Thursday, June 30, 2011

Budgies in love

To end the month on a positive note: here is a really sweet video of two budgies showing the world what it means to be in love :)

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

How do budgies keep cool in the Summer?

We're currently experiencing a heatwave in Belgium, which makes life hard for everyone. Old people, children, everyone's wishing it was Winter again. "How do budgies manage to stay cool?" my fiancé asked me today, so I went to find out.

Image © Triplej Australia
It appears that budgies in general are well adapted to hot climates: they have been surviving in the hottest parts of Australia for millions of years.


Budgies have a higher body temperature than humans (common temperature of 41°C) and a higher metabolic rate. Their body size is quite small, so you would think they absorb the heat very quickly. Budgies spend all their activity during the day so that they really have to control their body heat to keep from overheating!

How can they stay cool?

Physical evolution to withstand the heat in Australia:
  • A fast respiration rate (which allows greater heat dissipation through breathing)
  • Bare feet, which may sound silly, but it also contributes to heat loss
Otherwise, budgies are very hardy little creatures and basically do the same thing humans do when they try to stay cool:
  • Keep their activity level down compared to regular days, when the air is cooler
  • Sleep/take naps
  • Hide in the trees when it's too warm during the day
  • Panting: just like dogs, budgies also pant to dissipate heat
  • Bathing, of course, helps to cool their bodies down. It also keeps their feathers clean.
  • When a cool breeze provides some relief from the heat, budgies may puff out their feathers or flutter their wings to let the circulating air reach their hot skin.
  • Survive, no matter how hot it gets!
Some types of food can quickly go rancid in the Summer. Photo © Kurt Kolar's "Grasparkieten"
You have to take good care of the budgies you keep at home, because they can get really hot during the Summer. Don't keep them right under the roof where the sun burns the hardest. Make sure they have a shelter in the shade, where they can go regularly. Provide them refreshment under the form of a bird bath or make them wet with a plant sprayer. Also make sure they have enough nutritious food and give them some fresh fruit on the side. Don't forget to keep an extra eye out for hygiene, because certain types of food can quickly go rancid in the Summer. These small things will be very much appreciated by your budgies on hot days like this.

    Sunday, June 26, 2011

    Budgies and Showers

    Bathing or showering is important to keep your budgie's feathers clean and healthy. Every budgie likes refreshment in a different way: some budgies love the simplicity of a bird bath from the pet store, some budgies like to roll around in wet leaves and some budgies like to have a roomy, shallow plate filled with water.
    When it comes to refreshment, they don't make a distinction between drinking water and bathing water; as long as it's clean and fresh! (so make sure to refresh their drinking water if they decide to use this as a bath)

    Image © Kurt Kolar's "Grasparkieten"
    Some budgies enjoy real showers even more. If they are tame, you can take them to the water tap and let them take a shower. Budgies should be able to bathe or shower any time of the year.

    A few simple rules for bath time:
    • Room temperature should be around 20°C and there shouldn't be any drafts in the house
    • Your budgie must be healthy, not suffering from a cold or illness (in this case, bathing could make it worse)
    • Bathing time should be somewhere in between late morning and late afternoon, so that your budgie gets a chance to dry before bedtime
    • Do not blowdry your budgie or use a towel, you could hurt your bird with this.
    Read more about bathing budgies here:

    Bathing time! (Budgies are Awesome)
    Bathing Budgies (Birds Online)

    Saturday, June 25, 2011

    Do budgies have nightmares?

    Image © katfreak123
    All budgies have nightmares. Some budgies have it more frequently or violently than others and it's especially for these budgies that I write this blog post.  

