Sunday, September 30, 2012

Budgies and Dinosaurs

Photo © Lunchi on deviantart

“By the time the meteor arrived, dinosaurs were likely already on their way to extinction. That event, if anything, simply hastened their demise but the end was already coming. I’m sure the dinosaurs were not happy about dying and certainly they weren’t happy about being forced to evolve into budgies, but sometimes these things just happen and there is no one to blame.”

If only the dinosaurs knew how amazing these little birds would turn out to be. However, some scientists claim that the common ancestor linking budgies and dinosaurs together is NOT a dinosaur, but a prehistoric creature called the Archaeopteryx. 

The Archaeopteryx, sometimes referred to by its German name Urvogel ("first bird"), was a kind of prehistoric creature that represented the transition between dinosaurs and birds, and has become a key piece of evidence in Darwin's evolution theory. This creature is referred to as the oldest known bird, and probably the oldest known ancestor of budgerigars.

Picture © Animal Planet

Sunday, September 23, 2012

Hello from Venice!

I bought two tickets to Venice for Erlend's Birthday, so I've been away for a few days. Here are a few pictures of Venitian budgies (or cocorite, as they are called in Italian). I took the pictures from a pet store in the city :)

There are too many budgies in that cage, but at least they seemed happy, because they have each other.

Sunday, September 16, 2012

New poll: do you own any other pets in addition to budgies?

Hello everyone,

I have set up a new poll on the top right of my blog. This time, I want to know if you own any other pets in addition to budgies. Some options may seem a bit far-fetched: I wonder if anyone keeps budgies AND spiders in the same house, or budgies and TIGERS? I hope not... but you can never know!

Photo © Being Brazen
Photo © dann1i on deviantart

In any case, feel free to vote whenever you pass by! Remember, you can select multiple answers.

The poll closes in exactly 100 days, so you have until Christmas to let me know :-)

Have fun, and have a nice weekend!


Poll results: how much can your budgie say?

There are a lot of chirping budgies (mine are too), but that doesn't mean that they will never talk.
Remember that talking budgies are a bit of a rarity, especially the talking titans like Puck, Victor or Sparkie Williams (he was perhaps the one budgie that is most famous for talking nowadays).

Budgies can't be forced to speak our language. It's a slow learning process that asks for a lot of patience. The best thing is to turn it into a game, to make it fun for both you and your little budgie friend!

Saturday, September 15, 2012

Does a budgie make a good Christmas present?

Photo © HONEST - STYLE on deviantart

Now that we're getting closer to Winter again, some people might start thinking about Christmas presents... or maybe it's just me ;-)

If you are thinking about giving a budgerigar as a Christmas gift to someone, I advice you to tell that person about your decision first. I know, then it's not a surprise anymore, but it makes me sad to know that some budgies end up in an animal shelter because the people who got them as a present didn't have room for them, or didn't like birds, or were allergic to them... You need to check this first!

Budgies can be perfect pets for anyone, except young children. Body contact is very important for children under eight years old, and budgies really don't want to be hugged or squeezed. Budgies are also very jumpy and they get startled by rash movements, which toddlers or young children don't fully have under control yet.

Please also check if the person you have in mind has any other pets. Cats are natural enemies, and dogs are also known for attacking budgies to defend their territory. I've heard of people who keep cats and budgies together, but it involves an enormous risk and you can never be sure that your budgie is safe.

Now, if you ask me what I want for Christmas... :-)

How to teach your budgie to talk in 5 steps

Budgies are extremely intelligent, and therefore can be taught to talk easily. But you need to create the right atmosphere first. And don't forget: you need your budgie's cooperation. They are not going to talk just because you want them to.

First of all, here is a little fact. Some people say that only male budgies can learn to talk. This is a myth, because females can learn too, and there are plenty of talking female budgies out there!

Photo © flip-for-love on tumblr


  •  Wait until your budgie is at least 3-4 months old before you start teaching him or her to talk. 

  • Be a good and patient teacher for your budgie. Don't get mad at him if he doesn't show any signs of interest. It may seem like it will never happen, but just keep trying, and eventually, your budgie may talk!

  • When you teach him/her how to talk, try to use your own language, or at least a language that you master well. It will sound more natural and relaxed to your budgie, and they will pick it up more easily.

  • One of the first things that you teach your budgie should be his own name, and the names of the other budgies in the cage.

  • Never punish your budgie if he makes a mistake, that is the worst thing you can do! They will not understand what they did wrong and get scared of you.

