Budgerigar: Gender, Color Varieties and Breeding Types

If you compare the sight of a flock of parakeets in the Australian outback with that of a breeder’s aviary group, it is hard to believe that the latter are descendants of the wild green mini parrots. The many color variants are the result of a long history of domestication. But it’s not just the colorful plumage that is fascinating: Did you know that you can tell the gender of a budgie by its nose?

From Australia to Europe: Budgies as Housebirds

The first European to mention the budgies in writing was the British zoologist George Shaw, who recorded the fauna of what was then New Holland. That was in 1794, even before Australia became part of the Empire. The ornithologist John Gould then classified the animals in 1840 as Melopsittacus undulatus, which roughly translates as “wavy, singing parrot”. This aptly described the characteristic plumage and the melodic chirping of the animals. Budgies have been bred in Europe since the middle of the 19th century. Thanks to their relatively undemanding attitude and their trusting, entertaining nature, they quickly developed into popular house birds.

From Wild Green to Brightly Colored: the Shades of Color

Interest in budgies grew. European breeders sought to meet the demand of bird lovers after Australia banned the export of the small green parakeets in 1894. A sensation had already occurred in Belgium in 1878: the first blue budgie had hatched. Today there is an almost unmanageable variety of colors, both in terms of color nuances and peculiarities of the plumage.

Well-known color variants are:

  • Albino (pure white, red eyes);
  • Clear body (lightened abdominal plumage);
  • Yellowface (blue or gray with yellow facial plumage);
  • Harlequin (pied);
  • Lutino (yellow without wave pattern);
  • Opaline (color of the body plumage also in the wave drawing);
  • Cinnamon (lightened wave pattern).

In spite of all attempts, however, it has not yet been possible to breed a red budgie – genetically, that should actually be impossible.

Wild and Standard Budgies and Their Physique

The physique of domesticated budgerigars was also changed through breeding.

There are three types of physique:

  • “Hansi-Bubi”: This variant comes closest to the Australian wild form. The birds are 16 to 19 centimeters tall, weigh about 40 grams, have clearly demarcated eyes, and a maximum of six clearly defined throat spots.
  • Standard parakeet: At 26 centimeters in length and 55 grams, these parakeets are much larger and stockier. They have a clearly developed forehead and dense plumage. The throat spots blur with one another, the eyes are somewhat obscured in the plumage.
  • Semi-standard: With a length of 21 centimeters and a weight of around 45 grams, these birds represent an intermediate form. Forehead and beard plumage are pronounced, making the eyes appear less round than those of the Hansi-Bubi. In addition, semi-standard parakeets have more than six throat spots.

Insight: the Sensory Performance of Budgerigars

Budgies have many amazing skills. Your senses are strong.

These senses of the budgerigars are particularly strong:

  • Sight: As diurnal, lightning-fast fliers, budgies depend on particularly good eyesight. The lateral arrangement of the eyes gives her a large field of vision, also in the rear area. Sneaking up on a budgie is not easy. The parakeets can use their eyes for sharp vision at close and far and as “slow-motion eyes” to perceive fast movements. The budgie’s eye records 150 images per second – that’s almost ten times more than a human eye. For this reason, budgies don’t like neon lights; it creates a perceptible light-dark flicker. In addition, the budgie perceives UV light.
  • Hearing: At only around 40 to 14,000 hertz, the budgie’s hearing range is slightly smaller than that of humans; for this, the animal can distinguish very much differentiated tones. This is vital in order to be able to distinguish the calls of the conspecifics even from a long distance.
  • Sense of vibration: Budgerigars have sensory cells on their feet with which they can feel the finest vibrations, such as the approach of a predator on the ground or the movement of the chicks in the egg. Make sure that the budgie accommodation is as stable as possible – vibrations, for example from a washing machine on the adjacent wall, put the animals under stress.

As with most birds, budgies’ senses of taste and smell are less well developed. Nevertheless, they are small gourmets who develop preferences for certain types of food.

Gender Determination: It All Depends on the Nose!

Rooster or hen – having to determine the sex of a budgie sometimes makes even experts wonder. In adult parakeets with the primary colors green and blue, it is still relatively easy: The wax skin over the beak of the males is blue, in females it is brownish. It gets more complicated with some colors because the changed color genetics also affect the budgie nose. Even age matters. Both sexes can have blue wax skin in very young budgies; Females with white nostrils and cocks with blue nostrils. If in doubt, you should not only look at the bird’s wax skin but study the nostrils very carefully. There are also unusual colors. It is always important to know how old an animal is in order to be able to identify the sex of the budgie.

Here is a brief overview of gender determination:

  • Intense blue: adult rooster;
  • Brown: adult female;
  • Purple: young rooster before the juvenile moult;
  • Rosa: rooster;
  • Pink with a white border around the nostrils: hen before the juvenile moult;
  • Beige: young hen;
  • Sky blue: hen before the juvenile moult, with a white border around the nostrils.
Mary Allen

Written by Mary Allen

Hello, I'm Mary! I've cared for many pet species including dogs, cats, guinea pigs, fish, and bearded dragons. I also have ten pets of my own currently. I've written many topics in this space including how-tos, informational articles, care guides, breed guides, and more.

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