This post is pertinent to a well known bird endemic to Australia but has become a favorite pet bird around the world. My friend Marianne that lives in London is an expert for these beautiful birds, she asked me to post some relevant information about Budgies. I gathered some important facts that will help this bird to get closer to the viewers. ~ H.J.
The Budgerigar (Melopsittacus undulatus), also known as the common parakeet or shell parakeet and informally nicknamed the budgie, is a small, long-tailed, seed-eating parrot. Budgerigars are the only species in the Australian 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. 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.
Anatomy of a male budgerigar
Wild budgerigars average 18 cm (7 in) long, weigh 30–40 grams (1.1–1.4 oz), with an average wingspan of 30 cm and display a light green body colour (abdomen and rumps), while their mantles (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 (nose) in young individuals until they change into their adult plumage around three to four months of age. They display small, iridescent blue-violet cheek patches and a series of three black spots across each side of their throats (called throat patches). The two outermost throat spots are situated at the base of each cheek patch. The tail is cobalt (dark-blue); and 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 become visible in flight or when the wings are outstretched. Bills are olive grey and legs blueish-grey, with zygodactyl toes.
Budgerigars in their natural habitat in Australia are noticeably smaller than those in captivity.This particular parrot species has been bred in many other colours and shades in captivity (e.g. blue, grey, grey-green, pieds, violet, white, yellow-blue), although they are mostly found in pet stores in blue, green, and yellow. Like most parrot species, budgerigar plumage fluoresces under ultraviolet light. This phenomenon is possibly related to courtship and mate selection.
The upper half of their beaks is much taller than the bottom half and covers the bottom when closed. The beak does not protrude much, due to the thick, fluffy feathers surrounding it, giving the appearance of a downward-pointing beak that lies flat against the face. The upper half acts as a long, smooth cover, while the bottom half is just about a half-sized cup-piece. These beaks allow the birds to eat plants, fruits, and vegetables.
The colour of the cere (the area containing the nostrils) differs between the sexes, being royal blue in males, pale brown to white (nonbreeding) 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, which later returns to the normal colour. Young females can often be identified by a subtle, chalky whiteness that starts around the nostrils. Males that are either Albino, Lutino, Dark-eyed Clear or Recessive Pied (Danishpied or harlequin) always retain the immature purplish-pink cere colour their entire lives.
It is usually easy to tell the sex of a budgerigar over six months old, mainly by the cere colours, but behaviours and head shape also help indicate sex.
A mature male’s cere is usually light to dark blue, but can be purplish to pink in some particular colour mutations, such as Dark-eyed Clears, Danish Pieds (Recessive Pieds) and Inos, which usually display much rounder heads. Males are typically cheerful, extroverted, highly flirtatious, peacefully social, and very vocal.
Females’ ceres are pinkish as immatures. As they age, they move from being beigish or whitish outside breeding condition into brown (often with a ‘crusty’ texture) in breeding condition and usually display flattened backs of heads (right above the nape). Females are typically highly dominant and more socially intolerant. This behavior is more pronounced around other females than with males.