  • Always reward your budgie for his achievements. This will stimulate him to do even better. Typical budgie rewards are spray millet (it's like candy to them, so don't give them too much!), or a piece of fruit.

  • Try to teach one budgie at a time. Once he can talk, he will set an example for the other budgies in the cage. 

  • Put on some relaxing music, this may help to get your budgie into the right mind set for learning

  • Keep listening to your budgie, because when he finally says his first word, they often say it so quietly or quickly that you miss it!  

  • Budgies seem to find it easier to learn from women and children (sorry guys!), because they have a more high-pitched voice, and this is the type of voice that budgies feel the most comfortable with.

  • Read your budgie a bedtime story. It's not as crazy as it sounds and your budgie will love it! They will listen to your intonation, understand it a little bit, and maybe catch a word here and there! You can do this anytime during the learning process, it's always effective.

  • Last but not least: stay positive! Budgies love to get compliments! Tell them how good they are, use words like "sweet" and "beautiful", "strong" and "good". They work like magic and will reassure your budgies that they're in good hands.

Photo © pie-nya on tumblr

STEP 1: GET THE BUDGIE USED TO YOU - it's impossible to teach a budgie how to talk when he's terrified of you. The more tame your budgie is, the bigger the chance of talking. While you're teaching your budgie, remain calm and don't raise your voice or wave your hands. That will only stress them up.

STEP 2: START WITH ONE WORD - I don't mean that you have to say the same word all over again until your budgie is bored to death, but you should definitely focus on one word. It could be as simple as "budgie". Say "good morning budgie" or "how is my little budgie doing today?" or "I love you budgie". Your bird will see a pattern there. Say the word more slowly, "Bud-gee" and repeat that a few times. Your budgie will notice that this is an important word in your communication, and he will want to repeat it.

FYI: this is how far I got with Frodo right now. He definitely knows our word "parkietje" (Dutch for 'little budgerigar') and he's trying to repeat it.

STEP 3: SIMPLE SENTENCES - once your budgie can say a word or two, you can start with simple sentences. An easy way to do this, is to observe your budgies in the cage and tell them what they're doing. When Isla is taking a nap, I can tell Frodo that "Isla is sleeping". When Frodo is drinking water, I can tell him that he's a "thirsty bird". This is still relatively easy for a budgie to learn.

STEP 4: FEELINGS ** FOR HARDCORE TEACHERS ONLY** - this is where it gets much more complex. Budgerigars can feel love, fear, anger, grief and happiness. But it is very hard to explain them these things. Again, the best way to learn this is by association.

Love: courtship behaviour, such as mutual preening, or sharing food, shows a bond between mated budgies that can be seen as love. When Leonidas is feeding Pixie, I can say that "Leonidas loves Pixie". Or when Frodo is preening Isla, I can say that "Frodo loves Isla". You don't have to make it more complicated than this.

Anger: Angry budgie behaviour may contain threatening postures, intimidating noises, lunges and pecking or even biting. You often get to see this behaviour at feeders (oh, how many times they fight over the food!), or when their (nesting) territory is invaded. So here I could tell Isla to "stop being angry with Frodo", when she's chasing him off the feeding tray.

Grief: this is a complex emotion and one that I hope you will never have to explain to your birds. Budgies have been known to remember the death of a mate, or a friend, or a young. For days in a row, they could be searching for this budgie, without finding anything. As a result, they go quiet (it's often a bad sign when a budgie stays quiet for a long time) or show other signs of listless behaviour such as a drooping posture.

Fear: Quick flight and escape are the most obvious signs of fear. Budgies get easily scared by loud noises or sudden movements. Other fear factors include rapid breathing, freezing to the spot, and alarm or distress calls. For example: Pixie gets lost behind the curtain and doesn't see a way out. She starts calling for help, and then I could say that "Pixie is scared".

Happiness: is your budgie singing, or resting on one leg while crackling its beak? Then you certainly have a happy budgie! I often tell Frodo how happy he must be, because he's singing pretty much all the time :-)

This step may be the hardest of all, but also the most useful to you. I remember a story of an African Grey telling his owner that he felt "sick", because he was molting! Isn't that amazing? It would be so great if our budgies could tell us how they felt, and I realize that this is not easy to say the least! That's why I wrote "for hardcore teachers only" :-)

Photo © larkseye on tumblr

STEP 5: BASIC VOCABULARY - Once your budgie knows a few simple sentences, it's time to teach him the names of things around him. When someone comes to visit, tell your budgie the name of that person. You can teach him a little phrase to say hello or goodbye to visitors. Tell him about all the toys in his cage, or the food that he eats. Never underestimate your little friend, because budgies are capable of mastering a vocabulary of 1000+ words!

