Male at Cologne Zoo, Germany
Conservation status
Scientific classification
Kingdom: 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 coloured in red

The Budgerigar (Melopsittacus undulatus) (play /ˈbʌərɨɡɑr/), also known as Common Pet Parakeet or Shell Parakeet informally nicknamed the budgie, is a small, long-tailed, seed-eating parrot, and the only species in the Australian genus Melopsittacus. Wild budgerigars are found throughout the drier parts of Australia, where the species has survived harsh inland conditions for the last five million years.[2] Naturally green and yellow with black, scalloped markings on the nape, back, and wings, breeders have created a rainbow of blues, whites, and yellows, greys, and even forms with small crests. Budgerigars are popular pets around the world due to their small size, low cost, ability to mimic human speech and playful nature.

The budgerigar is closely related to the lories and the fig parrots.[3][4][5][6] Although budgerigars are often, especially in American English, called parakeets, this term refers to any of a number of small parrots with long, flat tails.



Alternative common names include Shell Parrot, Warbling Grass parakeet, Canary Parrot, Zebra parrot, Flight Bird, Scallop Parrot and the alternate spellings Budgerygah and Betcherrygah.[7] Although more applicable to members of the genus Agapornis, the name Lovebird has been applied to them from their habit of mutual preening.[7]

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

  • A mispronunciation or alteration of Gamilaraay gidjirrigaa [ɡ̊iɟiriɡaː],[8][9] possibly influenced by the Australian slang word budgery "good". This is supported by the American Heritage Dictionary.
  • A compound of budgery, "good" and gar "Cockatoo".[10] This is supported by the Oxford English Dictionary. The word budgery itself, also spelt boojery, was formerly in use in Australian English slang meaning "good".

The Budgerigar was first described by George Shaw in 1805, and given its current binomial name by John Gould in 1840. The genus name Melopsittacus comes from Greek and means "melodious parrot".[11] The species name undulatus is Latin for "undulated" or "wave-patterned".[12] Gould noted that the term Betcherrygah was used by indigenous people of the Liverpool plains in New South Wales.[13]

Evolutionary history

Evolutionary history

Lories and Lorikeets




Fig parrots s.s. (Cyclopsitta and Psittaculirostris)

Phylogenetic chart[3][4][5][6]

Traditionally, the budgerigar was thought to be the link between the genera Neophema and Pezoporus based on the barred plumage.[14] However, recent phylogenetic studies using DNA sequences place the budgerigar very close to the lories ( tibe Lorini) and the fig parrots (tribe Cyclopsittacini).[3][4][5][6]

Anatomy and physiology

The anatomy of a male budgerigar.

Budgerigars in their natural-habitats of Australia average 18 cm (7 in) long, weigh 30–40 grams (1.1–1.4 oz), and display a light green body colour (abdomen and rumps), while their mantle (back and wing coverts) display pitch-black mantle markings (blackish in fledgelings and immatures) edged in clear yellow undulations. The forehead and face is yellow in adults but with blackish stripes down to the cere (nose) in young individuals until they change into their adult plumage around 3–4 months of age. They display small, purple patches (called cheek patches) and a series of three black spots across each sides of their throats (called throat-spots). The two outermost throat-spots are situated at the base of each cheek-patch. 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 or when the wings are outstretched. Bills are olive grey and legs blueish-grey, with zygodactyl toes.[15]

Budgerigars in their natural habitat in Australia are noticeably smaller than those in captivity. This particular parrot species has been bred in many other colours and shades in captivity (e.g. blue, grey, grey-green, pieds, violet, white, yellow-blue), although they are mostly found in pet stores in blue, green, and yellow. Like most parrot species, budgerigar plumage fluoresces under ultraviolet light. This phenomenon is possibly related to courtship and mate selection.[16]

The upper half of their beaks is much taller than the bottom half and covers the bottom when closed. The beak does not protrude much, due to the thick, fluffy feathers surrounding it, giving the appearance of a downward-pointing beak that lies flat against the face.

The colour of the cere (the area containing the nostrils) differs between the sexes, being 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 colour in young males). Some female budgerigars develop brown cere only during breeding time which later returns to the normal colour. Young females can often be identified by a subtle chalky whiteness that starts around the nostrils. Males that are either Albino, Lutino, Dark-eyed Clear or Recessive Pied (aka Danishpied aka Harlequin) always retain the immature purplish-pink cere colour their entire life.[15][17]

Budgerigar flock in the wild (SW Queensland, Australia)

It is usually easy to tell the sex of a budgerigar over six months old, mainly by the cere colours, but behaviours and head shape also help indicate sex.

