Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Mites are Monsters (1)

Budgies that are infected with mites can get scaly feet or a scaly face/beak.

In the case of a scaly beak, the crustiness can spread around the budgie's cere and eyes. The crusty, scaly appearance also appears on the legs and sometimes around the vent.

Untreated and sometimes even treated birds may develop permanent disfigurement in the case of a scaly beak and lameness in the case of scaly legs and feet. Serious complications usually occur that are not only extremely painful for the affected bird but often result in its death! This is a serious problem and you CAN'T leave it untreated!

Image © azeah.com
How does it happen?

Scaly leg mites bore under the scales on the legs, grow bigger and infect your bird as quickly as they got there. Same story for the scaly face mites: they burrow in the skin, causing a powdery appearance. The beak may look white, chalky and crusty and will have a honeycomb appearance. The mites spend their entire life cycle on the bird, so you can't just get rid of them. The problem is that the mites eventually will be transmitted from bird to bird through prolonged close contact. Some experts say that the mites will cause an extra disease if the bird is genetically susceptible, stressed, or has a suppressed immune system.


Different species of mites affect different species of birds. Knemidokoptes mutans (scaly leg mites) and Knemidokoptes pilae (scaly face mites/burrowing mites) are most frequently found in budgies.

The problem is that the infection remains latent for a long time so that your budgie may appear normal for most of the time. If you suspect that your budgie is suffering from parasital mites, you should be able to detect it by looking for scaly gray or white crusty lesions on the nonfeathered skin. Some kinds of mites cause severe itching and even feather loss.

The feet of a healthy budgie should be free of any encrustation or malformation. Image © The Budgie Cage

Most of the parasite mites are transmitted mainly in the nest box during feeding; i.e. during direct body contact from parents unto the chicks. Special attention should also be paid to couples, because they are in close contact with each other. A mite infestation in a budgie occurs between its 6th and 12th month of life; thus often shortly after the bird has been bought. So it's something you have to watch out for from the very beginning.

Sunday, May 29, 2011

Lazy afternoon

Have you noticed how your budgie sometimes gets lazy after lunch time, or during a hot Summer afternoon?

Image © zearticles.com
This is normal behaviour. Budgies need a minimum of 12 hours sleep at night and fact is, most budgies don't get this required amount of sleep. They wake up from the morning light, or get woken up when their owner goes to work in the morning. Or they hear may hear a noise at night and sleep badly afterwards. Budgies try to catch up the lost sleep during the day by taking naps.
During hot Summer days, they often doze to save energy.

What you probably didn't know is that budgerigars adapt their sleeping pattern according to that of their owner. You'll often see them taking a nap when other people in the house are quiet :-)
If you decide to stay up late, please consider your budgie's health. Dim the tv noise and make sure it's dark enough so the budgies can sleep well.

Saturday, May 28, 2011

Migration habits of wild budgerigars

I found an excellent article on this online. I added some more information to it in order to make it more complete. Personally, I think this is one of the most interesting topics when it comes to the study of wild budgerigars.

Budgerigars in the U.S.

Wild budgerigars can also be found outside Australia. Image © Free-Extras.com
The wild budgerigar lives in Australia, primarily in desert areas such as scrub lands and grasslands. It can also be found in open, dry woodlands. Although budgerigars are not native to North America, some wild budgerigars can be found in American farmlands and on roadsides. These budgerigars were, or came from, domesticated birds that either escaped or were set free. Florida is one of the locations in the United States where wild, domesticated budgerigars can be found. Adaptations to their habitat by the budgerigars include being able to go without drinking for a month and not breeding if they are living in an area riddled with drought.

Picture © resivanzijl.blogspot.com
Note: domesticated budgies would not survive in Belgium, because the climate is too cold and wet for them during the Winter. Budgies thrive best in warm and dry Summers. But there is a record number (over 10,000) of wild ring necked parakeets settling around the capital city. Their natural habitat is in fact around Northern India, so they don't have a problem with our severe Winters.

Flock spirit

The basic colour of wild budgies is green. The many colour variations are a result of mutations in specific genes.
 Budgerigars are typically found in flocks, other known as chatters. Large flocks can be formed under favorable conditions, such as an abundance of food or breeding females. These flocks can number upwards of 5,000 to 10,000 birds. Flock movement is based on where food and water are available. Competition among budgerigars is typical in flocks for food, water, mates and nesting holes. But it will never come to a deadly conflict.

