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Male Normal Green budgerigar Conservation status
Least Concern (IUCN 3.1)[1]Scientific classificationKingdom: Animalia
Phylum: Chordata
Class: Aves
Order: Psittaciformes
Family: Psittacidae
Subfamily: Psittacinae
Tribe: Platycercini
Genus: Melopsittacus
Gould, 1840 Species: M. undulatus
Binomial name Melopsittacus undulatus
(Shaw, 1805)
The Budgerigar's natural habitat is colored in red

The Budgerigar (Melopsittacus undulatus, nicknamed budgie), commonly called parakeet, shell parakeet, or common pet parakeet in US English, the only species in the Australian genus Melopsittacus, is a small parrot belonging to the tribe of the broad-tailed parrots (Platycercini); these are sometimes considered a subfamily (Platycercinae). In the latter case, the Budgerigar is sometimes isolated in a tribe of its own, the Melopsittacini, although it is probably quite closely related to Pezoporus and Neophema.[2] Though Budgerigars are often called Parakeets, especially in American English, this term refers to any of a number of small Parrots with long flat tails. The Budgerigar is found throughout the drier parts of Australia and has survived in the inlands of that continent.[3]



Several possible origins for the English name Budgerigar have been proposed:

The genus name Melopsittacus comes from Greek and means "melodious parrot".[6] The species name undulatus is Latin for "undulated" or "wave-patterned".[7]


The Budgerigar was held by Forshaw to be a link between the genera Neophema and Peoporus based on the barred plumage.[8]


The anatomy of a male budgerigar


Budgerigars are about 18 cm (7 in) long and weigh 30-40 grams. Wild Budgerigars display a green body color (abdomen and rumps), while their mantle (back and wing coverts) is black edged in yellow. The forehead and face is yellow in adults, and barred black with yellow in young till they change into their adult plumage at 3-4 months of age. Each cheek has a small dark purple patch (cheek patches) and a series of 3 black spots across each sides of their throats (throat-spots) of which the outermost spots are situated at the base of each cheek-patches. The tail is cobalt (dark-blue); outside tail feathers display central yellow flashes. Their wings have greenish-black flight feathers and black coverts with yellow fringes along with central yellow flashes which only becomes visible in flight and/or when the wings are stretched. Bill olive grey and legs blueish-grey, with zygodactyl toes.[9] Wild budgerigars are noticeably smaller than those in captivity. These parrots have been bred in many other colors in captivity, such as white, blue, and even purple, although they are mostly found in pet stores in blue, green, yellow and occasionally white. Budgerigar plumage is known to fluoresce under ultraviolet light, a phenomenon possibly related to courtship and mate selection.[10]

The colour of the cere (the area containing the nostrils) differs between the sexes; royal blue in males, pale-brown to white (non-breeding) or brown (breeding) in females and pink in immatures of both sexes (usually of a more even purplish-pink color in young males).Some female budgies develop brown cere only during breeding time and later disappears. Young females can often be identified by a subtle chalky whiteness that starts around the cere nostril holes. Males that are either albino, lutino and/or recessive pied (aka Danishpied aka Harlequin) always retain the immature purplish-pink cere colour their entire life.[11][9]

Colour Mutations

Main article: Budgerigar colour genetics
Adult females (left above) display beige to brown ceres while adult males (right above) typically have blue ceres or purplish-pink in Albinistic and recessive-pied varieties.

There are presently at least 32 primary mutations in the Budgerigar, enabling hundreds of possible secondary mutations (stable combined primary mutations) & colour varieties (unstable combined mutations). Each of these primary mutations falls into one of four basic groups:

  • Albinism : where eumelanin is either partially or completely reduced in all body tissues & structures.
  • Leucism : where eumelanin is completely reduced from total or localized feathering.

Each of these mutations is inherited via one of the following dominance relationships:

  • Autosomal co-dominant
  • Autosomal complete dominant
  • Autosomal incomplete dominant
  • Autosomal recessive
  • Autosomal polygenic
  • Sex-linked recessive

Because birds have a ZW sex-determination system, sex-linked recessive traits are more common in females than in males, rather than the reverse as is found the more familiar XY determination of humans and other mammals.


Care should be taken when placing several female budgies together, as they can do serious harm to one another if they do not get along. It is easier and often more convenient to keep either an even number of both males and females or to only keep male birds altogether as these generally get along with each other without any problem. They are relatively easily tamed.

Bird lovers often comment on the differences in personality in each individual bird. Budgerigars each have their own unique ideas about how much they like to be handled, which toys are their favourites, and even what music they like or are indifferent to.