    When does this happen?
    • Usually between late evening and early morning
    • Budgies have poor eyesight in the dark, so they are more alert and get startled by any sudden movement or noise that wakes them from their (near) sleep
    • When one budgie wakes up and gets scared, the others will get scared as well
    Image © Tailfeathers Network
      What are the main reasons?
      • They are in a strange world; a budgie who has no one to relate to will more likely get nightmares than budgies who sleep together in a group
      • Mite infestation (mites are nocturnal creatures that will bite your budgie while it sleeps. The bites can be painful and create a nasty dream in the bird's head.)
      • Poor eyesight in combination with the natural fright of the dark that most animals share
      • Lack of sleep or a disturbed sleeping pattern (too many budgies don't get the necessary 12 hours of sleep)
      • Naturally high metabolism
      • Trauma (for example death of a partner)
      • A dark blanket over the cage (your budgie isn't able to see anything and will not feel safe)
      What happens when a budgie gets a nightmare?
      • Budgie wakes up with a loud squawk
      • Budgie is only partially awake and gets disorientated
      • Budgie will start flying around in the cage, bumping into the sides (and other budgies)
      • In the worst case, your budgie may lose its balance and fall off the perch
      • Some factors will only increase their fear (heavy rainfall, thunderstorm and lightning)
      • Most nightmares are no more than a little scare and those are quickly over, but the bird will likely still be in shock minutes afterwards (breathing very fast, eyes wide open)
      Night terrors are dangerous, as budgies can hurt themselves while fluttering around in the cage.

      How can you help your budgie to sleep better?

      Image ©
      • Add a small night light in the room
      • Dont make any sudden movements or loud noises in the dark when you go to bed
      • Don't watch any scary/horror movies when they can hear it. If you watch tv late in the evening, I recommend you to keep the volume down in any case.
      • Cover their cage for the night, but only with a light, thin blanket.
      • Remove the blanket carefully in the morning, don't pull it off briskly
      • Put the cage in a quiet room where no cars pass by
      • Do NOT put your budgies in the kitchen! There are too many noises there that frighten them.
      • Keep your budgies away from cats and dogs in the house, budgies see so poorly in the dark that they won't recognize them and get scared
      One more tip I can give you: as an owner, try to stick to a fixed sleeping pattern because your budgie automatically adapts itself to your rhythm. The same, familiar scene every evening will make your budgie sleep better and reduce the number of nightmares.

        Wednesday, June 22, 2011

        Wordle Cloud of Budgies are Awesome

        As a translator, I have come across Wordle before. Now the latest post on my fiancé's blog reminded me of how useful this tool can be. You can create a stylish word cloud from any text page, preferably one with 1000+ words. It will put the emphasis on the most important words, to give you an idea of what the text is all about.

        I tried it out on my blog, and it looks like this: (can you guess what the most important word is? ;)

        (click on image to view full size)

        Thanks Erlend for the idea! <3

        Tuesday, June 21, 2011

        Losing tail feathers?

        What happens if tail feathers (or other feathers) fall out?

        This means your budgie is probably molting. Luckily, the feathers will come back in no time, because the flight feathers in the tail are the most important for flight and essential for your budgie's survival.

        Photo © Hanz on the Talk Budgies forum
        Why do budgies lose their feathers? Feathers lose some of their insulative and protective qualities over time. If you wore the same clothes every day, the same would happen to you and eventually those clothes wouldn't keep you warm anymore. A budgie's answer to this is to generate a new bunch of feathers.

        Sunday, June 19, 2011

        Do budgies smell bad?

        Many people are curious if a pet budgie smells. In a way, it's the same as asking if a dog or a cat smells. If you never give your pet the opportunity to wash, then of course it will be smelly.

        Photo © Bird A Day Blog
        In general, budgies do not smell at all. They are among the cleanest creatures on the planet. Even their poop doesn't smell. Budgies prefer to take a bath every day. They preen themselves until their feathers shine. They don't go outside and roll in the mud, so they mostly preen themselves to remove dust particles from their skin.

        What people think their budgie smells like:

        In general, people think their budgie has a sweet, lovely scent of its own. Depending on what you feed your bird, it might have broccoli breath (then you have a BBB, or "Broccoli Breath Budgie") or apple breath, but never anything serious because you can't feed them garlic or fish.

        Most people also seem to think that budgies smell like (creamed) corn!

        Other people think budgies smell like:
        • laundry that has dried in the fresh air
        • something hard-to-describe between lavender and freshly-cut green plants
        • warm, fresh and musky
        • chocolate
        • cucumbers
        • cereals
        • rose petals
        • seeds
        • honey
        • not really anything, they are practically smell-free
        Conclusion: it's clear that budgies have some kind of sweet aroma, especially when they are dry (some people say they smell a bit funky when they're wet) and have been outside in the open air. A lot of people admitted they love to smell their budgies. Too bad we can't get some Eau de Budgie in the store :)

        Personally, I think they smell a bit like warm pancakes. What do you think?