Flocks of budgerigars are known to withstand many hardships that other flock birds can't survive, such as brackish water, food shortages, extreme temperature changes and a large number of predators. The budgerigars found in wild flocks are strong, adaptive and intelligent, as opposed to the less adaptive birds that get sick and die easily in the extreme conditions in which they live. The most unlucky example of this is a blue budgie born in the wild.

Distance and direction

Budgerigars can fly up to 250 miles in a day to locate food and water. Budgerigars have such excellent eyesight they can sense rainstorms up to 40 miles away. This helps them migrate to areas that have a better potential for water and feeding grounds. Budgerigars typically migrate over vast distances and often in the correct direction, as they always seem to go "straight" to a waterhole or a food source.

Image © gdaywa.com
Opposite of birds in the Americas, Budgerigars in their natural habitat of Australia migrate in a north to south pattern. This means that budgerigar flocks typically fly south in the spring and stay through the summer. In turn, budgerigars fly north in autumn and stay up north through the winter. The locations of migrating budgerigars, and the abundance of the flocks, vary from year to year. The north to south pattern of their migration makes it possible for budgerigars to take advantage of seasonal aridity and rainfall of the inner-Australian region.

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Erwin the budgie loves showering too!

If you read my last post about Erwin, the talking budgie from Australia, you may already know how adorable he is. The way he says "good night my baby" makes me feel warm inside ^_^

In this video, he is taking a shower and he's totally loving it. Most budgies want to take a bath every day!

Sunday, May 22, 2011

Grooming Rituals

Budgies are charming little birds and relatively easy to live with. Given proper care, they will pitch in by taking good care of themselves. A happy, healthy budgie will preen its feathers, bathe, clean its beak and tend to its nails.
Sick budgies will mostly sit around listlessly, without making a sound. Unhappy budgies may go as far as to completely neglect their grooming rituals.

Whether healthy or sick, you have to encourage your little bird to keep grooming itself every day!

Image © Волнистые попугайчики
  • Observe your budgie's grooming rituals. You should see it preening its feathers, using oil from a gland back near its tail. Other things they often do is scratching about on the bottom of the cage, and wiping their beak back and forth on the sitting perches. It's a very bad sign if you never see them doing this!
  • Place a shallow bowl of lukewarm water in the bottom of the cage or in the bird's living area a couple of times a week so that it can take a bath. Water is life! If your budgie is hesitant about bathing, try putting some leaves of lettuce in the bowl. Budgies love lettuce and will be attracted to the water.
  • Provide your budgie something to trim its beak on. Pet-supply stores offer items of this sort that attach to the side of the cage where your budgie can peck and scrape at it with its beak. Your budgie needs to keep its beak in shape so that it can preen its feathers properly.
  • Help your budgie with grooming by doing your part! In captivity, budgies are unable to keep their nails filed down sufficiently, so you will have to trim them from time to time. 
Image © ChrystyLande on Flickr
Two other good tips:
  • Feed your budgie a healthy diet. Supplement a small seed mix with fresh veggies. Like any other animal, a well-fed bird will better maintain healthy skin and coat.
  • Get your budgie a partner. Budgies are highly social birds, and one kept alone or with birds of other species may become depressed and stop caring for itself. If you observe budgie couples, you will notice how much they cuddle and groom eachother. It's very good to have another budgie to groom them, it keeps them happy and helathy!
Source: Ehow.com

Saturday, May 21, 2011

Budgie computer game

I found a funny little click and point game, where you play as a blue budgie who is tired of sitting in a cage. Use your escaping skills to help this clever bird escape!

I got kind of stuck in the nesting box :p so you can try to beat me!

Click here to play Budgie Escape!

PS: never let your budgie escape in real life!! The chances that they survive outside the house are extremely small.

Friday, May 20, 2011

Inside the brutal world of budgie shows

NOTE: I'm not saying budgerigar breeders are bad people. I'm just pointing out some of the cruelties that happen for the sake of competition, and how budgies sometimes are treated as objects.

Last year, in 2010, budgie fans from over the world convened for the 85th annual Budgerigar Society Club Show, held in Doncaster (South Yorkshire).
All around you could see white, uniform display cages and in each cage was a single budgie, the result of years, sometimes decades, of careful breeding. That weekend, the room contained many of the "best-looking" budgies on the planet. In total, over 2.000 budgies were present with their owners.

But, to which degree do these breeders care about their birds?

The battle of the budgies - an article by Tom Meltzer for The Guardian

Quote by Mick Freakley, twice world champion budgie breeders: "We are serious breeders. We work for decades to produce these birds, which are envied the world over. I swear to you, if there wasn't a competitive element to this I wouldn't keep them."

