Bird Food for Your Parakeet
Most keets are ground-feeders that eat primarily seeds and plant material. Lafeber foods are a simple and healthy way to feed your keets properly. Our research has shown that little birds get “hooked” on seeds easily. Many of our foods incorporate seeds with healthy pellets, fruits and vegetables, as well as Omega 3 and 6 fatty acids and chelated minerals. Try Nutri-Forage, Avi-Cakes, Lafeber’s Premium Daily Diet Pellets, Nutri-Meals, Popcorn Nutri-Berries, and Nutri-Berries.
The Budgie (Melopsittacus undulatus), also known as the American parakeet and the budgerigar, is originally from Australia, where it still dominates the grasslands in large, undulating flocks. The wild budgie is similar to the birds we see today in pet shops, though smaller, and only found in the nominate color, green. Its Latin name means, roughly, “song bird with wavy lines,” which is a pretty good description of this popular bird.
The nomadic wild parakeet is found in large flocks that are always on the search for water, which is limited in the scrublands, the habitat that makes up much of the Budgie’s natural range. They breed in the rainy season when water and food are plentiful, and nest in hollowed out trees or tree limbs. They can be pesky to farmers, and are especially dangerous to grain crops.
Naturalist John Gould and his brother-in-law, Charles Coxen, brought Budgies to Europe around 1838. Europeans became charmed with the birds, which bred readily, making them a staple pet in wealthy homes. The Budgie was displayed at the Antwerp Zoo in Belgium around 1850, and began to gain in popularity, not only with the wealthy. Australia banned exportation of Budgies in 1894, and the Europeans had to breed their existing stock in order to continue the hobby. The budgie found its way to America in the late 1920s, but didn’t experience real popularity until the 1950s. Today, it’s the most popular bird in the world.
Budgies are between six and seven inches long and occur in a large assortment of colors and patterns, over seventy mutations to date, with more developed each year. The fancier mutations are available through hobby breeders, though most people are happy with the standard green, blue, yellow, and white.
Budgies are sexually dimorphic, so it’s easy determine the difference between the genders at about six to eight months of age, when they mature. The adult male’s cere (the flesh above the beak) is generally blue, while the hen’s is pink or brown. Young birds can’t be sexed in this way – an educated guess is your only chance of buying a young pair.
The English show budgie is also a popular pet, and though it’s only 8 1/2 to 9 1/2 inches long, not that much longer than the American parakeet, it looks nearly twice the size. The temperament of the two birds is quite similar, though the English may be more docile. Both make equally good pets. The English budgie has about half the lifespan of the American parakeet because they are often inbred.
The Budgie is often underestimated as a hands-on pet. It is certainly good as a “watching only” pet, especially if kept in pairs or in a colony, but it’s easily hand tamed and can become a loyal, loving little friend to a patient owner. Budgies are social birds and won’t do well in a life of isolation. Budgies housed together do remain friendly if given enough contact, though a lone parakeet is often the best choice if you want a “pet-quality” bird.
Parakeets are okay with children if the children are respectful of them. This small bird can easily become victim to a raucous child. Adult supervision with any pet is advisable. This bird’s beak isn’t as powerful as some of the other birds of its size, but it can certainly hurt little sensitive fingers.
The Budgie is the best talking bird among the parrots, able to learn words, phrases, and whistles easily. One Budgie has been recorded repeating over 1700 words. The males are the best talkers, though females will learn a few words and can whistle well.
Budgies can live between seven to fifteen years, though the average is far less than seven due to mistreatment, accidents, or lack of knowledge about appropriate bird care. It seems that this little bird is often seen as a “throw away” pet because it’s inexpensive. Budgies are also prone to obesity, fatty tumors and liver, foot disorders, scaly face, and intestinal parasites, all of which require veterinary care.
The Bourke’s Parakeet
The Bourke’s parakeet (Neophema Bourkii) is a gem among the members of the popular Neophema family, a group of colorful grass keets that originate in Australia. The Bourke’s hasn’t received much attention among novice bird fanciers because of its notoriety as having less character than other birds of its size and price. It is true that the Bourke’s spends much of the day in what seems like a prolonged coffee break, but dawn and twilight bring about a change in personality. These birds take flight early in the morning and at dusk, chirping and interacting with their environment and each other. They are not a truly nocturnal bird, but they are known to be active well past sunset, unlike most parrots.
Like the other Neophema parakeets, the Bourke’s is quite stunning. The nominate bird (the color most found in the wild) is a combination of shades of blues and shimmering pinks and violets. This species is dimorphic, meaning that there’s a visible difference between the sexes. The male has a blue band above his eyes and the female either does not have this band, or has a band that’s much duller in hue. The female’s plumage is duller in general. Juveniles look like females and come into mature coloring at about nine months. This species is the only member of the Neophema family that does not have green feathers.
There are color mutations available for the Bourke’s including the popular rosy Bourke’s, pink, cream, blue, pied, and cinnamon. The Rosy is a favorite among fanciers because of its unusual shade of bright pink. Males and females in the Rosy mutation look identical, unlike their nominate cousins, though some female Rosies can have more gray feathering than the Rosy males.
This bird makes an amiable aviary companion, able to get along with other grass keets, budgies, cockatiels, canaries, and sociable finches. However, the Bourke’s activity past dusk can disturb other aviary birds, even going so far as knocking them off of their perches. This species has a lifespan of ten to twelve years or more with good care.
Housing for the Bourke’s should be as large as possible, preferably an aviary or large flight cage. These birds don’t thrive in small quarters. The aviary can be lushly planted because the Bourke’s isn’t generally a destructive bird. It can also be housed outside and acclimated to colder weather conditions, though the aviary should be protected from harsh weather in the deep winter, especially if other species of birds are present.
Since the Bourke’s is a grass keet, it thrives on seed, unlike many other parrots. However, adequate nutrition for any captive grass keep requires more than just seed – wild Bourke’s may feed on seed sprouts, other vegetation, and even insects.