Monday, September 10, 2012

How to Train Your Budgie (comic)

Not really... but imagine riding a gigantic budgie? :D

Comic © pettyartist on tumblr

Sunday, September 9, 2012

The Budgerigar and the Neophema

Around 2000, Robert Manvell of the Newcastle Budgerigar Club of Australia announced that DNA testing has confirmed that the Budgerigar has ancestors in common with the Rosella and the Night Parrot.

Manvell spoke of an interesting theory in which he states that wild budgerigars could have been the same size as a rosella, if only there had been a constant and rich food supply, and they would not have had to fly the long distances they do today. If only the climate had been less hostile. However, it's only a theory, but it makes sense.

Green Rosella © Australian Birds on Blogspot

Nowadays, it is thought that the closest relations of the budgerigar are the Neophema species.

The Neophema consist of 6-7 parrot species:

1) The blue-winged parrot (aww, it looks like a little fat budgie!)

Photo © Wings on Wire
2) The elegant parrot

Photo © Lonsdale - Bird and Fodder
3) Rock parrot

Photo © Dartford Warbler on Blogspot
4) Orange-bellied parrot

Photo © Surfbirds Online Photo Gallery
5) Turquoise parrot

Photo © Wikipedia
6) Scarlet-chested parrot

Photo © Big Animals - Parrots

7) Depending on the author, the Bourke's Parrot may also be considered part of the Neophema, but unlike the Neophema, the Bourke's Parrot is not related to the Budgerigar.

Photo © OzAnimals - Australian Wildlife

Wednesday, September 5, 2012

New budgies of the month: Leonidas and Pixie

Hello all!

Frodo and Isla on the phone - photo © Bika Middag

The summer holidays are over, and we decided that it's finally time for Frodo and Isla to get some company. That's when I found an online advertisement about a man who wanted to sell two baby budgies.

The first thing that went through my head, was: 'they are too young to be sold' and 'they are cramped together in a tiny cage'. You know me - it was impossible to ignore them.

So the same evening, I took out the car and drove to a city called Kortrijk with Erlend. It's a long drive from here, more than 100 km, and we got lost twice because we have no GPS. But we finally made it!

When we drove back home, it was dark outside, I was alone on the highway, with Erlend and two baby budgies next to me. The babies were a bit shaken from the sudden change of environment, but I was glad to have them with me. I knew I could give them a better home, where I care for them with all my heart.

From left to right: Leonidas and Pixie - photo © Bika Middag

When we came back home, Frodo and Isla were already sleeping, so they didn't notice the new budgies. Or maybe they did, and they thought they were dreaming.

Anyway, the day after, they started chirping and calling out to each other. Frodo was really excited, but Isla had mixed feelings about it. You see, she's a bit possessive, so she didn't really want to share her house, food and toys with anyone. She didn't really seem to want to let go of Frodo, either.

Photo © Erlend Alvestad

We gave the baby budgies names. Erlend named the blue/yellow budgie Leonidas, and I named the green/yellow budgie Pixie.

On the third day, we put the cages together. What followed next, is one of the most beautiful things I've ever seen. The budgies were so happy to be finally together. I always said that it's better to have two budgies than only one, but four is really a great number. There is simply no room for boredom anymore. The budgies are playing and flying together as one flock. Even Isla is really happy - as long as they don't wake her up while she's taking a nap.

Pixie loves philosophy - photo © Bika Middag
Happy Bika and a big budgie cage - photo © Erlend Alvestad
Hungry Frodo and Leonidas - photo © Erlend Alvestad

Despite the difference in their ages, Frodo and Pixie hit it off instantly. Frodo is one year older than Pixie, but he is completely infatuated with her. Wherever Pixie goes, Frodo follows her like a shadow. It's amazingly cute.

Leonidas is the most quiet budgie in the cage, but he looks very smart. He also has the crazy habit of eating upside down:

photo © Erlend Alvestad

Today, I enjoyed some evening sun with all the budgies, and everything felt like perfect harmony. Right now they're getting ready to sleep. Tomorrow will be a new day in Budgie Kingdom.