A mature male's cere is usually light to dark blue, but can be purplish to pink in some particular colour mutations (DarkEyedClears, Danishpieds aka Recessivepieds and Inos) which usually display much rounder heads. Males are typically cheerful, extroverted, highly flirtatious, peacefully social, and very vocal.

Females' ceres are pinkish as immatures and switch from being beigish or whitish outside breeding condition into brown (often with a 'crusty' texture) in breeding condition and usually display flattened back of heads (right above the nape region). Females are typically highly dominant and more socially intolerant.[18]


Like many birds, budgerigars have tetrachromatic colour vision, but all four classes of cone cells operating simultaneously requires the full spectrum provided by sunlight.[19] Additionally, budgerigars are known to see in the ultra-violet spectrum, which brightens their feathers to attract mates. The throat-spots in budgerigars reflect UV[16] and can be used to distinguish individual birds.


Female Budgerigar at Alice Springs Desert Park.

Budgerigars are nomadic birds found in open habitats, primarily in scrubland, open woodland, and grassland of Australia. 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.[15] Drought can drive flocks into more wooded habitat or coastal areas. They feed on the seeds of spinifex, grass seeds, and sometimes ripening wheat.[15][20]

Naturalised feral budgerigars have been recorded since the 1940s in the St. Petersburg, Florida, area of the United States, but are much less common now than they were in the early 1980s. Increased competition from European Starlings and House Sparrows is thought to be the primary cause of the population decline.[21]


Pet budgerigars

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 albino, blue, cinnamon-ino (aka lacewinged), clearwinged, crested, dark, greywinged, opaline, pieds, spangled, dilute (suffused), and violet.

'English Budgie' (left), as compared to 'wild-type' Budgerigars

Standard-type (aka English or "show") budgerigars are about twice as large as their wild-type counterparts. Their overall larger sizes and puffier head feathers give them a boldly exaggerated look. The eyes and beak can be almost totally obscured by these fluffy head feathers. English budgerigars are typically more expensive than wild-type birds and typically have a shorter life span of 7–9 years. Breeders of English Budgerigars often exhibit their birds at animal shows. Most captive budgerigars in the pet trade are similar in size and body conformation to wild budgerigars.

Budgerigars are social animals and require stimulation in the shape of toys and interaction with humans, as well as with other budgerigars. A common behaviour is chewing material such as wood, especially for females. When a budgerigar feels threatened, it will try to perch as high as possible and may make itself appear thin by bringing its feathers close against its body.

Tame budgerigars can be taught to speak, whistle tunes, and play with humans. Both males and females sing and can learn to mimic sounds and words and do simple tricks. Both singing and mimicry are more pronounced and better perfected in males. Females rarely learn to mimic more than a dozen words. Males can easily acquire vocabularies ranging between a few dozen to a hundred words. Pet males, especially those kept alone, are generally the best speakers.

A flock of budgerigars in an aviary

In captivity, budgerigars live an average of five to eight years, but life-spans of 15–20 years have been reported.[22] The lifespan depends on breed, lineage, and health, being highly influenced by exercise and diet.

Budgerigars will chew on anything they can find to keep their beaks trimmed. Mineral blocks (ideally enriched with iodine), cuttlebone, and soft wooden pieces are suitable items for this activity.

Budgerigars have been shown to cause "bird fancier's lung" in sensitive people, a type of hypersensitivity pneumonitis.[23]


Head detail of a male Budgerigar.

Breeding in the wild generally takes place between June and September in northern Australia and between August and January in the south, although budgerigars are opportunistic breeders and respond to rains when grass seeds become most abundant.[15] Budgerigars show signs of affection to their flockmates by preening or feeding one another. Budgerigars feed one another by eating the seeds themselves, and then regurgitating it into their flockmates' mouth. Populations in some areas have increased as a result of increased water availability at farms. Nests are made in holes in trees, fence posts, or logs lying on the ground; the 4-6 eggs are incubated for 18–21 days, with the young fledging about 30 days after hatching.[15][20]

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. The eggs are typically 1 to 2 centimetres long and are plain white without any coloration. Female budgerigars can lay eggs without a male partner but these eggs are unfertilised and will not hatch. When the female is laying eggs her cere turns a crusty brown colour. A female budgerigar will lay her eggs on alternate days.[24] 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.[24] Female Budgerigar only leave their nests for very quick defecations and stretches once they've begun incubating and are by then almost exclusively fed by their mate (usually at the nest's entrance).[24] Depending on the clutch size and the beginning of incubation, the age difference between the first and last hatchling can be anywhere from 9 to 16 days. Rarely female has the habit of eating the eggs in case of insecurity.

