Animal-World’s Featured Pet for this week is: The Parakeet!
Most likely, you or someone you know has owned a parakeet! They are one of the more popular of the smaller birds, for many reasons. They can learn to talk and whistle, have a shorter lifespan than many of the larger parrots, and are relatively easy to care for. While working at the pet store, I saw many of these birds come and go to new homes. I enjoyed cleaning their cages every day and whistling along with them!
Parakeets are also called Budgerigars, or Budgies. Their scientific name is Melopsittacus undulatus and they are part of the Psittacidae family. They come in many various color combinations, over 100 actually! This makes for a very interesting and unique looking bird! Their primary colors are green, blue, gray, white, yellow, opaline, and pied. Parakeets in general are usually very affectionate towards their owners (especially if trained while young). They are inexpensive and can be trained to do a multitude of tricks. They do require a lot of interaction because they are very social birds by nature. If you do not think you will have a whole lot of one-on-one time available to be with your bird, you should consider bringing home at least one companion bird as well. They have an average lifespan of 12-14 years with proper care.
The history of the Parakeet begins in Australia. They were first noted by European John Gould in 1865 in his book, “Birds of Australia.” These birds are actually part of the parrot family and belonged to a tribe called the Platycercini in Australia. They originate in the desert-like part of central Australia where there is little precipitation. This little to no rain environment has truly helped this bird become hardy! They are also monogamous birds in the wild as well as captivity and so will generally pick a mate for life. Unless of course, their primary mate dies.
Now onto the care and feeding of the Parakeet/Budgerigar. As I stated above, they are relatively inexpensive with fairly easy care requirements. The housing requirements of the parakeet include a roomy cage with plenty of places to climb. A play area that can be put on top of the cage is also a good idea. This will give your parakeet(s) a place to hang out when not in the cage and that helps give more interaction time with you and different scenery to your bird. Include perches and toys/swings/mirrors in the cage. Parakeets also love taking baths, so a bath house or bowl is another good idea. Free-flying time is very important for these birds for both exercise and their mental well-being, so make sure that there is a block of time most days that you can allow them to be out and flying about!
As far as food goes – they need a variety of seeds and fresh foods. A good parakeet seed mix can be bought at local pet stores. Give them fresh fruits and vegetables occasionally as well. However, some food items are not good for them, including cabbage, avocado, green beans, and several others. Good fresh foods for them include Lettuce, carrots, spinach, apples and bananas. Also provide spray millet, cuttle bones (for their beaks) and mineral blocks. Fresh water should be given daily.
Parakeets or budgerigars are pretty hardy birds. They of course can get respiratory illnesses if kept in drafty areas and that is something to watch out for. If you notice them plucking their feathers that is also a sign of a problem. If they are lonely due to not having a companion bird or enough interaction time with you, they can become bored and begin plucking their feathers.
Animal-World’s page on Parakeets/Budgerigars is a great place to start reading if you want to familiarize yourself more with these birds!
Jasmine is a team member at Animal-World and has contributed many articles and write-ups.
Because parakeets are friendly, relatively easy to keep, and inexpensive, they are a popular choice for new and experienced bird owners alike. While they are easy to keep, there are a number of important points to remember when caring for your pet parakeet.
Parakeets are very intelligent and social birds. They need to have direct interaction with you just about every day. At a minimum, this means that you should hold your bird and gently pet it and talk to it lovingly. Try to play with your bird for at least half an hour a day.
Make sure your bird has lots of toys to play with. This is a great way to keep your bird stimulated, and to keep it happy.
Watch for the signs of “bad behavior” (including biting or a general reluctance or resistance in interacting with you). For parakeets, this is often a sign that they are not receiving enough attention or activity. Start to play with your bird a little more, and get a new toy for it.
Make sure your parakeet has a large enough cage. As with most birds, the bigger the cage, the better. In addition, make sure the cage has an adequate number of perches and room for toys.
Parakeets enjoy a varied diet, and it is essential for their continued good health. Traditional birdseed or bird food pellets can be the backbone of your parakeet’s diet, but include small pieces of fruit as a treat from time to time. Just make sure to remove the fruit from the bird’s cage if it isn’t eaten within a few hours. You can also give them occasional “birdie treats” that are sold at most pet food stores.
Be gentle. Remember that your parakeet is a small animal, and that being grabbed can be scary to it or could injure it. For this reason, some parakeet owners have had great success with cages that have a top or side that opens completely, so that they don’t have to remove their bird through a small cage door.
Teach your bird to perch on your finger. This takes time and patience, but it can become a great way to interact with your bird.
Make sure to keep your cage in an area of your home that doesn’t get too cold. Parakeets don’t do well and can get sick unless the temperature is above 70 degrees. Also, keep them away from fans, windows, air conditioners, or anywhere else there might be a draft.
Let your parakeet fly around your house on occasion for exercise and stimulation. Just make sure your windows and doors are closed, and there aren’t any ceiling fans running.
The best rule of thumb is to be patient and even-tempered with your parakeet, and spend time interacting with it. Parakeets can be a great pet when they are cared for properly.