Scientific Name: Melopsittacus undulatus
Adult Size: About 7 inches (18 cm), including tail
Weight: Just over 1 ounce (28 g)
Life Span: 12 to 15 years on average
Talking Ability: Excellent
The energetic and friendly parakeet is probably the most popular pet bird, and it's no wonder why. Along with his bright colors and easy care, this little bird has a spunky personality. Let's learn a little more about parakeets to help you decide if one is right for you. If you already have a parakeet, I'm sure that you will learn something new.
One thing to note about parakeets is their two names. In the United States, they are almost always called parakeets, but to the rest of the world, they are known as budgerigars—budgies for short. Budgerigar comes from an aboriginal Australian word that means "good to eat"!
The parakeet is a small bird with a rounded head, long, tapering tail, and long flight feathers. His nostrils are located above his hooked beak in a patch of bare skin called the cere. In adult parakeets, the color of the cere is different in males and females. A male's cere is blue, while a female's can range in color from pink to brown. Immature parakeets have a pinkish cere.
Parakeets have been bred in captivity for many years. This has resulted in the development of many different colors and patterns. The "normal" parakeet is predominantly bright green with a yellow head. His flight feathers and tail range from green to turquoise. The feathers of his back and wings are black or dark gray with pale edges, giving him a scalloped look.
Some of the other popular colors include yellow, blue, white, pied (having white patches), and mixtures of these colors.
Parakeets are a type of parrot (scientifically, all parrots are known as psittacines [pronounced SIT a seens]). Parrots are also called hookbills, for the strongly hooked bills they use for climbing, digging, cracking open seeds, and preening their feathers. Parakeets are related to the ground parrots and some other small Australian parrots.
In the Wild
Parakeets are native to Australia and are found over most of that continent, including some of the driest parts. They travel in small flocks and are highly nomadic. They primarily eat grass seed, but they also eat other seeds, fruits, vegetables, grasses, leaves, roots, flowers, and the occasional insect or worm.
Parakeets as Pets
The parakeet is one of the best choices for a pet bird. He is small but hardy, with an outgoing personality. He is energetic and vocal but usually not overly loud. He enjoys interacting with his human companions and can learn to do tricks. Parakeets—especially males—often learn to talk. Although they may not speak very clearly, they may be capable of learning more than 100 different words. Your parakeet will need daily attention of at least an hour a day. Use this time for training, grooming, petting, playing, and just spending time with him being part of his flock.
A parakeet's cage should be his happy home—not his prison. With this in mind, purchase the biggest cage for him you can afford. However, make sure that the bars are spaced so that he cannot get his head out—about 1/2 inch (1.5 cm) should be fine. The best cages are made from wrought iron or powder-coated steel. A pull-out tray is a handy feature that makes cleaning easier. He will also need perches that vary in diameter to prevent foot problems. Add some toys, and plan to rotate new toys in and old toys out regularly to keep him from becoming bored.
Parakeets need a varied diet that includes seeds, pellets, fruits, vegetables, nuts, and healthy human foods. Feed him a mix of these foods daily, with seeds making up no more than a quarter of the total diet. Always remove fresh food before it has a chance to spoil.