Did you know that parakeets, also known as budgies, are the smallest of the parrot family? And yes, that includes the ability to talk!
Cheerful, chirpy, cute, and all-around a pretty good beginner pet. No wonder they are one of the most popular pet birds. Plus they are quite affordable.
If you are looking for a pet bird, or have a special someone in your life that is wanting a pet bird, then you have come to the right place to learn all about these sweet tweets!
Parakeets, Budgies, Parrots, Oh My!
What’s what? Are parakeets parrots? Then what are budgies? Are all parrots considered parakeets? It’s easy to get confused if you aren’t an Ornithologist (a scientist who studies birds).
Here’s what Webster’s Dictionary has to say:
Parakeet: any of numerous usually small slender parrots with a long graduated tail
Budgie: (informal for budgerigar) a small Australian parrot (Melopsittacus undulatus) usually light green with black and yellow markings in the wild but bred under domestication in many colors
Parrot: any of numerous widely distributed tropical birds (order Psittaciformes and especially family Psittacidae) that are often crested and brightly colored, have a distinctive stout hooked bill and zygodactyl feet, and include some excellent mimics
Did that clear things up? Ummmm…actually not completely. So let me explain in language even a parakeet could understand. A parrot is a tropical bird that talks. Parakeets are the smallest of the parrot family, and budgies are just one of many types of parakeets. Easy peasy.
Types of Parakeets
World Birds breaks parakeets down into 14 different types, but those are just the basic types. Other organizations and experts have a different number going well past 100 different types of parakeets, mind boggling to say the least.
Others break the parakeet family down into categories such as the Asiatic Parakeets and Grass Parakeets (found in grasslands, native to Australia). Examples of Asiatic include Ring Necked and Plum Headed Parakeets. Examples of Grass Parakeets include Scarlet Chested and Splendid Parakeets.
Regardless, the point is that there isn’t just one type of bird called a parakeet – there are many, many types. We will be focusing on the American Parakeet in this article.
What Do Parakeets Look Like?
Well, since there are so many kinds of parakeets this is a hard question to answer. We are going to narrow it down to the American Parakeet (also known as Budgies), the ones most people think of as parakeets.
American Parakeets are the ones you see at your local pet store for a very modest amount of money. These pretty little things are also known as the Shell Parakeet, but rarely, if ever, called that by the general public.
They are described as any type of small parrot that has a slender build and long tail feathers. They come in many colors, but the most common are blue, yellow, and green. There are also unique colors like violet, pied, and even albino.
Generally speaking, their chests are a solid color, while their wings and backs have black bars running up and down. The black bars usually stop at the face (although young budgies have them on their foreheads sometimes but they recede with time and age).
Parakeet faces are also most often a different color than their bodies, such as a yellow face with a green body. Thier faces are either a solid color like that of their chests or often two toned (such as white and yellow).
How Can You Tell If You Have a Male or a Female?
There are a couple of reasonable ways to tell whether you have a male or female parakeet. I say reasonable because many of the ways you might be told you can sex your parakeet might find you confused and frustrated. We are just normal, non-bird-scientist people after all.
So, reasonable it is! If you have extra money to throw around, you can have your parakeet DNA tested. It’s the most precise method, but it can be pricey. It’s pretty simple and your vet can order the test for you. Some bird breeders and pet stores will offer this service as well.
Another way is cheaper…technically free, unless you consider the price of your time while excersizing patience. It takes a LOT of patience. You pretty much have to wait one loooonnng year and then…….wait for it….waiiiittt for it….look at your parakeet. I know, it sounds involved doesn’t it? 😆
Parakeets have a little feature called a cere. A cere is a band of fleshy membrane that is right above the beak and surrounding the nostrils (yes, they have nostrils). Males and females have a noticeably different cere color according to bird experts.
Female parakeets usually have a more plain cere, with colors like white, tan, or light blue. Males cere’s are prettier (boy birds are prettier than the girls across all, or most, bird species), with colors like purple, blue, and pink.
We now know they are little parrots, they are colorful, and they are cute. But are they great pets? I’d venture to say that 99.9% of parakeet owners will shout YES to that question.
Parakeets are known for being very gentle and docile. They are curious and love to entertain. Even though they are gentle, it’s important to know that they are still birds and not cuddly kittens. They do definitely interact with humans though.
We have parakeets in our immediate family and they are a joy to be around. Often times, they are let out to fly about the house and interact with people. Singing, and chirping, and occasionally landing on your head (which scared Grandma of course, but everyone else found it to be part of the entertainment).
