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Budgies

By Ellen Lambeth


Do these birds look like pet parakeets to you? Look again and discover their wild side!

Want to track down a flock of parakeets in the wild? Then head for Australia (see map). But don’t ask where the parakeets are. Ask where you can find budgies. That’s because a parakeet is any kind of small, slender parrot with a long tail. The kind you’d be looking for is called a budgerigar (BUHJ-uh-reegar), nicknamed “budgie.”

Budgies, Ranger Rick magazine, April 2010

Once you get the name straight, you’ll be directed to the Outback — and we don’t mean the restaurant of that name. The real Outback is the open countryside across much of Australia. Not many people live there, but it's home to wild budgies.

Do these birds look like pet parakeets to you? Look again and discover their wild side!

HOME ON THE RANGE

The Outback is usually hot and dry. But budgies have lived there for so long that they’ve worked out ways to deal with it. For example, they can go a long time without drinking, if they have to. Meanwhile, their bodies get water from the food they eat—mainly grass seeds.

Another budgie survival trick is to lead a nomadic (noh-MAD-ik),
or wandering, life. When times are good, the birds gather in small flocks, flitting from here to there. When they’ve gobbled up all they can find in one spot, they move on to the next spot — and then the next.

Sometimes it becomes so dry, the grasses just wilt and wither away. Then the flocks join other flocks and roam far and wide in search of food and water. Some of these combined flocks have many thousands of birds and travel many hundreds of miles.

Times can get really tough for budgies during a drought (DROWT). That’s an extra long period when it’s extra dry. Many of the birds die when they can’t find enough to eat. But others survive and keep searching. Eventually, their luck changes, and they find a place where the rains have come. Rain means the grasses grow again and make new seeds. And that means it’s also the perfect time to make new budgies!

Budgies, Ranger Rick magazine, April 2010

BABY BOOM

Budgies get busy raising families after a good rain. They want to take advantage of a big food supply while it lasts. Each pair seeks out a hole in a hollow tree or log. Mom lays four to six eggs and keeps them warm for nearly three weeks. The chicks are helpless when they hatch, and they remain that way for the next three weeks. Up to  his point, Dad’s only job is to bring food to Mom. But when the chicks start growing feathers, he’s allowed to go into the nest and help take care of them. That lets Mom take a break once in a while.
After another few weeks, the babies are ready to spread their wings and take off on their own. If there’s still plenty of food and water, Mom and Dad may start another family right away.

As you can tell, life is pretty much “boom or bust” for wild budgies. Good thing there are rainy “boom” periods to make up for the hard times when things seem to go “bust” in the dust.

BUDGIE BRUNCH?

A little ball of green, feathery fluff is a clue that the falcon below made a lucky strike. The predator most likely snatched
its budgie prey right out of the air with its sharp talons.

BABY BUDGIE BUNDLE

Budgie eggs are laid a couple of days apart, and they hatch in the same order. You can tell which chick above was the last one out of its shell. It doesn’t yet have a downy coat, and its eyes are still shut tight.

BEAK-TO-BEAK

While the female is busy tending eggs, her mate must deliver meals to her. Here, she greets him at the nest hole opening so he can feed her.

 

Budgie 

In the Wild: Here are some fun facts about wild budgies.

  1. Where they are found: Wild budgies live in Australia’s hot, dry open countryside called the Outback.
  2. How they survive: Wild budgies can go a long while without drinking water, if they have to. They also can move far and wide in search of food during dry spells.
  3. Good times: When the rains come, budgies have plenty to eat. Their favorite foods, the seeds of grasses, grow quickly during rainy spells.
  4. Making more: During these rainy spells, budgies go looking for mates. After all, it’s easier to raise families when there’s plenty of food around.
  5. Budgie babies: A female lays eggs—four to six altogether. She keeps them warm until the chicks hatch--nearly three weeks later. By the time the chicks are six weeks old, they’re ready to fly away from home.

 


Tame: Thinking of getting a parakeet for a pet?
Here’s what you should know. 

Good Points

  • Budgies are easy to tame, lively, and friendly.
  • They are curious, playful, and like to be held.
  • Males may learn to talk (but not always).
  • Budgies are fairly inexpensive to buy and to keep.

Bad Points

  • Budgies can get hurt if squeezed. They may die if their cage is in a drafty spot or in a kitchen where fumes from coated pans can kill them.
  • Their cage floor needs cleaning daily.
  • They may spread disease. People can get sick from the droppings of sick birds.

This article originally appeared in the April 2010 issue of Ranger Rick magazine by Ellen Lambeth. Download the PDF of Wild Budgies.

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