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April 2024’s Animal Of The Month – Budgies

By April 29, 2024 No Comments

Twitter may be called “X” now and tweets may now be called “posts,” but when our Animal of the Month is the budgie, you can say that we were definitely tweeting! But now that April is drawing to a close, we must tweet a fond farewell to the budgie. We hope that you were following our tweets on Twitter and posts on Threads, but if you missed any of them, you can find a summary right here that you can reference any time. Did you know?:

  • We all know them by their nickname – budgies – but their full common name is actually budgerigar (Melopsittacus undulatus).
  • It’s believed that the common name “budgerigar” comes from the name for the bird in Australia’s Gamilaraay Aboriginal language which is “Betcherrygah.”
  • There is some murkiness when it comes to what “Betcherrygah” means. It’s suggested by some sources that “Betcherrygah” means “good food.”
  • “Good food” could mean that budgies lead the Gamilaraay to areas where food is abundant. It could also mean that budgies make a good snack.
  • As for their scientific name, Melopsittacus is Greek and means “melodious parrot” while undulatus is Latin for “undulated” (a wave-like pattern), which is a nod to the patterns in some of the budgie’s plumage.
  • Budgies are native to Australia and have a wide range within the country’s interior west of the Great Dividing Range, which is a network of mountain ranges, hills and plateaus along Australia’s east coast.
  • The parts of Australia where budgies are not found include the eastern, northern and southwestern coastal areas, Tasmania and the Cape York Peninsula in the country’s north.
  • There have been many budgie sightings in the wild around the world due to escaped or deliberately released pets, but the only long-term feral budgie population to establish itself outside Australia is in west-central Florida.
  • Budgies were introduced in the Tampa Bay area in the 1950’s. By the late 1970’s it’s believed they reached a peak feral population of more than 20,000.
  • However, since it’s peak, Florida’s feral budgie population steadily declined and is believed to have disappeared altogether in 2014 due to being outcompeted for nesting sites by starlings and sparrows.
  • Wild budgies live in a variety of open arid, semi-arid and sub-humid habitats and can be found in areas including – but not limited to – grassy woodlands, plains, savannas, scrubland and farmland.
  • Regardless of where they are found, budgies are almost always found near a water source even though they are capable of going for long periods without water.
  • Most animals suffer from human-created habitat destruction, but wild budgies have actually benefitted from it. Land-clearing for agriculture has increased the amount habitat that budgies favour.
  • Budgies are small parrots, with fully grown adults measuring approximately 18-20 cms (7-8”) in length.
  • The budgie’s natural colour is predominantly bright green and yellow. They have yellow faces and throats. Their heads, upper backs and wings are yellow with black scalloping.
  • On their lower cheeks, budgies have small blue-violet patches. They also have a series of black spots on their throats.
  • The budgie’s bone-coloured beak is small with the upper mandible (the upper part of the beak) slightly curving down and covering the lower mandible.
  • Budgies have bright green underparts, lower backs and rumps. Their tails are long, slender and blue.
  • The cere is the featherless area around the budgie’s nostrils. In females it’s usually pale, pinky blue or brown. In males, it’s typically a deeper blue. But the cere colour can vary depending on the budgie’s age and colour morph.
  • Budgies have been kept in captivity since the mid-1800s. Since then, they have been selectively bred and captive budgies now have a wide variety of different colours and patterns.
  • There’s more to budgie plumage than meets the eye. University of Queensland researchers studied the yellow crown and cheek feathers, which are naturally fluorescent in UV light and used in courtship displays.
  • In the study, the researchers put sunscreen on the budgies’ crown and cheek feathers to block the absorption of UV light. They did not put sunscreen on a control group of budgies.
  • The researchers observed that the budgies with the sunscreen on their feathers were ignored by the budgies in the control group.
  • It’s believed that budgies see the fluorescence as a way to help them select a mate.
  • Earth Day is April 22nd and did you know that budgies played a significant role in early conservation efforts that predate the founding of Earth Day by more than 70 years?
  • In the late 19th Century, wild budgies were relentlessly captured and shipped in deplorable conditions to Europe all in the name of fashion.
  • At the time, it was considered fashionable to wear feathers and even full taxidermied birds on hats or headdresses.
  • Three British women – Etta Lemon, Eliza Phillips and Emily Williamson – were united in their condemnation of the use of birds in fashion and in 1891 they created the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds.
  • The first Australian branch of the Society of the Protection of Birds was formed in 1894 in Adelaide. Its efforts resulted in South Australia’s Bird Protection Act in 1900.
  • This early legislation protected budgies at the time from being trapped and exported for six months out of the year, between July 1st and January 12th.
  • In the wild, budgies will forage for food on or near the ground with grass seed making up the bulk of their diet. They will also occasionally eat fruit and commercial grain crops.
  • Wild budgies are nomadic and will travel in large flocks seasonally to areas where food and water are plentiful.
  • Did you know that budgies are fantastic mimics of human speech and other sounds?
  • Check out this video of one of our late budgie patients, Mr. Poof, as he shows off his speaking skills:

The last time we featured budgies as our Animal of the Month was 10 long years ago! We invite you to check out our blog post from way back then to see what we tweeted about budgies in February 2014.

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