Parakeets (budgerigars or budgies for short) are often the first parrot species many parrot lovers encounter. These small birds are easily suited to aviary life with a flock of bird buddies, yet also make charming companion parrots. Budgies who are hand raised often make the best candidates for a parrot companion. When parent-raised they tend to be more flighty and less inclined to seek human companionship. However progress can be made when you become a treat dispenser.
Parakeets tend to show great enthusiasm for millet spray. Instead of putting this tasty treat in the cage for enrichment, save it for training. If your budgie is quite nervous a long stick of millet can allow you to offer him something he likes at a distance with which he will be comfortable. Over time you can use shorter sprays.
Because parakeets are a flocking species they do enjoy company. Sometimes this can be a bird, human or even their own reflection in a mirror. Budgies are known to preen their human companions and snuggle up against their necks.
Parakeets have a pleasant chirp that most people find appealing. They are not known to scream for attention like other species of parrots. However some individuals have shown a propensity for talking. A very chatty budgie is said to hold the record for knowing the most words. You can see an adorable budgie quoting Shakespeare in the documentary “Parrots -Look Who’s Talking.” An interesting thing about the parakeets voice is that it often has a whispery quality to it.
Here is a clip of Disco the talking Parakeet from The Best Talking Parrot Contest
Try the DVD Train Your Parrot to Talk to get your budgie speaking on cue.
Being a smaller bird they tend not to live quite so long as larger species of parrots. Seven to fifteen years is the typical lifespan of a parakeet. This is often more attractive to those just starting out with companion birds.
Parakeets may be little, but they are packed with personality. They also are great learners. You can train a parakeet to do just about anything you can train a larger parrot to do. They do move and learn fast. It helps to have good timing and observational skills when training a fast moving budgie. This means noting the exact moment your bird does something right, marking it and quickly delivering a reinforcer such as millet spray. The DVD Parrot Behavior and Training shows you how to train a variety of behaviors you can teach your budgie to do.
Interesting Facts and Quirks:
The name parakeet refers to any parrot species with a long tail. This includes many species of parrots. Somehow the word “parakeet” became integrated into some cultures to mean only the budgerigar. However this is not quite correct. Technically all budgies are parakeets, but not all parakeets are budgerigars.
Parakeets come from Australia. They dine mainly on grass seeds. This means offering them a flat surface with food scattered on it for foraging can be very enriching. You may also want to try sprouting some grass seeds for your budgie to enjoy.
Budgies on a seed based diet will eat the inside of the seed and leave the husk behind. This sometimes makes the bowl appear to be full when it fact it just contains empty husks. Be sure to refill food bowls daily to make sure your budgie is receiving an adequate amount of food. Smaller parrots eat a large amount of food for their body size compared to larger species of parrots.
Budgerigars are sexually dimorphic. This means once they are mature the boys look different from the girls. This difference is in the color of their cere. This is the fleshy material near the top of their beak. Males have a blue cere and females have a pink or brownish cere. Young budgies all look like girls until they mature and the cere changes color.
The feather duster is a budgerigar with a rare genetic mutation. This mutation causes the feathers to grow long and stringy. Feather dusters cannot fly and unfortunately usually do not live very long. This is due to the high nutritional demands of producing the unusual feathers. Breeders do not intentionally produce feather dusters. They are typically accidental hatches.
Potential Behavior Problems:
Budgies are not known for many behavior problems. However some budgies may need some time to learn to trust people. Because they are little, people sometimes grab them up against their will. This is very trust depleting and will cause a budgie to fear people and often hands. Focus on letting your bird learn to voluntarily approach you. Be sure to reinforce him or her with millet spray and soon trust will grow. You can learn more about how to build trust in the DVD The Basics of Parrot Training. A Live Workshop.
Some people find the mess created by seed husks a challenge. Look for feeders that attach to the outside of the cage to help contain husks.