This picture shows the basic external budgerigar anatomy that will help you get to know your pet budgerigar.
The majority of the body parts labelled are common to all bird species. The features that make this very clearly a budgerigar rather than any other type of bird are the cheek patch and throat spots. Not all varieties of pet budgerigars have these because of the complexities of the budgerigar’s gene pool. Although, all wild budgerigars have them and they are an important part of the budgerigar’s body language. Budgerigars' keen vision is able to pick up the ultraviolet light reflected from the cheek patches. They might just look like blue or green splodges to us, but they are as striking as a firework display to a budgerigar's sensitive eyes.
In the wild, budgerigars usually breed in response to rainfall. This is generally between June and January, although they will seize the opportunity whenever it crops up. With water and food temporarily in abundance, the budgerigar can take time out from their nomadic lifestyle and settle down. If water and food supply allow, the budgerigar will go with the flow and produce several broods one after the other.
Budgerigar nests are an object lesson in simplicity – a bare tree cavity with enough space to fit one adult and between four to eight circular white eggs. Sometimes a fence post substitutes for a tree, and occasionally a log on the ground is chosen. It’s the female alone who sits on the clutch, with the male providing the duties of an eager-to-please waiter, bringing food for his partner. He regurgitates a porridge of leaves and seeds for her to feast on, and continues to bring food throughout the weaning period.
After 18-21 days, the eggs hatch, one at a time over a one-week period. Budgerigars are born naked, blind and helpless, like all parrots. The first meal they receive is a liquid from the hen’s crop, sometimes referred to as budgie milk. This contains essential nutrients and antibodies. Nature has even equipped the hen to vary the contents and consistency of this fluid as she feeds her brood in the first week, from youngest to oldest, ensuring that each age group gets exactly the nutrients it needs.
From dawn until dusk the male budgerigar flies back and forth, filling his crop with seeds and regurgitating them for his mate, who then delivers the best of the crop to the chicks. The male begins to feed his offspring directly after about three.
Budgerigar chicks can hold up their heads after seven days, and their eyes open after ten. They grow soft down to help them keep warm at this point, with a covering of ‘pin feathers’ appearing at two weeks. These are thin, scaly stubs that will later blossom, flower-like, into beautiful budgerigar feathers. This happens between three and four weeks, and the birds are weaned and ready to leave the nest between 30 and 40 days after hatching. It’s a full six months before they’re completely independent.
At a year old, budgerigars are ready to breed, and the cycle begins again. As with any bird species which has both parents investing a considerable chunk of time in the rearing of young, a budgerigar couple are strongly bonded, with a ritual romance involving all manner of mutual grooming, beak ‘kissing’ and head bobbing.
Budgerigars generally live between five and eight years in the wild, but commonly make it to somewhere between ten and fifteen years in captivity.