That our budgies are descended from the wild form in Australia should be known to most keepers of the same, but often little is known about their living conditions and their behaviour in the wild.
- Scientific name: Melopsittacus undulatus
- Length: ~18cm
- Weight: 22-32g (m) / 24-40g (f)
- Head: yellow with black wavy markings
- Wax skin: blue (m) / brown (f)
- Cheek patches: blue-violet
- Throat spots: black
- Plumage: bright green
- Upper wing: black-yellow wavy pattern
Occurrence & habitat
The wild form of the budgerigar is found exclusively in Australia and is widespread on almost the entire mainland. However, they are usually only found in the interior and not in the coastal regions of Australia.
The habitat of budgies is mainly in the rather dry areas with little rainfall1Ariad (desert climate) and semiariad (seasonal dry season) zones.
They can be found in many different habitats:
- Sand dunes with spiky grasses(Triodia)
- Melden2Artiplex and Bluebush3Maireana plains with sparse tree cover
- Grassland with sparse tree cover
- Acacia scrubland
- Mallee shrubland with eucalyptus bushes (2 – 10m high)
- Remnants of the original tree savannah on farmland
However, budgerigars rarely move far away from water sources and therefore migrate to other areas during dry periods when these dry out.
Budgies are very social and do almost all their activities as a flock.
Most flocks range in size from 10 – 100 budgies, although the number can change constantly as new birds join or leave the group.
Under certain circumstances, however, it can happen that huge flocks of several thousand budgies join together.
Shortly before sunrise, the budgerigars become active and begin to groom their feathers on the trees that serve them as roosts, or flutter from branch to branch.
As soon as the sun rises, the budgies leave their roosts either as a complete flock or in many smaller groups, one after the other.
Their destination is the feeding areas, which are sometimes close to the roosts, but can often be several kilometres away.
For the most part, budgies spend the whole day feeding . They walk around on the ground and pick up seeds or get them directly from the seed heads of the available plants.
During the early morning and also in the afternoon , they devote themselves particularly eagerly to foraging. At midday, on the other hand, they can be found feeding in small groups in the shade of trees.
In cool or damp weather they are usually busy feeding all day, whereas on hot days they take an extended lunch break in the branches of leafy trees.
Between 7.30 – 9.00 o’clock they usually go to the watering places to drink.
While some budgies drink at the water’s edge, there are also some that land directly on the water’s surface with their wings spread and then rise from the water’s edge into the air, flapping their wings vigorously.
End of day
Shortly before sunset , budgerigars leave their feeding grounds in the open grassland and seek their roosts in the branches of the trees as dusk falls.
However, it sometimes takes some time before silence finally returns, as budgies still fly from branch to branch or even from tree to tree.
Budgerigars are considered food specialists and feed on the small seeds40.5mm – 2.5mm / 0.36mg – 1.33mg of ground cover plants5Seeds of 21 – 39 plant species.
These seeds are usually dehusked, swallowed uncrushed and temporarily stored in the crop.
Particularly during breeding, larger quantities of green forage6According to J. M. Forshaw, the provision of green fodder was the key to breeding success in breeding pairs of the wild form. are probably also consumed.
Here, too, an adaptation of budgerigars to the unpredictable environmental conditions in their habitat can be seen.
As opportunistic breeders, they can start nesting at any time of the year, as soon as sufficient water and food is available due to abundant rainfall ending a dry period.
For the successful completion of the reproductive cycle, i.e. from the selection of a nest cavity to the fledging of the young birds, favourable environmental conditions must persist for at least 3 months.
The way from Australia to us
The first pair of bud gies was brought to England in 1840 by a well-known bird expert, a Mr. Gould.
They came to Germany in the 1950s, when about 500 specimens were brought to Berlin and quickly spread from there.
The very first breeding attempt in Germany was made in 1955 by a lady, the Countess Schwerin.
The first reports of a blue colour variant came from Belgium and in the 1990s it also appeared in France.
In 1910 single specimens of this still rare colouring already appeared several times and through systematic breeding a constant colour variation soon developed.
Later, the first white budgies, i.e. albinos with red eyes, emerged from combination breeding.
In the meantime, there are numerous colourings in a wide variety of colours, with the exception of red shades, since budgies are known to lack the corresponding gene for the red plumage pigment.
Photographs from Australia
Jim Oatley – Australia (Northern Territory)
The photos were kindly provided by Jim Oatley for my article. More of his fantastic photos and videos can be found at “Budgies and Bush Birds“.