Commonly referred to as a "parakeet,” budgerigar or budgie for short, this bird packs a big personality in a little package. Its small size and economic price tag help make the budgie one of the most popular pet parrot species in the United States.
The majority of budgies for sale are parent-raised and, therefore, not typically hand-tamed. However, young birds can be tamed by gently establishing trust and always using positive-reinforcement rewards. Patience is key when building a trusting relationship with any bird, especially a budgie.
Budgies are available in a wide array of colors. Their normal "wild” coloration is green and yellow; however, more than 30-known color mutations are now established in budgerigars. Pet stores often feature blue, cinnamon, opaline, albino and violet color mutations, in addition to the normal wild coloration.
With the exception of a few color mutations, the gender of an adult budgie can be determined by the color of the bird’s cere (the fleshy area above the beak). A male budgie has a light- to dark-blue cere, and a female budgie has a white or brown cere, depending on whether she’s in breeding condition.
Budgies are very active birds. Their small size leads many new budgie owners to make the common mistake of purchasing too small a cage. In reality, budgies do best when housed in cages with as much horizontal space as possible. A minimum of 24-inches of horizontal flight area with size-appropriate bar spacing is sufficient, and 36 inches is ideal. The cage should be outfitted with a variety of interesting toys (some destructible, some not), a swing and a varied selection of perches. Food and water dishes should be strategically placed to avoid contamination by the bird’s droppings.
When compared to many other parrot species, budgie vocalization is comparatively quiet, making them an ideal choice for those living in apartments or condominiums. It is less likely your neighbor will complain about how loud your budgie is, compared to other parrot species.
Many new bird owners are surprised to learn that budgies have the potential to be great talkers. They are able to learn to speak words and phrases; however, budgies have scratchy, little voices, so an owner might not even recognize that the budgie is actually repeating words and phrases it has picked up.
Unfortunately, budgies have attained the reputation for being delicate and having a short life span. In reality, poor husbandry — namely poor nutrition — is to blame for this. Because of the malnutrition factor, the average life span of a budgie ranges from 5 to 15 years.
Additional health concerns for budgies include egg binding, cloacal prolapse, reproductive tract disease (tumors of the ovaries or testes), feather cysts, squamous cell carcinoma of the uropygial (preen) gland, lipomas (a benign fatty mass), kidney tumors and gout.
Balanced nutrition is vital to your budgie’s health, which includes pellets, grain and seeds, as well as fresh greens and vegetables.