other potentially genetic health problems should not be allowed to breed. Parasites (lice, mites, worms) and pathogens (bacteria, fungi and viruses), are contagious and thus transmitted between individuals through either direct or indirect contact. Nestboxes should be cleaned between uses.

Splay leg, a relatively common problem in baby budgerigars – in which one of the budgerigar's legs is bent outward, preventing it from being able to stand properly and compete with the other chicks for food and can also lead to difficulties in reproducing in adulthood, results from young budgerigars slipping repeatedly on the floor of a nestbox. It is easily avoided by placing a small quantity of a safe bedding or wood shavings in the bottom of the nestbox. Alternatively, several pieces of paper may be placed in the box for the female to chew into bedding.


The eggs will take about 18–20 days before they start hatching. The hatchlings are altricial – blind, naked, totally helpless, and their mother feeds them and keeps them warm constantly. Around 10 days of age, the chicks' eyes will open, and they will start to develop feather down. The appearance of down occurs precisely at the ages (around 9 or 10 days of age) for closed banding of the chicks. Budgerigar's closed band rings must be neither larger or smaller than 4.0 to 4.2 mm.

They develop feathers around 3 weeks of age. (One can often easily note the colour mutation of the individual birds at this point.) At this stage of the chicks' development, the male usually has begun to enter the nest to help his female in caring and feeding the chicks. Some budgerigar females, however, totally forbid the male from entering the nest and thus take the full responsibility of rearing the chicks until they fledge.

Depending on the size of the clutch and most particularly in the case of single mothers, it may then be wise to transfer a portion of the hatchlings (or best of the fertile eggs) to another pair. The foster pair must already be in breeding mode and thus either at the laying or incubating stages and/or rearing hatchlings.

As the chicks develop and grow feathers, they are able to be left on their own for longer and longer periods of time. By the fifth week, the chicks are strong enough that both parents will be comfortable in staying more and more out of the nest. The youngsters will stretch their wings to gain strength before they attempt to fly. They will also help defend the box from enemies mostly with their loud screeching. Young budgerigars typically fledge (leave the nest) around their fifth week of age and are usually completely weaned a week later. However, the age for fledging as well as weaning can vary slightly depending on whether it is the oldest, the youngest and/or the only surviving chick. Generally speaking, the oldest chick is the first to be weaned. But even though it is logically the last one to be weaned, the youngest chick is often weaned at a younger age than its older sibling(s). This can be a result of mimicking the actions of older siblings. Lone surviving chicks are often weaned at the youngest possible age as a result of having their parent's full attention and care.

Hand-reared Budgies may take slightly longer to wean than parent-raised chicks. Hand feeding is not routinely done with budgerigars, due to their small size, and the fact that young parent raised birds can be readily tamed.

Colour mutations

Adult females (top) display beige to brown ceres while adult males (bottom) typically have blue ceres or purplish-pink in Albinistic and recessive-pied varieties.

All captive budgerigars are divided into two basic series of colours; namely, white-based (i.e. blue, grey & white budgerigars) and/or yellow-based (i.e. green, greygreen & yellow budgerigars). There are presently at least 32 primary mutations in the budgerigar(including violet), enabling hundreds of possible secondary mutations (stable combined primary mutations) and colour varieties (unstable combined mutations).
Forum » Specific Breeds » Budgies, Parakeets & Cockatiels » PARAKEET SPECIES INFORMATION
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