It gets worse:


When budgie breeder Andrew Pooley walked into his aviary on the eve of the great competition, the silence told him something dreadful had happened.
His fears were soon confirmed: on the eve of a big show, 21 of his prized birds had been stolen and his champion, Penmead Pride, had been stamped to death.

Andrew Pooley, whose champion budgie was killed and 21 of his birds stolen, believes he was targeted by a jealous rival. Photograph © SWNS
Pooley, from Delabole in north Cornwall, said:  "I feel terrible. It has been my life's work and Penmead Pride was my first registered champion. I can't believe it.

"Whoever took them knew what they were doing because they have taken the best of the best. It must have been someone who wanted me out of the show. This was a deliberate act of sabotage ."

It was not an isolated incident. In the world of budgies, such thefts are a serious business. "It's not people who want to let them go," says fellow hobbyist Ainley. "The chances are these birds are stolen to order, never to be shown but just for breeding purposes. Or they'll be shipped abroad."

Two more budgies were stamped to death and seven more budgies died from shock shortly afterwards.
But Pooley vowed to continue breeding birds. "I'm not going to give up and let them win," he said.

More than a financial loss

If you're expecting to hear anything that has to do with warm feelings for budgies in the following paragraphs, you can stop reading already.

Losing birds is much more than a financial upset. "It's all about bloodlines," explains 39-year-old James Theobald, a recent recruit to the hobby whom Freakley and Ainley have taken under their wing. "I'm in a position now where I'm lucky enough to get Freakley and Ainley blood. They can pick and choose who they sell to. There are millionaires who do this hobby. People would rip my right arm off to get hold of the birds I have."

Some of the prize-winning birds.
So budgies are just prize objects to those people, then?

Declining popularity

Today, there are a little over 3,000 members of the Budgerigar Society. At its height in the 50s, there were more than 20,000, and the yearly Club Show vibrated to the shrill chirruping of as many as 6,000 birds. It is, like most outdoor pastimes, a hobby in decline. The average age of breeders at the show is somewhere around 60, and what few new recruits there are come almost exclusively from budgie-fancier families. In more ways than one, breeding budgies is all about bloodlines.

All about bloodlines

Once budgies find a mate, they are inseparable. They eat and sleep together, they preen each other with a love that goes deeper than you can imagine.
Often, budgie breeders separate a pair that is already together in order to obtain the right combination of bloodlines. More than once, these attempts have resulted in nothing else but the death of one of the budgies, because they were forced to do something they couldn't do.

Image © animals.desktopnexus.com

Images and information are © to The Guardian

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

A Time of Menace

Another brilliant comic by meta (mathew) on the Talk Budgies forum. Thanks for making this comic, it made my day ^_^

(click on image to view original size)

Comic © meta/mathew on www.talkbudgies.com

Sunday, May 15, 2011

Light and Heat

Budgerigars in Australia live in open, sunlit environments. Birds that are kept as a pet inside, often suffer from vitamin D deficiency, which affects their immune system. Like any other birds, budgies will benefit greatly from exposure to unfiltered sunlight. This means that the light should come directly from the sun and not be filtered away by a curtain, glass or another object that only provides semi-shade.

Image © Alexandra Photography
If possible to do so, you should occasionaly place your budgie's cage (always make sure it's locked!) outdoors when the weather is nice. Put the cage on a spot where it's out of reach of predators. If it gets too hot, offer your budgie some shade. Keep an eye out on your bird, you can even take a chair and relax in the sun together with your budgie. They love to have company!

A good way to keep your budgies healthy inside is to provide their cage with an Avian Sun. UVA light in particular has been shown to be of great benefit in stimulating natural behaviors and maintaining good health.

Avian Sun lamps are also very good for sick budgies! Image © Alibaba.com
Whether inside or outside, you should avoid to position the budgie cage in a draft. Even when the weather is warm, they could catch a cold from this.

Saturday, May 14, 2011

Budgie Figurines

Do you own any budgie figurines?

I found a few nice-looking ones online... of course, a real budgie is a million times better!
The second picture was taken by me (if you're wondering about the poor quality ;)
The two budgies are sitting on top of a tea-box, with Australia in the background!

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Light as a feather

Did you know that...

Image © Foxlow Snapper on Flickr
... a newborn baby budgie only weighs two grams?

One of the only things that weigh less in the world, is a dollar bill (1 gram)
The average weight of a full-grown budgie is 42 grams.

