A budgie as a pet – what do I have to consider?Budgerigars are probably the most frequently kept parrot species worldwide. The colorful ornamental birds are very popular as pets and can become very tame. How budgies live in the wild. How can the lively birds be kept at home as species-appropriate as possible? Why bred budgies have to wear a ring on their foot? Budgerigars belong to the parrot family. Are particularly popular as pets. Beside the original green-yellow coloring there are many color variations in blue and white. (Source: Anna Saccheri)
The budgerigars, which are very popular as pets, belong to the parrot family. Like their larger relatives, for example the macaws, budgerigars have a strong, slightly curved and pointed upper beak, which covers the lower beak. Originally, the budgie has a greenish-yellow coloring, but there are many breedings in other color variations.
The scientific name of the budgerigar is "Melopsittacus undulatus" and means singing wave parrot. It is due to the wavy pattern of the plumage, which is characteristic of budgerigars. They have a black wavy pattern on the back of the head, which extends from there over the neck, to the upper back and the wings – in some bred species, however, this pattern is only faintly pronounced and barely visible.
From Australia to Europe
The home of budgerigars is Australia, where they live in grassy steppes, savannahs and open forest areas. (source: Richard.Fisher/ Wikipedia)
The original home of budgies is Australia. There they live in grass steppes, savannahs and open forest areas and feed on the seeds of ground plants. They were first discovered in 1770 by the English naturalist Sir Joseph Banks, who accompanied the famous British navigator James Cook on his circumnavigation of the world (1768-1771) and "discovered" Australia with him. The English scientist John Gould brought the first wild specimens from the distant continent to his homeland in 1840. The first of these ornamental birds are said to have arrived in Germany in 1850. As pets they quickly became popular in Europe, and thus more and more of these animals were transported by ship from Australia. However, many budgerigars do not survive these journeys of several months.
Due to the great demand for these feathered animals and to protect them, the government of Australia imposed an export ban on budgies, which is still in force today. Therefore, the coveted animals from the middle of the 19. Century also bred in Europe. The wild form of the budgerigar, unlike the domesticated (i.e., farmed) budgerigar, has grass-green plumage, which serves to camouflage it from enemies when feeding. Typical is still the bright yellow face (mask), which extends to the throat and has there six black, symmetrically arranged throat spots and purple beard spots. The domesticated budgerigars sometimes have more throat spots. Through breeding, different color variations were gradually created – for example, budgies with blue, white or yellow plumage were bred.
Budgerigars like it sociable
Budgerigars need constant contact with conspecifics and live in nature in flocks, which can be up to 2.000 animals can comprise. (Source: Himi / pixelio.en)
The wild budgerigars are regular migrators and thus do not live in a particular region, but change their location regularly. That is why they are also called "nomads", so they are called roamers. They can travel up to 25 kilometers per day. Budgerigars are not loners, but on the contrary very social animals.
In the wild they live in flocks, which can even reach up to 2.000 animals can comprise. They need the community and constant contact with conspecifics to feel secure. To meet this basic need of the animals, you should get at least two budgies. A plastic bird in a cage is just as little as a mirror a suitable substitute for natural conspecifics. Loneliness, for example, can cause birds to pluck feathers from their own plumage and inflict injuries on themselves.
Even people who spend time with the animal cannot replace a conspecific. Some budgies become extremely tame and seek contact with their owner on their own, while others do not like it at all if you get too close to them or if they are touched by people. You should approach the animal slowly and give it time to gain trust. And you can't expect your feathered friend to automatically become hand-tame – each animal should be respected with its peculiarities. The birds need a large cage. Per day at least one hour free flight. (Source: I.Friedrich/ pixelio.de)
Since budgies travel several miles a day in the wild, flying is one of the birds' basic needs. The accommodation in a small cage represents thus basically an extreme restriction of their movement instinct. Therefore, the cage should be as large as possible. For a pair, the German Animal Welfare Association recommends a cage at least 160 centimeters long, 80 centimeters wide and 80 centimeters high. The most suitable is an aviary – this is a cage that allows free flight.
But a large cage or aviary alone is not enough to satisfy the animals' urge to move around. Per day the budgerigar needs at least one hour free flight. For this, possible sources of danger such as open windows, doors or drawers, poisonous plants or narrow gaps behind cabinets must be eliminated. Also, the room should be large enough and provide ample opportunities for the birds to land, as budgies are not only extremely good but also fast flyers – in the wild they can reach top flight speeds of up to 120 kilometers per hour.
The refrigerator should never be chosen as the location for the cage, because budgies have a sense of vibration. Sensory bodies at the foot, which report the smallest vibrations to the bird, are to warn it in the nature before predators such as snakes. Accordingly, a vibrating refrigerator means permanent anxiety and stress for the budgie.
