Believe it or not, the pretty little birds you see in pet stores should not be called parakeets!
Because there are many kinds of parakeets, these Australia natives are more properly called Budgerigar Parakeets, or Budgies.
Budgies can be found in a variety of colors. Their original coloration was yellow and green with black bars across the head, back, and wings. This helped them hide on their native Australian grasslands. Domesticated budgies have been bred for many years and now are also found in various colors of blue, gray, white, yellow, and green, in solids and mixed colors. These fancier colored individuals would not have enhanced survival in the wild, but they make lovely, lively pets.
It's easy to tell the difference between most male and female budgies. The adult male normally sports a rich aqua blue to purple cere. The cere is the hard area above the beak and surrounding the nostrils. The female has a white or tan cere that looks crusty when she is in breeding condition. Because of the many new colorations available in budgies, there are a few whose cere color is indeterminate.
Young budgies are just as large as adults, but they have black button eyes with no whites surrounding them. At roughly six months of age, this begins to change to the white encircled pupil of the adult. Also, baby budgies usually have an indeterminate pinkish or whitish cere which should change as the bird reaches maturity.
There are two kinds of budgies. The smaller one is known in the United States as the American Budgie. This is the little guy who is regularly available at pet stores for around $20. A larger budgie with a larger forehead and a stockier build is called the English Budgie. This is the type of budgie you will see in shows and competitions. It costs in the range of $35-$60. English budgies and American budgies are the same species, but, like the different breeds of dogs, they have been bred to look different. English budgies may have a slightly shorter life span than American budgies. English budgies may live from 5 to 7 years while American budgies can live to be 15.
In addition to the cost of the bird, you must consider the cost of a spacious cage. Remember that the bird will spend most of his life in the cage, so offer as much space as you can afford. No less than 18 square inches is recommended. Even if you plan to allow your bird to spend a lot of time outside the cage, he should have a safe room to call his own- his cage! The cage may well cost more than the bird, so consider this part of your investment in your pet.
Although these tiny birds hardly ever get the credit for it, they are actually parrots. Don't let their small size fool you into thinking they are "just" parakeets. Budgies are among the best talkers in the parrot world. Some have been known to adopt vocabularies of upwards of 200 words! Not all budgies will learn to speak human languages, but many do. If you happen to get a non-talker, rest assured that it can still be a wonderful pet. Budgies can also be taught to do tricks with little props. They are highly intelligent little birds!
Budgies should not be left in a cage alone all day. If they are the only bird in the family they should be gradually tamed and then allowed of their cages daily for exercise and interaction with their human flock- you! Budgies that are kept in pairs or groups are usually more difficult to tame, but they will be more company for each other if you cannot give them one on one interaction regularly.
Whether you have one or more budgies, you should also provide him with toys. Bells are a big favorite of budgies. They also like ladders and mirrors. It may take them a while to warm up to new things, but in time they will get used to them and enjoy them.
Feeding budgies isn't as simple as placing a little seed and water in their cups each day. Like their larger cousins, these little guys need fruits and vegetables in their diets, too. Many people recommend a staple diet of manufactured pellets supplemented with seeds and fresh produce. Budgies are notoriously reluctant to try new foods, so it may take time and diligence to widen their interests to include these other items, especially if they were weaned to eat seeds.
Budgie cages should be cleaned regularly to prevent bacteria from growing on their wastes in the cage. Most budgie cages can be scrubbed in the bathtub weekly and the lining paper changed daily. If you have one, a power washer on the lawn makes short work of cleaning!
Budgies occasionally succumb to health problems that require veterinary care. Try to find a vet who is experienced in avian medicine since treating birds is quite different from treating mammals.
Budgies are tiny and inexpensive pets, so it's easy to think that they are going to be less trouble than some other pets. This is not necessarily so. Budgies have tiny voices, but when they are happy they chatter almost constantly. Some people find this pleasing while others are annoyed by it. They aren't the messiest pets you could have but expect a generous scattering of seed hulls and feathers around the cage that will need regular tending.
These little guys can get into all kinds of trouble, so protect them during their playtime from open containers of liquid- including the toilet! Don't allow them out with the ceiling fans running, and cover your windows so that they don't break their necks flying headlong into one. Obviously they must be protected from cats, dogs, and little humans who might squeeze too hard or hit and grab at them. In other words, use common sense!
Budgies can be wonderful and loving companions throughout their lifetimes. Many people are surprised to see what closeness they can develop with such a tiny friend.