Sunday, May 8, 2011

Budgie Vision (3)

Magnetic Field

Migratory birds use the Earth's magnetic field for orientation. Some studies have suggested that the magnetic field is light dependant and birds are able to "see" it. During their migration through Australia, budgerigars are able to fly miles and miles in the correct direction, as they always seem to go "straight" to a waterhole or a food source. Budgerigars are probably able to see the magnetic field as well, but this has not been proven yet. Or do they use another technique we don't know about?

Image © cairns.ru
Edge detection

A lot of scientific effort has been devoted to studying how migratory birds navigate over long distances, but relatively little is known about how birds detect edges and avoid obstacles during landing.
A study in Australia has has investigated landing in budgerigars, by training them to fly from a perch to a feeder, and video-filming their landings.  

Image © greencheek on Deviantart
Description of the experiment:

"The feeder was placed on a grey disc that produced a contrasting edge against a uniformly blue background. We found that the budgies tended to land at the edge of the disc and walk to the feeder, even though the feeder was in the middle of the disc. This suggests that the birds were using the visual contrast at the boundary of the disc to target their landings.

When the grey level of the disc was varied systematically, whilst keeping the blue background constant, there was one intermediate grey level at which the budgerigar's preference for the disc boundary disappeared. The budgerigars then landed randomly all over the test surface. Even though this disc is (for humans) clearly distinguishable from the blue background, it offers very little contrast against the background, in the red and green regions of the spectrum.

In short:

Budgies rely on visual features in the environment, such as contrasting edges, to determine where they will land. Colours don't play a big part in this. The key to a successful landing is a clear contrast between the boundary (the edge) and the rest of the landing platform. That is how they do it! If the contrast is unclear, budgies may detect too many "edges" and not immediately find a perfect landing spot.

Copyright Bhagavatula P, Claudianos C, Ibbotson M, Srinivasan M (2009). "Edge Detection in Landing Budgerigars (Melopsittacus undulatus)"

Thursday, May 5, 2011

Cuddle Factor

Budgies are small birds, which means you can't pick up and squeeze them against your chest!
Budgies like to "cuddle" in their own special way. When they are tame, they will sit on your shoulder or your head and preen your hair, to show you that they love you. They may even fall asleep on top of you.
Some budgies are "cuddlier" than others. It often depends on how they are raised as a baby and how they've been treated since then. If you spend little time on them, they will treat you equally, like a stranger.

Image © wallpaperscorner.com
Budgies often have a favorite person, and that will be the person they will cuddle with. Experts always suggest that you socialize your budgie when you bring it home so that it will be comfortable when there are other people visiting the house and handling them.
Even then, there is no guarantee that they will like everyone. Some budgies just pick one person to like. You can’t force a budgie to like anyone they don't like, but you can help them to tolerate them.
Often a budgie will not "like" someone because they are able to feel that person's apprehension. Budgies are flattered by sweet, soft words and happy people who are gentle with them. Encourage people to relax when they handle your budgies. If they are really nervous, it might be best for them to wait until they have more confidence.

Image © Handfed Budgies
Fortunately, a bite from this little bird will not likely cause a trip to emergency. But if a budgie doesn't like you, he will make sure to show you!

Information © www.parrot-and-conure-world.com

Sunday, May 1, 2011

Budgie Vision (2)

Light perception

Budgies are able to see ultraviolet light, which is involved in courtship. The plumage patterns in ultraviolet are invisible to the human eye, unless you place your budgie under a UV lamp.

Image © Mark Neville
A UV receptor also may give wild budgerigars an advantage in foraging food. Although they feed mainly on grass seeds, they also eat fruit. The waxy surfaces of many small fruits and berries reflect UV light that might advertise their presence. A quick and easy meal for a budgie!

Flicker tresholds

Budgies can resolve rapid movement much better than humans, for whom flickering at a rate greater than 50 Hz appears as continuous movement. Thus, humans are unable to distinguish individual flashes of a fluorescent light bulb oscillating at 60 Hz, but no more than that. Budgies have flicker tresholds of more than a 100 Hz!

Image © volnistij-gorod.ru
Here's another breathtaking fact: budgies are able to detect slow moving objects. The movement of the sun and the constellations across the sky is imperceptible to humans. We are only capable of saying that the sun has gone a bit down or up, compared to half an hour or an hour ago. Budgerigars can actually detect this movement while it is happening! This amazing ability allows budgies to properly orient themselves in the wild.