What must offer the bird cage? In addition to natural perches, employment opportunities such as climbing devices should be. Brass bells to be present in the cage. (Source: Sebastian Karkus/ pixelio.de)
The cage should be covered with bird sand on the floor, as well as equipped with a drinking water dispenser, several food bowls and a bath house. Plastic perches should be avoided as they can cause bunion ulcers on the birds' feet. According to the German Animal Welfare Association, cleaned twigs from non-toxic, unsprayed woods such as willow, maple, poplar or fruit trees are particularly suitable. These help also with the wearing out of the claws. Water and food containers should preferably be placed in the upper part of the cage on the grid – if possible not at the height of other bars that are above, otherwise there is a risk that the budgies contaminate their food or water with feces.
Budgies are fed with a special mixture of grains, greens, fruits and herbs, which are commercially available. In addition, the lively birds are happy about deer poles, which are suspended in the cage. To support digestion, it is advisable to regularly feed so-called bird grit – a mixture of small stones and ground mussel shells. In most bird sand mixtures this is already contained. In addition, the birds should be provided with occupational opportunities such as climbing equipment. Brass bells as well as a limestone or Sepiaschalen to the order stand. Sepia pulp is obtained from the skeleton of an octopus and contains important lime. Birds can get their beak on it. Its excessive growth is avoided.
The language of budgies
Budgies can become very tame. A slightly fluffed plumage is often a sign of relaxation, while an anxious bird will put on its feathers and "thin" itself makes. (Source: tobabi/ pixelio.de)
Budgerigars communicate through body language and vocalizations. They give shrill whistles when they are surprised, a short and loud chirp to make contact with other birds over long distances, and a threatening coo when they feel disturbed – for example, when a third budgie comes too close to a pair. If the budgies quarrel or are annoyed by others, they make nagging sounds. If they are cuddled by their partner and feel comfortable, the animals sometimes growl.
With singing sounds, in which lovely tones and loud cawing and clamoring alternate, a possible partner is courted – the budgies prance up and down, bob their heads and beak with each other. In addition, it is a sign of well-being and relaxation when budgies sing or chirp to themselves – they often fluff up their feathers and sometimes they even pull a leg under the feathers. However, the sounds of budgies are very diverse and sometimes different from animal to animal, so it is difficult to make a uniform list.
The crunching of the beak, i.e. the movement of the lower beak along the inside of the upper beak, shows that the bird is comfortable and may soon fall asleep. If a budgerigar puts its head backwards into the plumage and stands on one leg, it is usually sleeping. But there are also other sleeping positions. A sign of fear is it, if the budgie makes itself small and thin and takes a tense posture. When two budgies fight, for example, over a potential mate, they straighten up, open their beaks wide, and throw their heads back. In addition, the usually only implied hacking, i.e. minor fights with the beak, is considered a warning.
Sex, partnership and mating
Since budgies are so-called cave breeders, their interest in mating and breeding increases if you put a nest box in their cage. (Source: Jurgen Nieben/ pixelio.en)
The sexes of the popular ornamental birds are difficult to distinguish from each other at first glance. Only the nasal skin (also called wax skin), which is located above the beak and serves to protect the nostrils, indicates whether it is a female (hen) or a male (rooster): The waxy skin of the female is usually brown, beige or light blue, while that of the male is dark blue, purple or pink.
It is interesting that budgies of the same sex can get along well and in many cases live together like a pair of hens and roosters: they also court each other and often one of the animals takes the role of the male and the other that of the female. While two roosters usually live together peacefully, however, keeping two hens can be problematic. If one wants to acquire two birds, a budgie pair is recommended.
If you keep a pair of hen and rooster, the birds do not reproduce automatically. Under certain conditions, however, it may well happen that the birds mate. They are ready to mate as early as four to six months of age. A clutch can usually contain between four and eight eggs, each laid two days apart. Budgerigars are so-called cave breeders, which means that they look for a cave for nesting and brood rearing. So if you put a nesting box in the cage, the interest in mating and brooding is encouraged.
Why do budgies have a foot ring?
In Germany, the registration of a budgie by a ring is mandatory to prevent the spread of parrot disease. (Source: Jen Smith/ Wikipedia)
If you observe budgies, you will see that they usually wear a ring on their foot. In Germany there is a ringing obligation for all parrot birds, also for budgies. This legal provision was introduced to protect against the spread of parrot disease, known as psittacosis. This is an infectious disease that can also be transmitted to humans.
There are different, however so far still no clear symptoms for this illness. If, for example, the animal is breathing labored, has diarrhea or sticky, i.e. inflamed, eyes, these can be signs that the budgie has parrot sickness. Then you should definitely go to a veterinarian who will examine the animal for psittacosis. The foot ring indicates from which breeding the budgerigar originates. It must be removed only if the animal is injured. In addition, the ring has a similar function as the dog tag of the dog. By means of the number stamped on it, which is stored in the database of a bird tracing service, the owner of an escaped budgerigar can be located and notified.