Like many birds, budgerigars have tetrachromatic color vision, but all four classes of cone cells operating simultaneously require the full spectrum provided by sunlight.[12] Additionally, budgies have been known to see in the ultra-violet spectrum, which brightens up their feathers to attract mates.[citation needed] The throat markings in budgies have been most notable for reflecting UVs.[citation needed]

Habitat and behavior

Budgerigars are nomadic birds found in open habitats, primarily in Australian scrubland, open woodland and grassland. The birds are normally found in small flocks, but can form very large flocks under favourable conditions. The species is extremely nomadic and the movement of the flocks is tied to the availability of food and water.[9] Drought can drive flocks into more wooded habitat or coastal areas. They feed on the seeds of spinifex, grass weeds, and sometimes ripening wheat.[13][9]

The wild budgerigar has evolved alongside the Eucalyptus tree and over a million years has developed an intimate bond with the tree and its leaves. Wet eucalyptus leaves excite and invigorate both the wild and aviary budgerigar into a frenzy of joy. They love to bathe in the wet leaves and breeding hens destructively chew the bark. The eucalyptus oil from the leaves has medicinal properties that stimulate the immune system and promote a strong natural resistance to disease{3}.

Feral birds have been found since the 1940s in the St. Petersburg, Florida area of the United States, but are much less common than they were in the early 1980s. Increased competition from European Starlings and House Sparrows is thought to be primary cause of the population decline (Pranty 2001).

Budgerigars keep themselves clean by preening. They do it very often to remove dirt and dust from their feathers which are important for flight. Budgerigars show signs of affection to their friends by preening or feeding one another. They help clean each others hard-to-reach spots. Budgerigars feed one another by eating the seeds themselves, and then regurgitating it into their friend’s mouth.

When budgies sleep, they often fluff up their feathers, trapping in warm air, and making themselves cozy.


Pet budgerigars.

The Budgerigar is one of the two Parrots to be genuinely domesticated as a species along with the Peach-faced Lovebird (Agapornis roseicollis). It is widely acknowledged as the most common pet Parrot in the world and possibly the most common cage bird. The Budgerigar has been bred in captivity since the 1850s. Breeders have worked over the decades to produce a wide range of colour, pattern and feather mutations, such as blue, white, violet, olive, albino and lutino (yellow), pied, clearwing, spangled, and crested.

Modern show budgerigars, also called English budgerigars and/or Standard-Type Budgerigars are larger than their wild-type (natural form) counterparts, with puffy head feathers, giving them an exaggerated look. The eyes and beak can be almost totally obscured by feathers. Most Budgerigars in the pet trade are not of the show variety (Standard-Type aka English Budgies) and are similar in size and body conformation to wild Budgerigars and thus aptly called wild-type Budgies.

Budgerigars are intelligent and social animals and enjoy the stimulation of toys and interaction with humans as well as with other Budgerigars. A common behaviour is the chewing of material such as wood, especially for female Budgerigars.

Budgerigars can be taught to speak, whistle tunes, and play with humans. Both males and females sing and can learn to mimic sounds & words. Both singing and mimicry are more pronounced and much more perfected in males. As a whole, females rarely if ever learn to mimic more than a dozen words or so. Males can very easily acquire vocabularies ranging between a few dozen to a hundred words. Generally speaking, it is the pet Budgies and even more so the ones kept as single pets which talk the best and the most.

In captivity, Budgerigars live an average of five to eight years, but are reported to occasionally live to 15 if well cared for.[14] The life span depends on the budgerigar's breed (show Budgerigars typically do not live as long as wild-type Budgerigars) and on the individual bird's health, which is highly influenced by exercise and diet.

Budgerigars have been shown to cause "bird fancier's lung in their handlers, a type of hypersensitivity pneumonitis.[15]

Female parakeets love to chew on anything they can find in their cage, which comes from their instinct to build nests for their eggs. Since in captivity parakeets don’t have as many things to gnaw on as they do in the wild, cuttlebone is often placed in their cages to help them keep their beaks clean and trimmed.

Although wild Budgerigars eat grass seeds almost exclusively, avian veterinarians recommend captive birds' diets be supplemented with foods such as fresh fruits and vegetables, sprouted seeds, pasta, whole grain bread and other healthy human foods, as well as pellets formulated for small parrots. Adding these foods provides additional nutrients and can prevent obesity and lipomas, as can substituting millet, which is relatively low in fat, for seeds mixes. Budgerigars do not always adapt readily to dietary additions, however. Chocolate, alcohol, rhubarb (including the leaves) and avocado are recognized as potential toxins.[16]


A flock of Budgerigars in an aviary

The male will stand on female's back while some beak contact is made between the mates. The male will then wrap his tail under the female's raised tail, place his cloaca against hers and rub it back and forth to stimulate ejaculation. The male may move away for a moment before returning for another session.