        Saturday, June 18, 2011

        Budgie Balancing Trick

        Budgies like companionship and they like to play. I found this video of a cute budgie trying to keep its balance on a tennis ball :) He probably set a world record!

        Tuesday, June 14, 2011

        Budgie Body Language (7)

        Does my budgie like to be petted on the head?

        Image ©

        Some budgies really like to be touched on their head by humans. But all budgies are different. Some budgies will only let their partner preen them. Some budgies do it to remove dust particles, or stimulate the blood flow in the area of the head, but most budgies do it out of tenderness. If you see a budgie preening another budgie, it means "I love you". If they "preen" your hair, it has the same meaning. You can return the good feeling by rubbing your budgie's head very lightly, sometimes up and down to the neck. You can also rub their belly a little bit, although some budgies don't like that at all. All budgies are different and it also depends on how close the bond with their owner is.

        Previous posts in this series:
        Body Language of a sleeping budgie
        Body Language of a preening budgie (Budgie Body Language 1)
        Budgie Body Language (2)
        Budgie Body Language (3)

        Budgie Body Language (4)  
        Budgie Body Language (5) 
        Budgie Body Language (6)

        Monday, June 13, 2011

        Wash your hands

        Image © Inetgiant
        It's not just a must when one of your budgies has mites, but it also works as a prevention against the spreading of human diseases on budgerigars.

        Even if you are not feeling ill, you should wash your hands with warm water + antibacterial soap before and after you are in close contact with your bird. A lot of budgies catch an illness from their owner. A regular cold, for example, can be fatal for a budgie, while we always recover from it.

        Sunday, June 12, 2011

        Alone is so lonely

        "Will my budgie be a more responsive pet if kept alone?"

        Photo © The Ottawa Humane Society
        This is the title of an article I just read by Frank Indiviglio.

        I noticed that the majority of the people voting in the poll on my blog only own one budgerigar. I'm not so pleased with this result. I always thought it's very sad to see a bird alone in a cage, without anyone of their own kind to interact with.  

        Most people see a big advantage in this, though: they claim that birds housed alone tend to form a stronger bond with their owner, more so than birds that have other bird companions. There are even owners who decide to give away other budgies in order to make the remaining budgie a "better" pet. In my opinion, this is an act of animal cruelty.

        Birds of a feather flock together

        Budgerigars in the wild are always together with their flock members. Even in very large flocks, during flight, it is usually quite simple to spot couples. They remain, literally, within touching distance of one another. So never separate your budgie from his or her mate, you don't know how much you are hurting your bird with this.

        I further quote: "A great many of the problems experienced by pet parrots are related to their bird being kept alone.  The agitated “dances”, displays and attacks on toys exhibited by solitary birds, and which are found amusing by those unfamiliar with parrot biology, are actually born of frustrated urges to mate and defend a territory.  Several parrot interest groups have now published position statements to the effect that housing a parrot alone is, in most cases, considered by the group to be animal abuse."

        Photo © The Ottawa Humane Society
        I understand that most people mean it well: they say they can spend more time on their budgie when there is only one of them. But bear in mind that spending a few hours each day with a budgie is still not enough - budgies kept alone need almost constant companionship of a person if that person is to be considered a “substitute” for the missing mate. This is extremely difficult to arrange for most people.

        Please think about this if you only have one budgie. Budgies that are alone don't get half as old as the ones that have a budgie companion, to say the least.

        Read the full article here:

        Friday, June 10, 2011

        First steps

        Here is a video of a yellow baby budgie trying to walk. The first steps are always the hardest, but he doesn't give up :)

        Wednesday, June 8, 2011

        Go to a pet store, save a budgerigar

        Something I have been wondering about for a long time:

        What exactly happens to budgies that don't get sold in the pet store?

        Budgies that are sold on a market are likely to suffer the same fate. Image ©
        Reasonable pet stores

        Luckily, in most pet stores ALL the budgies are kept until they are sold (or so they say).
        Adult budgies as well as baby budgies get sold quite rapidly, but the demand for young birds is still the highest.

