Commonly known as a Parakeet or Budgie (Budgerigar is their proper, full name), this 7 inch parrot is native to Australia and is commonly considered a “practice” pet for kids. These small birds have a low initial cost ($15-$20) and typically live only about 5 years, so the commitment is small. However, when cared for properly, they can easily live 15+ years. It is not at all uncommon for them to survive that long in the wild.
Budgies are commonly thought to be domesticated, however they are not. They are still just as wild as their cousins flying free in Australia, though they do not survive for long when they escape from their cage or are released intentionally. These small little birds are bred in captivity, so they do not have any idea how to find food that grows, only how to find the dish on the other side of a cage. Live Science lists six things that qualify an animal species for domestication:
1) They cannot be picky eaters.
2) They must reach maturity quickly.
3) They must be able to breed in captivity.
4) They must be docile by nature.
5) They cannot have a strong tendency to panic.
6) They must conform to a social hierarchy.
Budgies only have two of the qualities listed here, so even though they have been reproducing in captivity since the 1850’s, they require time, patience and regular handling once they are tame to keep them that way. Even if you do put in all the time and work, many will never become tame.
These small parrots are one of the most neglected and abused exotic birds. They are often kept alone in back rooms, passed around from person to person, released to try to fend for themselves and are denied Veterinary care. These tiny parrots are one of my favorite species of parrot. At one point I had twenty of them. Currently, there are only four in my Budgie flock. Like all the animals in my care, these little guys have their own stories and I would like to share them. Amazingly, all four of these little guys had people who cared about them and took really good care of them. They just needed a new home for different reasons.
Buddy’s age is not known, but he is guessed to be around eight or more years old. He was found loose and eating out of a wild bird feeder. He had consistently arrived at the same time every morning during the spring at the house of a retired couple, so they decided he needed to be captured so he could be returned to his home. They purchased a cage, removed their bird feeder, then placed the cage on a patio table with food and water inside where the feeder normally sat, then watched and waited. The little blue bird would show up every day, but was too quick to be captured. The couple then added some string to the cage door and went back inside while holding the long piece of string. As soon as Mr. Budgie arrived for breakfast and seemed settled, they pulled the door shut and trapped him. His original home was never found, so he was named Buddy Bird and became a part of their family along with their Quaker Parrot named Pauly.
Their owner called me about three years after Buddy’s capture and asked if I would be able to take on both Buddy and Pauly. She loved the birds and parting with them was upsetting, but her husband had passed the previous year and the birds were primarily his. Pauly laughed in her husband’s voice and said several words her husband said. While it was sweet, the constant reminders tore her up every day and it was painful for her. The next day, Buddy Bird and Pauly were delivered to me at work with brand new toys, food, bedding and a list of words that Pauly knew. With lots of tears, she said her good-bye’s to the pair and headed out.
Harmony came to me from a friend. Harmony was only a couple years old when she came to me in need of a new home. Her owner’s living situation had changed, so Harmony needed a safe place to go and her owner new I loved the little parrots. Harmony had a HUGE cage and was quite spoiled for a budgie. The day Harmony was supposed to be transferred to my care, she decided that she was going to do things her way and she was not moving. The little blue and white bird became a budgie ninja. She managed to escape from the box she had been put in while still at her house and stayed home unbeknownst to her owner. Harmony was outsmarted though and arrived in a loner travel cage a couple of days later. Harmony settled in nicely with Buddy who was still living as a bachelor at the time. They became fast friends and often can be seen sharing a swing or their toys with each other.
One cold January day, I got a call from my Veterinary Technician neighbor asking if I was willing and able to take on a budgie with physical challenges. It’s is almost impossible for me to turn down a budgie, so without a second thought I said yes. She brought the little bird over when she got home from work. Unsure of what I would see, I carefully and cautiously opened the box. Inside was a light blue baby budgie about 5 weeks old. The original owner was not aware that her birds had babies and she just found this little one on the cage bottom unable to walk or fly and the legs were not staying underneath the little bird like they should. Not able to afford the veterinary care he needed, she surrendered him to the vet clinic. I fed the tiny little bird and got him settled for the night. I took him to work with me the next day for an exam with Dr. Charles Coleman and to keep him fed during the day as he was so young that he was not eating on his own yet (Budgies start eating on their own around 7-8 weeks of age).
Dr. Coleman laughed when he saw that I had a baby budgie. I had hand raised 3 budgies when I was younger causing a great deal of stress, sleep deprivation for the whole family. Once those little guys were weaned, I vowed to never hand feed another baby budgie again. Dr. Coleman found it humorous that here I was again years later with yet another baby Budgie. I had more experience this time though this time so it was not at all nerve wracking raising the little bird. What was the diagnosis on the baby? His leg issues were due to bruising from the fall and malnutrition. He was prescribed rest, a padded nursery cage and good food with a prognosis of a normal life. In short order, Baby January learned to perch, fly and ended up being a very naughty little girl! She will chew on anything that she shouldn’t when she is out of her cage and particularly enjoys harassing the larger birds. She also talks! She only says a few words (Hey! And What?!), but she is quite loud for a tiny bird, is sassy and loves to mimic the larger birds. She lives in a cage by herself as she is just too much of a bully to be with the others.
This little guy’s story is actually quite short. Julian’s owner was getting married and the couple would be moving out of the area and into an apartment. Julian liked to party (throw his food like confetti) and make his voice known to all, far and wide. Unfortunately, these skills are not good traits for apartment dwelling birds. The request to take on Julian came from a friend of my brother. Later that week, Julian arrived. After his quarantine time was up, he got to meet his new bird friends. He settled in quickly and is enjoying being part of a small flock.
I am sorry this post is longer than my previous ones. I felt like the best way to introduce my little flock of Budgies was to share some information on the tiny birds first in hopes that it would give you a small glimpse as to why I love them so much. No, this is not a request for more of the little guys! My home, flock are full and I am no longer taking on more parrots. If you are in a position where you need to rehome your Budgie, there are rescues out there that take them. You can also contact Avian Veterinarians, they may just have a staff member who takes in parrots every now and then. I hope you enjoyed learning about the feisty little birds in my care as well as learned something new about captive kept exotic parrots.