This section may contain original researchor unverified claims.
Please improve the articleby adding references. See the talk pagefor details. (September 2007)

Budgerigars are easily bred. In the wild, virtually all parrot species require a hollow tree or a hollow log as a nest site. Because of this natural behavior, Budgerigars most easily breed in captivity when provided with a nest box. Female budgerigars can lay eggs without a male partner but these eggs are unfertilized and will not hatch. This is just like the eggs that chickens lay, which are later sold at supermarkets. A female budgie will lay her eggs on alternate days.[17] After the first one, there is usually a two-day gap until the next. She will usually lay between four to eight eggs, which she will incubate (usually starting after laying her 2nd or 3rd) for about 21 days each.[18] Budgerigar Parakeet hens only leave their nests for very quick defecations and stretches once they've begun incubating and are by then almost exclusively fed by their cocks (usually at the nest's entrance).[19] Depending on the clutch size and the beginning of incubation, the age difference between the first and last hatchling can be anwhere from 9 to 16 days.

Breeding difficulties

Often males will show courtship with males, and females will court females. It is easy to define what the birds gender is,you can tell either by the cere (the section right above the beak) or the behavior. To tell if the bird is a female or a male you will have to see if the cere is either light blue, brown, pink, or dark blue. If it is light blue to brown then it is a female. If the cere is pink to dark blue then it is a male.[20] However, if the bird is too young one will not be able to determine its gender by the colour of its cere. Breeding difficulties arise for various reasons. Some chicks may die from diseases or attacks by their parents (virtually always hens). Other budgerigars (virtually always hens) may fight over the nest box, attacking the hen while she is laying her eggs. Sometimes parakeets are not interested in the opposite gender, and will not reproduce with them. Another problem may be the birds' beak being under lapped. This is where the lower mandible is above the upper mandible.

It is very important to realize that most health issues and physical abnormalities are genetically inherited and are thus consequence of high inbreeding frequencies. Parasites (including fleas, mites and worms) and pathogens (bacteria, fungi and viruses), however, are contagious and thus transmitted between individuals through either direct or indirect contact.Budgerigars eggs are 1 to 2 centimeters long.


The eggs will take about 18-20 days before they start hatching. When they start to hatch, the hatchlings are totally helpless and their mother feeds them around the clock day and night. Around 10 days of age, the chicks' eyes will open, and they will start to develop feather down, which typically indicates the best time for adding closed bands to the chicks (These rings should be about 4.0 to 4.2 mm.)

They develop feathers around 3 weeks of age. (One can often easily note the colour mutation of the individual birds at this point.) At this stage of the chicks' development, the cock usually has begun to enter the nest to help his hen in caring and feeding the chicks. Some Budgie hens, however, totally forbid their cocks from entering the nest and thus take the full responsibility of rearing the chick. Depending on the size of the clutch, it may then be wise to transfer a portion of the hatchlings (or best of the fertile eggs) to another pair. The foster pair must already be in breeding mode and thus either at the laying or incubating stages and/or rearing hatchlings. In about 4 weeks the birds are ready to survive on their own.

By the fifth week, the chicks are strong enough that both parents will be comfortable in staying more and more out of the nest. The youngsters will stretch their wings to gain strength before they attempt to fly. They will also help defend the box from enemies mostly with their loud screeching. Young budgies typically fledge (leave the nest) around their fifth week of age and are usually completely weaned a week later. However, the age for fledging as well as weaning can vary slightly depending on whether it is the oldest, the youngest and/or the only surviving chick. Generally speaking, the oldest chick is the first to be weaned. But even though it is logically the last one to be weaned, the youngest chick is often weaned at a younger age than its older sibling(s). (This can be a result of mimicking the actions of older siblings.) Lonely surviving chicks are often weaned at the youngest possible age as a result of having their parent's full attention and care.

Human speech

Budgerigars are considered one of the top five talking champions amongst Parrot species, alongside Psittacus erithacus ssp. (Congo/Cameroon/Ghana/Princep's &/or Timneh African Grey Parrots), Amazona spp. (Amazon Parrot species), Eclectus ssp. (Eclectus sub-species), Psittacula spp. (Afro-Asian Ringnecked Parakeet species) and male specimens of Melopsittacus undulatus (Budgerigar Parakeet).