        Horrible pet stores

        The less scrupulous ones may neglect the budgies that don't sell, waiting for them to fall ill, then ship them back in crates with dying or dead budgies, back to the supplier for a refund. Or, the older, weaker budgies may end up as free snake or reptile food. There are actually pet stores who worked with this "system". Budgies with problems sometimes go back to the breeder they came from - the breeder will most likely end their life because those budgies are "useless" to them. Some budgies are just kept in the display aviary for the rest of their life. Very, very boring.

        But, do we really know?

        Go to any pet store in town and ask the owner this question. Will they tell you the truth?
        How much do they really care about these little birds?

        One of the local pet stores here sold us a baby budgie with only half a wing, because they had clipped it too far. I think it's a scandal. The poor budgie is living at our home now, but he will never be able to fly. I don't know what would have happened if we had left him in the pet store.
        So if you care for budgies, you might want to go to the pet store and buy a pair to make sure they are in good hands.

        Sunday, June 5, 2011

        Sparkie Williams, the talking budgie

        Our new budgie of the month, Sparkie Williams (1954 - 1962) was a talking budgie with a repertoire of more than 500 words and eight nursery rhymes. He was owned by Mrs Mattie Williams, who lived in Forest Hall, near Newcastle-upon-Tyne.

        And the winner is...

        Sparkie put 3,000 rivals to flight in 1958 when he won the BBC International Cage World Contest for talking budgies. By the time he had won this, he was about three-and-a-half years old. He was so good that he was not allowed to take part again!

        National celebrity

        Image © Kiwi's Angels
        Sparkie soon became a national celebrity. He was used in an advertising campaign for Capern’s bird seed and they offered him many jobs in other television and radio programs. His name was appearing all over the press world.

        With the fame came the fortune. Within a couple of years Sparkie was rich enough to never have to worry about where the next bowl of Trill was coming from. He even had £1,000 in his own bank account.

        Even after his death, the world didn't get enough of Sparkie Williams. People suddenly noticed that the bird had a brown cere! Could it be a disease? Did Sparkie receive inappropriate treatment from the taxidermist? Or was he in fact a GIRL? Image © Herring Bros, click on image to enlarge.
        Bird Mimicry CD

        Sparkie's fame spread far and wide. His voice was even used on the Bird Mimicry CD in the British Library.

        Image © Tesco Books
        The album Bird Mimicry contains recordings of mimicry from wild and captive birds that accurately imitate things from horse whinnies to wood being sawn. All of the sounds have been drawn from the British Library Sound Archive that holds the world's largest collection of nature sounds.

        In true Geordie language, Sparkie chirped out: "Wor little spuggy ran oop the wahter spoot. The rain came down and washed the spuggy oot."

        For anyone south of Newcastle the rhyme tells how a small sparrow was stuck in a drainpipe before being washed out by the rain. It is one of the nursery rhymes that Sparkie was taught as a young budgie.

        The 1958 record

        Sparkie even made his own record, which sold over 20,000 copies. The record was issued by Capern’s, the budgie seed company for whom Sparkie made commercials, to help owners teach their birds to talk.

        Image © Kiwi's Angels
        Everything He Ever Said

        When Sparkie died, he was stuffed by the best taxidermist in London and taken on a tour of Britain in an exhibition of his life and work, before coming back to the Hancock Museum in 1996. Sparkie Williams was then acclaimed as the world’s most outstanding talking bird in the Guinness Book of Records.

        Everything He Ever Said is the name of the exhibition that opened in December 2002 in Newcastle's Hancock Museum.

        At the museum, you could also get t-shirts printed with a couple of catch phrases from Sparkie, including: "I'm just a crazy mixed up kid" and "What are you looking at?"

        The exhibition also included Mattie Williams's diary, which recorded how she trained Sparkie to talk, alongside a photograph of Mattie and Sparkie. The real Sparkie was not in the exhibition, as he stayed at his permanent home in another part of the Hancock Museum.

        His display has been updated recently and visitors can now hear him talk after Hancock staff transferred the original reel-to-reel tapes of his performances on to digital CD.