They are not apt to bite or peck at humans, especially if they have been handled often from a young age. And when they do peck, it doesn’t cause much ado because their beaks are so small.
If you have a female, they may be a little more likely to bite if they have eggs they are protecting. Also, if you have a male and female, they may be more tempermental during mating times.
Can Parakeets Really Talk?
I must admit, I was quite surprised when I learned that parakeets CAN talk. Now that we know they are the smallest of the parrot family, that makes more sense. They are little mimickers, so watch what you say😉. And if you kids are constantly calling out for “Mama!,” don’t be caught off guard when your feathered friend starts in too.
Some parakeets have been known to mymic hundreds of words, but most are not that proficient. They are not on par with some of the bigger parrots like African Greys, and even Macaws.
Are Parakeets Noisy?
Everyone seems have a different opinion of noisy. If you have a houseful of small children running around and being joyful and playing, a parakeet may not seem that noisy. If you live alone and bask in silence most of your day – you might call them noise makers extrodinaires.
Long story short, they are chatty little things that like to chirp and sing, and talk. Although, they are not as loud or as noisy other types of parrots. So, if you want a bird that talks but doesn’t make a habit of screaming… or that doesn’t try to have full blown conversations with you and your guests, then a parakeet is probably your bird.
How To Choose A Parakeet
When choosing a parakeet, you will want to check it over for some important things to be sure you are getting a healthy bird.
- A clean vent (that’t the personal area down under)
- Clean beak and nostrils (no discharge, mucous or crusty stuff)
- Smooth, shiny feathers
- A friendly demeanor (it may be a little shy first meeting you, but it shouldn’t be anti-social)
- It should have zygodactyl feet (Oh come on, you know we aren’t bird scientists! Ok, ok…this means they have four toes, two going forward and two pointing backwards)
- The nails should not be overgrown
Should a Parakeet Have a Cage Buddy?
Well, this depends. If you really want to bond with your parakeet and you are willing to spend a lot of time with him or her – then it’s best to just have one.
If you find that you may not have as much time to spend with your little friend as you thought you would, or you know up front that you will only spend a moderate amount of time interacting, then you might want a second parakeet to keep the first one company.
Just know that they will likely bond with each other and they may behave differently because of it. However, this doesn’t mean that you will not enjoy them and they will not enjoy you. It’s just a different dynamic.
Should I Buy a Young Parakeet?
This depends too. As with most pets, it’s a little more challenging to get an older one because of several reasons. You may not know or have access to their history, their level of care, and their daily routines. But there a lot of older pets out there that need homes, including parakeets.
If you get an older parakeet and they haven’t been socialized well or have not been hand tamed, it can be quite a challenge to reverse some of the habits and tendacies. However, if you are an animal lover and have the patience, then older birds are certainly worth the chance.
If you want or need to be sure you have a pet that you can be successful at hand-taming, then you are going to want to buy a very young parakeet. You are likely going to pay more for a hand-reared bird, but you know what you are getting for the most part.
Caring For a Parakeet
- You need a bird cage (a large cage is best for bird happiness)
- Perches (provide a variety of perch sizes)
- Several toys (and you need to change them out from time to time so they aren’t bored birdies)
- A nest for sleeping (check out these healthful nesting herbs you can put in their nest)
- Dishes or feeders for food
- Fresh water
- Parakeet feed
- Consistent access to fresh vegetables (like spinach, broccoli, beans, corn, and carrots)
- Daily interaction
A quick word about bird feed. You can buy feed specially formulated for parakeets, it will provide most of the nutrition your bird needs. However, they are much happier, and healthier if you feed them enough fruits and vegetables to satisfy their “wild side.”
I also want to mention an important point about the cage you use. It should be a cage meant for small birds with the spacing of the cage bars not being more than a 1/2 inch wide.
Is a Parakeet Right For Me?
If you have parrot fever but aren’t ready for such a big responsibility, a parakeet might be a good fit. Of course, they need care and attention, but they are much easier than larger parrot species. Parakeets are relatively easy keepers and bring a lot of joy. They are especially good pet for children as far as birds go.
Just be sure that you are ready for the commitment because once they bond with you, it’s pretty hard on them to disrupt that bond by rehoming them.
If you are hesitant about an indoor bird, you may want to consider an outdoor variety – like chickens! Believe it or not they can make great pets too (and some of them even make you breakfast 😉). Learn more about breeds of chickens here and about friendly chickens here.
A happy wife, mother, teacher, writer, hobby farmer, lover of chickens, and contributor to Pampered Chicken Mama!