A budgerigar named Puck holds the world record for the largest vocabulary of any bird, at 1,728 words. Puck, a male budgie owned by American Camille Jordan, died in 1994, with the record first appearing in the 1995 edition of Guinness World Records.[21][22]

The budgerigar will typically speak words in the context to which he or she is accustomed to hearing them. For example, if the bird owner says "up" every time the bird is picked up, the bird may say "up" when it is picked up, or wants to be picked up.

Many budgerigars prefer non-verbal communication, such as stomping on their food dish and shrieking when they want fresh seed, rather than asking for it.


Male Olive green Budgerigar placed outdoors

Budgerigar hen of natural colouration

SF Violet Blue cock Budgerigar

Budgerigar hen

Suffused Blue (White) Budgerigar

Young female Opaline-Cinnamon Olive Budgerigar

Budgerigar chick at eleven days of age

Male YellowFaced type I Cobalt Australian (Banded) Pied Budgerigar

Male Light-Green Mongrel, or possibly a dominant pied split Lacewing (?)

A young sky-blue Budgerigar with a few remaining pin feathers

Pet Continental Dutch Pied Yellowface type I Cobalt Budgie, wet from the rain and visible pin feathers

Grassy&Leafy .jpg

A cock and hen pair

The full profile of a male budgerigar

See also



  1. ^ BirdLife International (2004). Melopsittacus undulatus. 2006 IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. IUCN 2006. Retrieved on 11 May 2006. Database entry includes justification for why this species is of least concern
  2. ^ Mol. Biol. Evol. 15(5):544–551. (1998)
  3. ^ Dr. Marshall's Philosophy on Breeding Exhibition Budgerigars. Bird Health (2004). Retrieved on 2007-01-19.
  4. ^ Online etymology dictionary
  5. ^ A Reference Dictionary of Gamilaraay
  6. ^ Liddell, Henry George and Robert Scott (1980). A Greek-English Lexicon (Abridged Edition). United Kingdom: Oxford University Press. ISBN 0-19-910207-4
  7. ^ Simpson, D.P. (1979). Cassell's Latin Dictionary, 5, London: Cassell Ltd., 883. ISBN 0-304-52257-0
  8. ^ Forshaw, p. 273
  9. ^ a b c d Forshaw, Joseph Michael; William T. Cooper (1973 & 1981). Parrots of the World, 1st and 2nd. ISBN 0-87666-959-3
  10. ^ S M Pearn, A T Bennett, and I C Cuthill (2001). Ultraviolet vision, fluorescence and mate choice in a parrot, the budgerigar Melopsittacus undulatus.. Retrieved on 7 May 2007.
  11. ^ Birds Online - How to tell the sex of a budgie. Retrieved on 25 April 2006.
  12. ^ Color Vision of the Budgerigar (Melopsittacus undulatus): Hue Matches, Tetrachromacy, and Intensity Discrimination. Timothy H. Goldsmith and Byron K. Butler in Journal of Comparative Physiology A, Vol. 191, No. 10, pages 933–951; October 2005.
  13. ^ The Wild Budgerigar (article). Retrieved on 25 April 2006.
  14. ^ Birds Online - Life span of a budgie. Retrieved on 26 December 2005.
  15. ^ PMID 566603.
  16. ^ Margaret A. Wissman, D.V.M., D.A.B.V.P.. Medical Conditions and Diseases of the Budgerigar and Cockatiel (article). ExoticPetVet.Net. Retrieved on 26 April 2006.
  17. ^ Talk Budgies - Breeding. Retrieved on 2008-05-01.
  18. ^ Talk Budgies - Breeding. Retrieved on 2008-05-01.
  19. ^ Talk Budgies - Breeding. Retrieved on 2008-05-01.
  20. ^ Talk Budgies FAQ. Retrieved on 2008-04-30.
  21. ^ in Claire Folkard (ed.): Guinness World Records 2004. Guinness World Records Limited, p. 54. ISBN 085112-180-2
  22. ^ The Bird with the Largest Vocabulary in the World. Retrieved on 2007-01-06.


  • Pranty, B. 2001. The Budgerigar in Florida: Rise and fall of an exotic psittacid. North American Birds 55: 389-397.
  • Forshaw, Joseph M. & Cooper, William T. (1978): Parrots of the World (2nd ed). Landsdowne Editions, Melbourne Australia ISBN 0-7018-0690-7

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