Breeding problems

Budgerigar on sale in a retail setting

Breeding difficulties arise for various reasons. Some chicks may die from diseases and attacks from adults. Other budgerigars (virtually always females) may fight over the nest box, attacking each other or a brood. Sometimes budgerigars (mainly males) are not interested in the opposite gender, and will not reproduce with them. Sometimes a flock setting—several pairs housed where they can see and hear each other—is necessary to stimulate breeding. Another problem may be the birds' beak being under lapped. This is where the lower mandible is above the upper mandible.

Most health issues and physical abnormalities in budgerigars are genetic. Care should be taken that birds used for breeding are active, healthy, and unrelated. Budgerigars that are related or who have fatty tumours or other potentially genetic health problems should not be allowed to breed. Parasites (lice, mites, worms) and pathogens (bacteria, fungi and viruses), are contagious and thus transmitted between individuals through either direct or indirect contact. Nestboxes should be cleaned between uses.

Splay leg, a relatively common problem in baby budgerigars – in which one of the budgerigar's legs is bent outward, preventing it from being able to stand properly and compete with the other chicks for food and can also lead to difficulties in reproducing in adulthood, results from young budgerigars slipping repeatedly on the floor of a nestbox. It is easily avoided by placing a small quantity of a safe bedding or wood shavings in the bottom of the nestbox. Alternatively, several pieces of paper may be placed in the box for the female to chew into bedding.


A baby chick 11 days old. (more)
Juvenile Budgerigars

Eggs take about 18–20 days before they start hatching. The hatchlings are altricial – blind, naked, totally helpless, and their mother feeds them and keeps them warm constantly. Around 10 days of age, the chicks' eyes will open, and they will start to develop feather down. The appearance of down occurs precisely at the ages (around 9 or 10 days of age) for closed banding of the chicks. Budgerigar's closed band rings must be neither larger or smaller than 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 male usually has begun to enter the nest to help his female in caring and feeding the chicks. Some budgerigar females, however, totally forbid the male from entering the nest and thus take the full responsibility of rearing the chicks until they fledge.

Depending on the size of the clutch and most particularly in the case of single mothers, 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.

As the chicks develop and grow feathers, they are able to be left on their own for longer and longer periods of time. 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 budgerigars 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. Lone surviving chicks are often weaned at the youngest possible age as a result of having their parent's full attention and care.

Hand-reared Budgies may take slightly longer to wean than parent-raised chicks. Hand feeding is not routinely done with budgerigars, due to their small size, and the fact that young parent raised birds can be readily tamed.

A four year-old white female, with a blue underbelly. Color mutations like this are fairly common in the species

Colour mutations

Adult females (top) display beige to brown ceres while adult males (bottom) typically have blue ceres or purplish-pink in Albinistic and recessive-pied varieties.

All captive budgerigars are divided into two basic series of colours; namely, white-based (i.e. blue, grey & white budgerigars) and/or yellow-based (i.e. green, greygreen & yellow budgerigars). There are presently at least 32 primary mutations in the budgerigar(including violet), enabling hundreds of possible secondary mutations (stable combined primary mutations) and colour varieties (unstable combined mutations).


Male specimens of budgerigars are considered one of the top five talking champions amongst parrot species, alongside the African Grey Parrot, the Amazon parrot species, the Eclectus Parrot and the Ring-necked Parakeet.[citation needed]

Puck, a male budgerigar owned by American Camille Jordan, holds the world record for the largest vocabulary of any bird, at 1,728 words. Puck died in 1994, with the record first appearing in the 1995 edition of Guinness World Records.[25][26]

In 2001, recordings of a budgerigar called Victor got some attention from the media. Victor's owner, Ryan B. Reynolds of Canada, states that Victor was able to engage in contextual conversation and predict the future.[27][28]

Though some believe the animal was able to predict his own death as was claimed,[29] further study on the subject is difficult without the bird. The recordings still remain to be verified by scientific analysis.[30] Critics argue that Victor's speech in the recordings is not coherent enough to be determined as spoken in context.[31]

