The English budgie is a variety of the native Australian Budgerigar that was brought into existence by selective breeding in England in the 19th and early 20th centuries. They are larger than both the wild Australian and the American budgie and were bred primarily for the pet trade and as ‘show’ birds. These small, active parrots are extremely popular with pet bird owners both in the United States and Europe and make excellent pets.
English Budgies – The Basics
There is only one species of budgerigar. Its scientific name is Melopsittacus undulatus, and according to parrots.org, it is endemic to many interior areas of Australia. In the wild, all budgies are green and yellow, but selective breeding has introduced many color and size variations. The English budgie is the result of such breeding efforts.
English budgies are small companion parrots and are also commonly known as Show budgies. Wild budgies are about 7.5 inches (18-20 cm) in length and weigh, on average, about 1 ounce (28 g). English budgies are larger, up to 10 inches ( 25.4 cm) and can tip the scales at almost double the weight of a wild bird. They have hook-bills and long tail feathers. Their brightly colored plumage, which can be seen in many color varieties, is one of their features that have made them so popular in the pet bird trade.
In addition to its larger size, the English variation also has a larger head and often has a beard-like growth of feathers on their necks. Immature birds cannot be reliably sexed, but according to luckyfeathers.com, once the bird reaches about six months of age the coloration of the cere (the part of the beak with the nostrils) can be used to determine the bird’s gender. Males have bluish ceres while the females’ ceres are brownish when in breeding mode and white if non-breeding.
Personalities of English Budgies
English budgies have fluffier feathers than wild budgies, and these feathers can almost totally cover their beaks and eyes. There are over 30 color mutations that have been introduced from the original green and yellow coloration of native Australian budgies. The puffier feathers can also give this bird the appearance of being overweight.
Though budgies have low voices, they are known as one of the best birds at mimicking human speech. They also have delightful singing and chirping voices, and a group will spend a good deal of time conversing among themselves. Birds kept singly will be more apt to become prolific talkers, as when in groups they will revert to budgie language. Below is a video that demonstrates the size discrepancy between the English and American budgies.
How Does An English Budgie Act?
Budgies are very playful and curious birds and generally have high energy levels. English budgies are known to be a little calmer and less noisy than other budgie varieties. Most budgies like to take a midday nap of around 30 minutes, but will otherwise be active throughout the day. Other than being a little more docile, English budgies exhibit the same behavioral characteristics as other budgies.
Some behaviors that you will encounter are beak grinding as your bird sleeps, stretching and yawning, and preening and fluffing up of their feathers. Budgies beaks are always growing and to help keep them trim, they love to chew and shred things.
If kept on their own, you need to give your bird plenty of attention. Budgies are flock birds and are happier when kept in groups. This can be problematic for the owner who wants to train their bird, as training is more likely to be successful with a single bird. Males are generally more playful and will not fight among themselves. Sometimes females will become aggressive with other females, especially if they are confined to a small cage.
These small parrots are intelligent and can be taught some simple behaviors such as stepping up on your hand and can be very affectionate if hand trained. Positive reinforcement and patience are the keys to teaching your bird tricks. If training to talk, the constant repetition of the desired word or phrase will often be rewarded with a low but audible reply. Their small beaks can pinch but not do any real damage, so they are a suitable bird to be around small children.
Caring For an English Budgie
The best temperature for your birds is between 60 and 70 degrees Fahrenheit (15-21 C), though they can stand higher temperatures for short periods of time. The best diet is a high-quality pellet food supplemented with plenty of vegetables and grains. Mineral blocks or cuttlebone should always be offered in your bird’s cage. A full parakeet food guide can be seen here.
Cage size is one area where the needs of an English budgie differ from that of standard budgies. They are closer to cockatiel size and should be given a larger cage. As they are very active, a good cage size is 40Lx20Dx32H inches (102Lx51Dx81H cm) with a 1/2 inch (1.27 cm) bar spacing. See our full guide to budgie cages here.
Your cage should include plenty of natural wood perches and a variety of toys to keep your bird mentally stimulated. The toys should be rotated regularly and some wood toys for chewing and shredding make a good choice. Baths should be offered several times a week, as budgies like to bathe. Nail and beaks may need to be clipped if they become overgrown, but this can be controlled with the proper toys and some rough perches. Budgies molt gradually over the course of the year.
Breeding is legal and relatively easy, as described at the budgiewiki.com site. There is no particular season for breeding, and the hen will usually lay 3 to 4 eggs that will hatch in about 18 days. Newborn budgies are blind and helpless and so need a lot of care.
How Long Does An English Budgie Live For?
English budgies have shorter lifespans than standard budgies due to inbreeding, and usually have lifespans of 15 to 21 years. Some common ailments to watch for are bumblefoot, scaly face and legs, Polyomavirus and French molt. Diet and exercise are key factors in keeping your bird healthy.
Prices of English Budgies
English budgies cost around $60 to $80 as opposed to around $20 for a standard budgie. They are not very expensive to keep. After a one-time cage purchase, food and toys for these small birds will not break the bank.
Should You Get An English Budgie?
If you are looking for a small companion parrot that you can keep singly or in groups, then the English budgie is a good choice. The one negative may be its short lifespan relative to other companion birds, but if that is not a deal-breaker for you, then these beautiful birds will be a great addition to your family. Below is a video of one talking up a storm!