Budgies


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BUDGIES by Cindy McQueary

Many people own parakeets, or "budgies", as they are one of the most popular pet birds. The name parakeet is an American term and is used to distinguish the smaller pet version from the larger Exhibition or English Budgie that is shown in many bird shows. Young budgies are also called "Shell" parakeets because of their markings on their faces.

The word "budgie" is short for budgerigar which is a native green and yellow bird in Australia. It is thought to have been brought to Europe in 1870 by John Gould where its popularity has grown. Two hundred years ago Australian aborigines stole the nestlings from the nest and then fried them over open fires calling them "Bedgerigah". Possibly this is where the name that we use today, Budgerigar, comes from . English or Exhibition Budgies were developed in England as early as the 1870s and the Budgerigar Cub was formed in 1925. The name of the club was changed to the Budgerigar Society in 1930 at the request of King George V when he agreed to become a patron. There is a distinct difference in what we call a parakeet and an English Budgie for show. English Budgies are much larger, especially in the head area. There are show standards that apply to both. There should be three distinct patches on each side of the mask with the upper patch being partially covered by the cheek patch of color. The mask is the budgie's facial area. There are a few exceptions to this rule as in the recessive pieds and dark-eyed varieties. Budgies can even have different eye colors ranging from black to plum to red.

Budgies are hookbills and crack open their seed to eat so they do NOT need grit as many of the older bird books write. Grit is needed only by softbills such as canaries and finches. A cuttlebone or mineral block should always be available though to maintain their calcium level, especially while breeding. Budgies can eat almost anything you can eat and they prefer it raw. NEVER give them chocolate, avocado, alcohol, or caffeine. Eggplant and zucchini are also being researched. There is nothing wrong with having a budgie share dinner with you in the evenings too with his own plate. But be forewarned that your plate will always look more appealing than his! A budgie's main diet should consist of fresh fruits, vegetables and greens. A little egg food every now and then won't hurt either, especially when chicks are being fed. A daily supplement of Abba Green mixed with "mash" along with Prime vitamin is also a good idea. When feeding greens, it is safer to buy them at your local market than to pick them s they may have been exposed to car pollutants and/or pesticides. Just wash the greens thoroughly and put them in the cage wet. Your budgie will roll in them to bathe and also eat them.

There are many horror stories of budgie escapes and even worse deaths caused by birds being kept with unclipped wings. There is no way a budgie can survive a New England winter or know that your patio door is not an opening. Remember these birds are from Australia where they fly many miles every day to feed and they are acrobatic in the air. It will also be much easier to tame and control your bird's activities with his wings and nails clipped. Either have a professional show you how to do it yourself or have it done for your bird. Some businesses will even come to your home to do the wing and nail trims for you. "Polly perches" are a good idea also as they will help keep your birds nails at the proper length. Don't confuse these with comfort perches that are made to keep your bird’s feet from getting sores or from getting tired. Do NOT use sandpaper perches either despite what is written in old books. They will only irritate the bird's feet further.

Budgies need attention like we do. Since most of us work, give your budgies plenty of toys, but nothing with shiny surfaces as it will see another budgie and want to play with it instead of you! Good toys are Olympic rings, ladders, bells, etc. Your local store should be able to help you.

Your budgie's cage is its home so make sure to provide plenty of room. And it should be all set up before your bird even comes home. Have a budgie cage that is rectangular, longer than it is wide or high, not round and not small. Think about how many hours your budgie will spend in that cage. Consider making or buying a play gym for your budgie.

It is most important if you let your budgie out of its cage that you NEVER let it out of your sight! Accidents can happen. You will have to bird proof your home or at least the budgie’s immediate area. Remove poisonous plants, electrical wiring or strings. Budgies are excellent chewers and climbers. You will also need what is known as a Vitalite near your budgie for his health. That vitalite is like sunshine for him and without it he will be lacking Vitamin D which he needs the sun to process.

Well that's it for this Budgie article. Feel free to ask any questions!! We can make another article out of the Q & A.

References:
Alderton, David: Birdkeeper's guide to Budgies 1988 Tetrapress
Radtke, George: Encyclopedia Of Budgerigars 1979 TFH

Copyright: Birds of A Feather Avicultural Society February 1998

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