Budgie or parakeet – what is the difference?
The term ‘parakeet’ is almost a catch-all name given to many smaller parrot species, usually slim birds with long pointed tails.
The name ‘budgie’ or ‘budgerigar’ comes from Australia where budgies live in the wild.
The budgie does have alternative names given to it such as shell parakeet and warbling grass parakeet, hence people calling them budgies and parakeets. A lot depends on which part of the world you live in. In the USA a budgie is often referred to as a parakeet.
Budgie illness / budgie health – is my budgie sick?
In the wild if budgies let their guard down and show they are unwell they will become the victims of predators. Therefore it is natural for budgies to conceal their illness as long as possible.
By observing your budgie daily you will learn its normal behavior and anything out of the ordinary should draw your attention. If your budgie looks ill it normally means it is really sick and can deteriorate extremely quickly.
When you detect any of the following signs of illness you should take your budgie to an avian vet as soon as possible – try to visit a vet experienced with birds so a correct diagnosis can be given.
Signs of illness to watch out for:
- abnormal breathing
- abnormal droppings (note the quantity, color, consistency)
- abnormal feathers, feather growth, or molt
- abnormal sleep pattern – continuous, both feet on the perch when normally one foot is tucked up, head tucked under the wing, head turned towards the wing with eyes only partly closed
- any change in normal activities – talking or chirping, playing with toys, preening, interaction with other birds, interaction with humans, energy levels, different perching area
- black spiky head feathers (except during molting)
- discharge from the beak, eyes or nostrils
- drinking a lot more water than usual
- drooping head, tail or wings
- dull or swollen eyes
- excessive feather picking or plucking
- face and head feathers coated with mucus and semi-digested seed
- falling off the perch
- fluffed up appearance
- hunched over posture
- loss of appetite
- lumps or swellings on the body
- sitting on the bottom of the cage
- soiled vent
- untidy appearance
- weight loss
Budgie lifespan – how long will my budgie live for?
The average lifespan of a budgie is 8 to 10 years. It is not unusual for a budgie to live to 14 years of age and the occasional budgie makes it to 20! To insure your budgie has a long and happy life provide:
- a clean cage
- daily exercise
- a healthy diet including fresh fruit and vegetables offered daily
- plenty of activity and companionship
Budgie sexing – is my budgie male or female?
You need to look at your budgie’s “cere”. The “cere” is the area above the beak and surrounding the nostrils.
With adult budgies if the cere is bright blue the budgie is a male and if the cere is brown the budgie is a female. When a female is in breeding condition her cere will be dark brown and may become rough and crusty.
The above applies for most adult budgies except some color varieties such as albinos, fallows, lutinos and recessive pieds.
With young budgies the ceres of both sexes are the same colour, a purplish shade, so it is difficult to decipher their sex until they have been through their first molt at three to four months of age. Only then will the adult color show.
To the experienced eye the sex of a young budgie may be differentiated. The cere on a young male budgie tends to be more notable than a young female’s in that it is fuller and brighter. It takes on a pinkish shade whereas a female’s will have a bluish shade.
Another tip is that a young female tends to be more aggressive and bites harder than a young male.
Budgie care – what is the best budgie food?
Budgie diet is extremely important and is the key to having a healthy budgie – along with exercise.
Give your bird a good-quality budgie seed mix. These are readily available at pet suppliers and supermarkets. Insure the mixes do not contain an abundance of hulled oats as these are fattening, and do not buy the seed in bulk – you are best to purchase small fresh packets.
Alternatively, you can offer your budgie a pelleted diet.
Your budgie’s diet must be supplemented with fresh fruit and vegetables on a daily basis – refer to the fruit and vegetables Q&A below.
Budgies enjoy spray millet and seed treats such as honey bells or sticks. However, these are fattening and should be offered occasionally as treats only. Pet budgies can become overweight very easily so I recommend offering spray millet once a week if your budgie is fairly active, or if not, only once a fortnight. Seed treats are best given at two monthly intervals.
