Pet Bird Species: Budgerigars
First recorded in 1805, the budgerigar, more commonly referred to simply as the budgie, is thought to be the third most popular pet in the world – and for good reason. These lively little birds have many of the lovable characteristics of parrots, but in a smaller package, making them ideal as pets for just about anyone as they require less space and less food, but as with all pet birds, thrive on loads of attention. Available in a wide range of colors and varieties, budgies are very intelligent, are easily tamed and can even be trained to talk.
Originating from Australia, where they are still found in the wild, budgies have a preference for grassland areas where they feed mainly on seeds. They are by nature sociable birds and in the wild they live in flocks of varying sizes. They breed according to the availability of food and in times of plenty may produce clutches of seven to eight chicks, while when drought conditions strike (as they are prone to do in the outback of Australia), budgies will not breed at all as they conserve resources for the existing flock.
Wild budgies have light green bodies and yellow heads, with yellow and black rippled stripes from their foreheads down their wings. They have long blue tails and dark purple cheek patches. Selective breeding over the years has produced a wide variety of colors, body shapes and sizes in pet budgies. The hobby of ‘showing’ budgies has led to the breeding of birds with physical traits that are considered desirable by judges, but are far different from the original Australian wild budgie that has survived in often harsh conditions for millions of years.
Pet budgies are happiest and healthiest when they have a diet as close to that of their ancestors as possible, so a variety of good quality seeds is essential. These should include a high percentage of a variety of millet seed, canary seed and a small amount of whole oats. There are commercial mixes made specifically for budgies, or you can mix your own. Make sure that the seed mix you offer your canary is free from dust and mold. To boost the immune system of your budgie, try sprouting some of the seed. This will also be a good indicator of whether the seed you are using is fresh. Soak some seed overnight in water, tip it into a sieve and leave it there until a white tip starts emerging (24-48 hours). At this stage you can mix this in with some dry seed and give it to your budgie. Remove the remaining mix at the end of the day, as it could make your bird ill if left for too long.
Budgies also need some fresh fruit and veggies. They are fond of chickweed, which is very nutritious, and they enjoy dandelion, carrots, broccoli, apples and a variety of other fresh foods. It should go without saying that all fresh foods should be free of pesticides and other toxins, such as car exhaust fumes, so don’t buy from roadside vendors. It is also a good idea to provide them with a cuttlefish, which they will use as and when they need it. If you feed your pet budgie a well-rounded diet as described, with seeds as its mainstay, it should not need additional vitamin supplements.