See also



  1. ^ "Melopsittacus undulatus". IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. Version 2011.1. International Union for Conservation of Nature. 2009. http://www.iucnredlist.org/apps/redlist/details/142523. Retrieved 13 August 2011. 
  2. ^ "Dr. Marshall's Philosophy on Breeding Exhibition Budgerigars". Bird Health. 2004. http://www.birdhealth.com.au/bird/budgie/article.html. Retrieved 2007-01-19. 
  3. ^ a b c Wright, TF; Schirtzinger EE, Matsumoto T, Eberhard JR, Graves GR, Sanchez JJ, Capelli S, Mueller H, Scharpegge J, Chambers GK and Fleischer RC (2008). "A Multilocus Molecular Phylogeny of the Parrots (Psittaciformes): Support for a Gondwanan Origin during the Cretaceous". Molecular Biology and Evolution 25 (10): 2141–2156. doi:10.1093/molbev/msn160. PMC 2727385. PMID 18653733. http://www.pubmedcentral.nih.gov/articlerender.fcgi?tool=pmcentrez&artid=2727385. 
  4. ^ a b c Tokita, M; Kiyoshi T and Armstrong KN (2007). "Evolution of craniofacial novelty in parrots through developmental modularity and heterochrony". Evolution & Development 9 (6): 590–601. doi:10.1111/j.1525-142X.2007.00199.x. PMID 17976055. http://www3.interscience.wiley.com/journal/118546207/abstract. 
  5. ^ a b c de Kloet, RS; de Kloet SR (2005). "The evolution of the spindlin gene in birds: Sequence analysis of an intron of the spindlin W and Z gene reveals four major divisions of the Psittaciformes". Molecular Phylogenetics and Evolution 36 (3): 706–721. doi:10.1016/j.ympev.2005.03.013. PMID 16099384. 
  6. ^ a b c Schweizer, M.; Seehausen O, Güntert M and Hertwig ST (2009). "The evolutionary diversification of parrots supports a taxon pulse model with multiple trans-oceanic dispersal events and local radiations". Molecular Phylogenetics and Evolution online (3): 984–94. doi:10.1016/j.ympev.2009.08.021. PMID 19699808. 
  7. ^ a b Lendon, Alan H. (1973). Australian Parrots in Field and Aviary (2nd. ed). Sydney: Angus and Robertson. pp. 302–07. ISBN 0-207-12424-8. 
  8. ^ A Reference Dictionary of Gamilaraay
  9. ^ Delbridge, Arthur (1991). The Macquarie Dictionary (2 ed.). Sydney: The Macquarie Library Pty Ltd. p. 2049. ISBN 0-949757-63-2. 
  10. ^ Online etymology dictionary
  11. ^ Liddell, Henry George and Robert Scott (1980). A Greek-English Lexicon (Abridged Edition). United Kingdom: Oxford University Press. ISBN 0-19-910207-4. 
  12. ^ Simpson, D.P. (1979). Cassell's Latin Dictionary (5 ed.). London: Cassell Ltd.. ISBN 0-304-52257-0. 
  13. ^ "Indigenous Bird Names of the Hunter Region of New South Wales". Australian Museum website. Sydney, New South Wales: Australian Museum. 2009. http://gould.australianmuseum.net.au/naturalist/indigenous2.htm. Retrieved 22 February 2010. 
  14. ^ Forshaw, p. 273
  15. ^ a b c d e f Forshaw, Joseph Michael; William T. Cooper (1973 & 1981). Parrots of the World (1st and 2nd ed.). ISBN 0-87666-959-3. 
  16. ^ a b S M Pearn, A T Bennett, and I C Cuthill (2001). "Ultraviolet vision, fluorescence and mate choice in a parrot, the budgerigar Melopsittacus undulatus". Proceedings. Biological sciences / the Royal Society 268 (1482): 2273–9. doi:10.1098/rspb.2001.1813. PMC 1088876. PMID 11674876. http://www.pubmedcentral.nih.gov/articlerender.fcgi?tool=pmcentrez&artid=1088876. 
  17. ^ "Birds Online — How to tell the sex of a budgie". http://www.birds-online.de/allgemein/geschlecht_en.htm. Retrieved 25 April 2006. 
  18. ^ "Talk Budgies FAQ". http://talkbudgies.com/faq.php?faq=general_information#faq_gender. Retrieved 2008-04-30. 
  19. ^ 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.
  20. ^ a b "The Wild Budgerigar" (article). http://freespace.virgin.net/cobber.budgies/wildphoto.html. Retrieved 25 April 2006. 
  21. ^ Pranty 2001
  22. ^ "Birds Online — Life span of a budgie". http://www.birds-online.de/allgemein/alter_en.htm. Retrieved 26 December 2005. 
  23. ^ PMID 566603.
  24. ^ a b c "Talk Budgies — Breeding". http://talkbudgies.com/showthread.php?t=14758. Retrieved 2008-05-01. 
  25. ^ Claire Folkard (ed.), ed. Guinness World Records 2004. Guinness World Records Limited. p. 54. ISBN 0-85112-180-2. 
  26. ^ "The Bird with the Largest Vocabulary in the World". http://birdwithmostwords.com/. Retrieved 2007-01-06. 
  27. ^ "Budgie Research". http://www.budgieresearch.com. Retrieved 2008-11-28. 
  28. ^ "Parakeets". http://www.minicritters.com/birds/parakeets.html. Retrieved 2008-11-29. 
  29. ^ "Talking Budgie Predicts His Own Death". http://www.mindpowernews.com/PsychicBudgie.htm. Retrieved 2008-11-28. 
  30. ^ "Parakeets — info and games". http://www.sheppardsoftware.com/content/animals/animals/birds/parakeet.htm. Retrieved 2008-11-28. 
  31. ^ "Victor the Talking Budgie". http://www.museumofhoaxes.com/hoax/weblog/comments/3638/. Retrieved 2008-11-29. 