Fresh drinking water is required daily. Also make available cuttlebone, and calcium, iodine and mineral blocks. Vitamin supplements in the drinking water once a week or fortnight are a good idea, although do not leave these in the water for long as bacteria grows very quickly. Some people prefer to sprinkle powdered vitamins onto the seed or moist food, eg apple pieces or spinach. Either way, be sure to follow the product’s directions with regard to dosage amount and frequency.
Budgie health – are fruit and vegetables necessary?
A budgie diet must be supplemented with fresh fruit and vegetables on a daily basis. An all seed diet often results in an unhealthy or overweight budgie.
Try the following:
Fruit: apple, grape, guava, kiwi fruit, mango, melon, nectarine, orange, peach, pear, pomegranate, plum, strawberry, tangerine, watermelon
Vegetables: bok choy, broccoli, carrot (chopped or grated), celery, chard, lettuce (but small amounts of lettuce and not too often as not a lot of goodness), peas, silverbeet, spinach, sweetcorn, watercress, zucchini
Plants: chickweed, clover, dandelion.
Favorites with budgies tend to be apple, carrot, silverbeet, spinach, sweetcorn.
Note that the fruit and vegetables should be provided:
- thoroughly washed
- in small pieces
- at room temperature
- free of cores, stones, pits or pips
- raw (some budgies prefer certain vegetables cooked eg peas and sweetcorn – use your judgment here)
- fresh (obviously this will be the most nutritious for your budgie but you can use frozen or canned)
Be aware that your budgie’s droppings may be runnier than usual with an intake of fruit and vegetables.
Some budgies will not take to fruit and vegetables straight away. Persevere as it can take up to a year before your budgie will eat them. Fruit and vegetables are an essential part of your budgie’s diet so offer them washed and fresh each day – do not give up!
Budgies care – what budgie food can I not feed?
Never give your budgie alcohol, avocado or chocolate – these can kill your budgie.
Also avoid asparagus, aubergine or eggplant, cabbage, caffeine (tea and coffee), junk food, milk and cream, raw potato, and rhubarb (including the leaves).
Please just use your common sense when it comes to feeding your budgie. Many plants and food items are unsafe, so if you have any doubt, do not offer it to your budgie.
Budgie cage – what is the best budgie cage?
Budgies are extremely active and need to stretch their wings and have space for fluttering around the cage. For this reason, your budgie cage should be lengthy rather than high in order to provide some room for flying.
In my opinion, the minimum cage requirement for one budgie is:
Across – 18 inches or 46 cm
Wide – 12 inches or 30 cm
High – 12 inches or 30 cm
Note: The cage base is in addition to these measurements.
Some extra tips:
- when considering cage size remember to take into account the cage fillers eg perches, seed and water dishes, toys, swings, ladders. Do not clutter your budgie’s cage.
- check the width of the cage bars – do not buy a cage where the bars are wide enough to allow your budgie to squeeze its head through and get caught (as a guideline: just under ½ an inch or just over 1 cm).
- to enable your budgie to climb around its cage and get some exercise, ensure the cage has horizontal bars as well as vertical – do not buy a cage with vertical barring only.
- a plastic removable tray at the bottom of the cage makes cleaning easier.
Budgie care – how much exercise for my budgie?
Regardless of your budgie cage size please remember that in order to remain healthy and happy your budgie will require regular time out of its cage. It needs to exercise, so let your budgie out for a fly as often as possible – at least three times a week, but preferably daily. Insure all windows and doors are closed, and any hazards are out of the way.
Once you have established a routine allow your budgie time out on a daily basis – even if it just sits out on top of its cage for a while. The minimum time out should be one hour per day, but ideally your budgie should be able to come and go as it pleases, within reason, and depending on your home environment.
Do not keep your budgie locked up in its cage day in and day out.
Breeding budgies – what age for budgie breeding?
Budgies become sexually mature at 3 or 4 months of age but the ideal budgie breeding age is 12 months. You should not breed budgies until the male and female are at least 12 months of age.