        Michael Nyman. Photo © FRANCESCO GUIDICINI
        Sparkie Williams even became the inspiration for a new opera by composer Michael Nyman and fellow artist Carsten Nicolai: Sparkie: Cage and Beyond. It was premiered at the Berlin Festspiele in March 2009. The opera is based on Michael Nyman’s 1977 piece Pretty Talk. They used original material from Parlophone and played a 7-inch flexi disc that contained short sentences recorded by Sparkie’s owner, Mrs Williams, to encourage her pet to speak - followed by replies from Sparkie himself.
        Sparkie: Cage And Beyond also features further recordings from the Sparkie archives of the Natural History Society of Northumbria.

        Thursday, June 2, 2011

        Mites are Monsters (2)

        As you may have read in my last post, mites can be a serious problem to budgerigars. I have collected some information on how to get rid of them, which I hope will be useful to anyone experiencing this problem. It's also a good reminder to all budgie owners that they have to look out for this parasitic infestation, as budgies and canaries are by far the common victims.

        Treatment: the "safest and healthiest" options

        Several veterinarians provide drug-based options, like Ivermectin. Vegetable oil has proven to be a safe and good non-medical solution. Avian Web offers a breeder testimonial in which the cage was filled with vegetable oil-soaked seeds that coated the budgie's legs and feet. This sticky cover suffocated the mites. Alternatively, Budgie Place recommends rubbing the vegetable oil on the infected area twice a day, in addition to disinfecting the cage thoroughly before starting treatment and again when the infection clears up.

        Image © Greener PRactices
        Simple common household products, such as either Benzyl Benzoate, Paraffin or Petroleum Jelly, have also been successfully used to treat birds with initial or minor infection. Similar to the vegetable oil treatment, the bird's legs are soaked in an oil or cream to suffocate the mites. This procedure is repeated every 3 to 4 days for 2 weeks. Even when the infection clears up, you have to remember that mites are easily eradicated by washing and changing perches, feeder cups and toys frequently and by keeping the cage clean and washed. If there is no hygiene, the parasites will come back in no time.

        Controlling scaly face and leg mites

        According to Avian Web, the big problem with Scaly Face is not how to treat an individual bird. The concern is how to stop the problem from affecting other birds. Scaly face mites are quite contagious and if left untreated, other birds will succumb to the disease.

        Image © Cliff on the Talk Budgies Forums
        In addition, because the infection only becomes obvious after six to twelve months, it can have quite a toe-hold on a flock of birds before the problem becomes obvious.

        The mites also seem able to burrow into wooden perches in the cage. Avian Web recommends strongly to replace perches in an infected cage weekly, using natural perches instead.

        Mite poison: the more "drastic" solutions, in case your bird is heavily infected

        The area around the vent and the legs can be treated with paraffin; the eyes, however, should not be treated with this oily substance, since there is a risk that the bird won't be able to see anymore.

        Image ©
        The picture above shows a budgerigar that wasn't treated for a long time. These budgies suffer very badly from itching since they feel the mites burrowing under their skin, into their beak, and spreading down their legs. Please don't ever let it come this far.

        If the area around the bird's eyes is full of mites, you should definitely take it to a vet. In the case of a strong infection, the vet will use a medicine containing the ingredient ivermectin. Some time ago, a drug called Ivomec (mostly known in Europe) was usually used. Due to its toxicity, its usage has been discontinued.  

        Ivermectin is a broad-spectrum antiparasitic agent that you might want to use if you have an aviary full of birds, with the infection spreading everywhere. It's heavy poison for the mites and they will die within a very short time.

        Important note: just like SCATT, this poison is not without risk for your birds. It's highly toxic and you shouldn't use it without consulting your veterinarian first, as an overdose may kill your birds!!! Your veterinarian will advise you further on its use and on other procedures to control the problem.

        Also, do NOT use insecticides or anti-mite-spray. These agents are usually highly toxic and harmful for your budgies! Burrowing mites are harmless for humans; there is no risk of an infection!

        All information is © Birds Online and Avian Web.

        Read more information on parasite mites on budgies in these articles:

        Burrowing mites (scaly face/scaly leg mite) on Birds Online
        Scaly Leg or Scaly Feet Syndrome in Birds: Causes, Symptoms and Treatment Options as well as Prevention on Avian Web
        Is Vegetable Oil Good for Scaly Feet in Budgerigars? on Zearticles
        Does my budgie have parasite problems? on The Budgie Place 
        Budgie foot problems on The Budgie Cage