28th July 2016

One of the best known parrots in the world, as well as one of the smallest, the budgerigar is the world's most popular pet bird. Birders who learn more about these colorful parrots, however, can enjoy seeing them wild in their native range rather than just in cages.

Common Name: Budgerigar, Budgie, Shell Parakeet, Scallop Parrot, Zebra Parrot, Canary Parrot, Warbling Grass Parakeet

Scientific Name: Melopsittacus undulatus

Scientific Family: Psittacidae


Bill: Stubby, upper mandible much larger and overhangs lower mandible with sharp hook, gray or yellow-bone color

Size: 6-7 inches long with 10-inch wingspan, slim body, large head, long tapered tail

Colors: Green, yellow, blue, black, gray, pink

Markings: Genders are similar with a plain yellow crown and face with large blue or black spots on the malar area of the throat. The auriculars, nape and upperparts are heavily barred with a black scalloped pattern, and the underparts are plain bright green or yellow-green. The rump is green, and the tail is blue or blue-green with yellow patches in the center of the greenish side feathers, creating a colorful pattern when the tail is spread. In flight, the wings show a broad yellow or whitish stripe, while the primary feathers and secondary feathers are dark. The legs and feet are gray, and the eyes are pale with a dark iris. The only difference between genders is the cere, which is blue on males and buff or brownish on females.

Juveniles are similar to adults but have generally duller colors and are more heavily barred on the head. The cere is pinkish, and the eyes are darker.

While wild budgerigars are the same yellow-green hues, domestic breeding of captive pet birds has yielded more color variations, including blue, lilac, gray, white, pied and mauve birds. These unusual colors may be spotted in wild flocks when escaped pet birds have rejoined their wild counterparts. Domestic birds are also generally larger than wild individuals.

Habitat and Migration:

These parrots prefer arid or semi-arid open habitats, including grassland, scrub, woodland edges and agricultural regions. They are endemic to Australia, but are absent from the southwestern, northeastern and southeastern coastal areas and are rare in the driest parts of the continent's interior. While budgerigars have been introduced to different areas of the world, feral populations have not established strongly outside their native range. One small colony can be found in west-central Florida, though that population has been decreasing in recent years, likely due to competition for nesting sites. Escaped pet birds might be spotted nearly anywhere in the world.

These birds do not typically migrate, but they can be nomadic in search of the best food and water sources.


Budgies have a relatively high-pitched chatter call with somewhat warbling notes, and while pleasant to hear from a single bird, it can be overwhelming from large flocks. Domestic birds can become accomplished mimics and may even mimic human speech with an impressive vocabulary.


These are gregarious birds that are nearly always found in flocks from just a few individuals to several thousand depending on the circumstances, with larger flocks more common where food and water are abundant. Budgerigars walk on the ground to forage, and in flight follow a somewhat undulating path with individuals in the flock packed closely together in the air. In their native habitat, they visit reliable water sources each morning and evening.


These are monogamous birds that may mate for life. They are cavity-nesters, but do not use any nesting material and instead simply lay their eggs in a suitable hollow tree, snag, stump, fence post or even fallen branch. The round eggs are plain white, and there are 4-8 eggs in each brood.

The female incubates the eggs for 17-21 days while the male brings her food, which also helps strengthen their pair bond. After the altricial young hatch, both parents feed and care for the young birds for an additional 30-36 days.

A mated pair may raise 1-2 broods per year, but these birds can breed at any time when there is sufficient water and food available to support healthy chicks.

Attracting Budgerigars:

These parrots will visit ground bird baths or ground feeding areas within their range, and they may occasionally use bird houses or nesting boxes. Planting grasses for birds can provide an abundant natural food source. Escaped pet budgerigars may occasionally appear at seed feeders.


Budgerigars are not considered threatened or endangered, but they can be vulnerable to severe droughts and habitat loss in their native range. Nesting areas are also vulnerable to a variety of predators, particularly snakes.

Similar Birds:

Ground Parrot (Pezoporus wallicus)

Night Parrot (Pezoporus occidentalis)

White-Winged Parakeet (Brotogeris versicolurus)