Cited texts

  • 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
  • Collar, N. J. (1997). Budgerigar (Melopsittacus undulatus). Pg. 384 in: del Hoyo, J., Elliott, A. & Sargatal, J. eds. (1997).
    Handbook of the Birds of the World. Vol. 4. Sandgrouse to Cuckoos. Lynx Edicions, Barcelona. ISBN 84-87334-22-9

External links

Wikimedia Foundation. 2010.

Look at other dictionaries:

  • budgerigar — udg er*i*gar, budgereegah udgereegah, budgerygah udgerygah . small Australian parakeet ({Melopsittacus undulatus}) usually light green with black and yellow markings in the wild but bred in many colors. Syn: budgie, grass parakeet, lovebird,… …   The Collaborative International Dictionary of English

  • budgerigar — 1847, from Native Australian, lit. good cockatoo, from budgeri good + gar cockatoo …   Etymology dictionary

  • budgerigar — ► NOUN ▪ a small Australian parakeet which is green with a yellow head in the wild. ORIGIN of Aboriginal origin …   English terms dictionary

  • budgerigar — [buj′ər i gär΄] n. [native name] an Australian parakeet (Melopsittacus undulatus) having a greenish yellow body, marked with bright blue on the cheeks and tail feathers, and wings striped with brown …   English World dictionary

  • budgerigar — UK [ˈbʌdʒərɪˌɡɑː(r)] / US [ˈbʌdʒərɪˌɡɑr] noun [countable] Word forms budgerigar : singular budgerigar plural budgerigars a small bright blue, green, or yellow bird often kept as a pet. Budgerigars are often called budgies …   English dictionary

  • budgerigar — [19] When the first English settlers arrived at Port Jackson (now Sydney Harbour) in the late 18th century, they heard the local Aborigines referring to a small green parrot like bird as budgerigar. In the local language, this meant literally… …   The Hutchinson dictionary of word origins

  • budgerigar — banguotosios papūgėlės statusas T sritis zoologija | vardynas atitikmenys: lot. Melopsittacus angl. budgerigar vok. Wellensittich, m rus. волнистый попугайчик, m pranc. perruche ondulée, f ryšiai: platesnis terminas – rozelos siauresnis terminas… …   Paukščių pavadinimų žodynas

  • budgerigar — banguotoji papūgėlė statusas T sritis zoologija | vardynas atitikmenys: lot. Melopsittacus undulatus angl. budgerigar vok. Wellensittich, m rus. волнистый попугайчик, m pranc. perruche ondulée, f ryšiai: platesnis terminas – banguotosios… …   Paukščių pavadinimų žodynas

  • budgerigar — [19] When the first English settlers arrived at Port Jackson (now Sydney Harbour) in the late 18th century, they heard the local Aborigines referring to a small green parrot like bird as budgerigar. In the local language, this meant literally… …   Word origins

  • budgerigar — noun Etymology: modification of Yuwaalaraay (Australian aboriginal language of northern New South Wales) gijirrigaa Date: 1840 a small Australian parrot (Melopsittacus undulatus) usually light green with black and yellow markings in the wild but… …   New Collegiate Dictionary

Share the article and excerpts

Direct link
Do a right-click on the link above
and select “Copy Link”