We are “Bird People”. Our aviary is 12 strong with 5 more babies just hatched a few days ago. We thought we would share some fun facts about Budgerigars, but be careful, or you too may be smitten by these little feathery fellows and become “Bird People” too!
In all, we must have bred and homed more than 60 healthy little feathery friends in the past few years, each one is its own little character. Yet keeping Budgies as pets is as old as the hills.
Budgerigars have been bred in captivity since the 1850s and this little Aussie favourite has become a popular pet around the world, being kept as small flocks in aviaries or as companion birds in smaller cages. These cheeky little birds have their own set of unique features that make them the interesting little characters that they are.
Facts about Budgerigars
· Lifespan – a Budgie can live up to between 7 and 15 years
· Budgies are small in size. They are roughly 18-20cm from top to tail, and weigh 30-40g.
· A budgie can have up to 3,000 feathers in total covering their whole body.
· Budgies have a very high resting breathing rate, ranging between 65-85 breaths per minute.
· The heart rate of the budgie is also extremely fast and beats at over 300 times per minute!
What’s in a name?
While Budgerigar is the formal name for these little chaps, they are more affectionately known as Budgies.
The scientific name for Budgerigar, Melopsittacus undulatus. Melopsittacus is Greek for ‘melodious parrot’ and undulatus is Latin for ‘undulated’, referring to their scalloped wing patterns.
It’s unknown whether this Aboriginal meaning means that the bird itself is good for eating, or whether their seed-seeking migrations led the Gamilaraay people to places of rainfall and abundant food.
Budgies in the wild
Budgies are one of the smallest members of the parakeet family and are native to Australia. They are found throughout most of Australia’s interior, west of the Great Dividing Range, but are not present in Tasmania, Cape York, or the coastal areas of eastern, northern or south-western Australia.
Budgerigars are highly nomadic birds and generally fly north during winter, covering significant distances as they migrate. Flocks follow rainfall and seasonally abundant seeding grasses. The flocks normally range in size from 3 to 100 birds. After rainfall, flocks can number in the thousands! Wild Budgies inhabit savannas, grasslands, open forests, grassy woodlands and farmland. It is important that Budgies drink each day, so they’re usually found near water.
Colours of the rainbow
The wild budgie is similar to the birds we see today in pet shops, though smaller, and only found in the classic, green body and yellow head. The original pet budgies were greeny-yellow in colour, and from this, other colours developed. The second colour was pure yellow, which was bred from a genetic mutation and the first blue budgie wasn’t seen until 1878!
Today, Budgies occur in a large assortment of colours and patterns, with over 70 mutations to date, and more developed each year.
Boy or girl?
Telling the gender of a Budgie, also involves colour. The difference between the genders is clear to see at about six to eight months of age, when they are mature. The adult male’s cere (the flesh above the beak) is generally blue, while the female’s is pink or brown. It can be difficult to tell the sex of young birds, but an educated guess can be made, with females generally exhibiting whitish colour rings around their nostrils. Some mutations such as pied, lutino and albino don’t always exhibit these classic cere colour patterns making it more complicated to determine the gender.
· Budgies have monocular vision meaning that they can move and see out of each eye independently of the other one. They have an incredible quality of vision in terms of the number of images their brains can process at a time. A budgie can register over 150 images per second, compared with just 16 for humans!
· Their eyes are also interesting as they have a third, rarely visible eyelid which helps to keep the birds eyes clean and lubricated.
· A Budgie’s scope of hearing ranges from 400-20,000 Hz. A Budgie can remember sequences of sounds, and sometimes mimic them. Which, if you’re lucky can lead to a talking bird!
The budgie is the best talking bird among the parrots and is able to learn words, phrases, and whistles easily. Male Budgies are the best talkers, though females can learn a few words and can also whistle well.
Budgies who manage to learn to talk have not learned the meaning of the words they are saying, but have learned to remember and mimic very specific sound sequences.
· In 1995, The Guinness Book of World Records acknowledged Puck, the budgie, as “the bird with the largest vocabulary in the world”, speaking an astonishing 1,728 words!
Amazing little bodies
· While most of our feathered friends have three toes that point forward and one that faces backward. Budgies and other parrots have two pointing forward and two pointing backward.
· Thanks to extra vertebrae in their necks, Budgies can swivel their heads up to 180 degrees.
· We humans have lungs that expand and contract as we breathe in and out. In budgies, the muscles of the chest cavity itself expand and contract, to force air in and out.
· Budgies do not urinate and they do not have a bladder, so their urine and faeces pass out of the same passage.
· Budgies poop as often as every twenty minutes!
· Being so small, Budgies can only afford to lose between 10-12 drops of blood before their blood loss becomes fatal.
· The bones of budgies and most other birds that are capable of flight are hollow. The bones are filled with air sacs rather than bone marrow.
· The skeleton of female budgies gains density during the breeding season, as she stockpiles calcium to support breeding. This can equate to an increase of around 20% of her bodyweight!
Partners for life
Budgerigars are monogamous and mate for life. Breeding occurs at any time of the year, but typically after rain. Wild Budgies will sometimes nest within metres of each other, and prepare a comfortable nest by lining existing cavities of tree trunks, branches and logs. Domesticated Budgies will happily nest in a provided breeding box.
The female will generally lay four to eight eggs, which she will incubate and hatch after 18 days. The father bird forages and feeds the chicks, which will leave the nest after another 35 days.
The shells of the eggs are covered with pores, which allows oxygen and carbon dioxide to enter and exit the egg.
Budgies can experience a number of health concerns including liver disorders, foot disorders, psittacosis, scaly face mite, intestinal parasites and iodine deficiency which can result in tumours and goitres.
Due to their seed rich diet, Budgies are prone to obesity. To minimise this risk it is important to offer your pet birds a range of fruit and vegetables in addition to their seeds.
Another essential, is good quality shell grit, as this helps the Budgies digestive system to grind up the seed after it has been swallowed. Cuttlefish and mineral blocks should also be offered, as these provide calcium, other minerals and trace elements that may be lacking in the seed diet. Together these dietary additions can help pet birds avoid many of the illness listed above.
For such a tiny creature they really do make great little companions. Over the past few years we have been extraordinarily lucky to breed some great little friends of both young and old. To see a child’s face as they make their first best friend and to offer a little companion to those living alone is a wonderful experience.
Should you be interested in keeping Budgies we believe its a decision you won’t regret. Whether you decide to keep one or two in an indoor cage or a whole aviary, their little tweets and chirpy demeanour will brighten your day. Something we could all do with right now.