Parakeets, budgies, or also called budgerigars, are small colorful birds. This small member of the parrot family makes a great companion for any pet parent beginner that would like to adopt a bird. They are easy to tame and probably the easiest pet bird to care for.
If you own a parakeet, or if you are thinking about adopting one, this article will answer a few questions you may have. I will also help you with a few basics on budgie ownership.
These birds are native from Australia and live in colonies in the wild. This is why it’s a good idea to keep them in pairs or small groups when in captivity. Make sure you keep only females or males together if you don’t want to end up with your own colony!
To differentiate male and female, look at their cere, right above their beak. A male will most likely have a bright royal blue cere and the female’s will be white, pale blue or pink.
PARAKEET LIFESPAN IN CAPTIVITY
How long do parakeets live? That’s a good question to ask yourself before committing to adopt one. They are fragile little creatures, but as a member of the parrot family, they can live for a surprisingly long time.
Wild budgerigars have a lifespan of around 5 years. In captivity, they have access to a better diet, a safer environment and veterinary care. They also don’t have any predators (unless you have a cat at home…). All this, along with other factors such as genetics and exercise, can significantly increase their lifespan.
An average lifespan of 6 to 12 years is reported when parakeets are kept in captivity as pets. Although, with excellent care, budgies can possibly live up to 20 years!
PARAKEET SONGS AND SOUNDS
Adding a parakeet to your family will definitely brighten your day to day life. They greet you with the most beautiful songs and can produce sounds that you would have never even imagined they could do.
Have you ever wondered what those budgie sounds mean?
Parakeet songs :
It’s always a good sign to hear your budgie singing, it means he’s probably healthy and happy. They pick up most of their sounds and melodies from their environment and even from human speech. They will mimic the telephone ringtone, television, music, birds outside, other pets, etc. They are also very imaginative and creative in the melodies they produce.
I have rescued a male budgie myself, named Albert, two years ago. I noticed he likes to sing the same melody over and over again. I don’t know where he picked it up from, but I’m guessing he most likely invented it.
Parakeet screams :
If your budgie sounds like he’s screaming, he’s probably expressing fear, discomfort, or grumpiness.
For example, Albert will scream if you try to interact with him passed 8 o’clock at night. Obviously he prefers to be quiet and alone after that time. He will also scream if his bowl of food is empty during the day. Junior, the Hyacinth Macaw I worked with, would scream when no one is looking at him (and I mean produce the loudest sound you have ever heard). He loves to be the center of attention.
Parakeets and parrots in general have very different bubbly personalities and you will learn with time what various sounds mean for your own bird.
Can parakeets talk?
Some males can. It needs a LOT of patience and it may never happen, but some males have been reported to have the ability to learn a few words. Parakeets are not famous for their talking skills. African grey parrots probably are.
Albert is definitely not one of those special budgies who can talk! If you want the best chances to make your parakeet talk, start repeating easy words such as “Hello”, at a young age, a few times daily, and give it time.
One thing that I have been noticing my Albert does, is beak grinding. I noticed the same behaviour from a Hyacinth Macaw I used to work with at the Aquarium Du Québec. They do this very particular sound to express their contentment, in the same way a cat would purr.
How to take care of a parakeet:
Some people may be tempted to use sand-covered perches to help control nail growth, but they can be harmful to the skin. A parakeet that has a good diet shouldn’t need to get his nails done too often.
If the nails grow too long, they need to be clipped regularly so they don’t get curly and uncomfortable. Nails that are kept too long can cause damage to the feet.
When you start, I recommend to get a helper to hold your bird while you clip. It will be much easier for you as it is a delicate operation due to the size of their toes.
Carefully hold the budgie in a clean cloth and make sure his wings are tucked in by his sides (not to tight, they need to move their thorax to be able to breathe). You have to be relatively fast with the clipping; they can overheat rapidly.
Holding one toe at a time, use a nail clipper to trim the nails one by one. You will notice a vein that grows inside the claw called the quick (you can usually see this with light colored nails, as the nail is white and the quick is pink), be careful not to cut it. If your bird’s nails are dark, use extra care and trim just a little at a time.
To trim or not to trim… There are pros and cons to both. A budgie that has its wings clipped will still be able to glide, but not to fly. Some will say it’s easier to tame a bird that has its wings clipped. A lot of people think it’s much safer too, as the bird cannot really escape and fly away out of the house.
Personally, Albert is scared to even get out of his cage, and to be restrained is the end of the world for him, so I decided not to trim his wings. He has a big cage, big enough so he can fly into it and I think he’s happy that way.
Depending on your bird’s lifestyle and personality, you’ll be able to decide what the best option is for your budgie.
We could talk about diet for a very long time. A balanced diet is the greatest gift you can give to your parakeet. Don’t feed him only seeds! I know it’s tempting, they LOVE it, but seeds should only constitute about 50% of their meals. The other 50% should be pellets. A bird who doesn’t eat pellets is at risk for deficiencies in vitamins and minerals.
It’s important to include fruits and vegetables in your bird’s daily diet as well. Personally, I find they make the best treats! You’ll need to try different things to know what your bird likes the most. I discovered after trying a bunch of things that Albert loves spinach!
You can try different healthy table food too, such as noodles or cooked eggs.
They also need daily access to fresh water, but that’s pretty obvious!
One important thing I didn’t know before studying in the field, is that birds have very specific needs regarding housing. They need different sizes of perches, with various textures, so their feet don’t always feel the same pressure points. This will also help to control nail growth.
One thing that is also good to have in your parakeet’s cage is a bath. They love to play in the water. Albert personally ignored his, but I discovered that he loves being vaporized, so I give him regular showers instead of a bath.
You need to provide your bird with stimulation, things to do during the day. They can get bored easily and can start plucking their feathers if under-stimulated.
Parrots love to destroy things. Offer your parakeet bird-safe toys made out of ropes, cardboard or paper for him to shred. You can create your own cheap bird toys by using non-toxic materials. Just make sure your bird doesn’t develop the bad habit of eating his toys.
Here’s one last tip about your bird’s house. Add a mineral block or cuttlebone in there somewhere. Your budgie will love to chew on this good source of calcium.
Health issues :
To conclude this section on parakeet care, if you should notice any symptoms or health issues pop up, our products are also useful for parakeets and any other types of birds you have at home!
Feel free to contact us directly for any specific inquiries about your budgie’s health care.
Budgies are probably the easiest pet birds to care for, but that doesn’t mean they are not a lot of work. Birds in general requires a lot of specific care with their diet, housing, healthcare, etc. They have sparkling personalities and will bring a lot of joy into any household.
Here is a little bit of Albert, to brighten up your day!
ANIMAL HEALTH TECHNICIAN
Véronique Fournier uses her extensive knowledge to write articles about pet health for Zumalka.
She earned her degree in Animal Health from Cégep La Pocatière in Quebec. Her experience includes internships on animal production farms and rehabilitating birds of prey; managing the care of up to 100 wild animals in a day at the SOS Miss Dolittle Refuge; working at the Aquarium of Quebec, where she monitored 10,000 animals of 300 different species. She worked as a chief animal health technician in a veterinary clinic in British Columbia, as well as a few contracts in various other veterinary clinics.
She also makes lots of canine friends by volunteering at local shelters, fostering, and dog sitting for friends.
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