The Pet Parakeet’s Wild cousins
The above photo was taken by Ann Britton who submitted it as a user submitted photo to the ABC. It shows a flock of budgerigars at Boulia in far west Queensland (15 October 2009).
In order to keep your pet parakeet happy it’s important for you understand how these wonderful little birds live their lives in the wild. The more you can make your parakeet’s life resemble the life of his wild cousins, they happier he will be.
Wild parakeets are nomadic creatures (they live there lives flying from place to place) that live in huge flocks found in Australia’s arid outback. This is an environment that is extremely harsh to virtually all living things. In order to cope with the lack of food and water found in their desert home, parakeets have several incredible adaptations that set them apart from other parrots. They are small which helps them live on less food than larger parrots, they can breed all year round (instead of only during certain seasons like a macaw or conure) and they have a speacial gland that allows them to drink salty water without getting sick. Parakeet bodies are so efficient at using water that if the temperature is cool, they can go up to 30 days without having to drink any water at all (please don’t try this with your pet parakeet).
Social life of a wild Parakeet
Wild Parakeets are never alone. They are extremely social animals that need a friend close by at all times in order to feel safe. On occasion you might see a single pair of parakeets but they usually fly in flocks if 5 or more. If conditions are good they will fly in groups of well over 1000.
Parakeet flocks take off early in the morning in search of grass seeds (their favorite food) and fresh water to drink. Within the flock they mimic each other’s sounds and actions as they go. This is how they are able to learn and teach each other new skills.
Unlike other birds, parakeets do not seem to have any sort of “pecking order” inside the flock. There are no leaders and no servants among parakeets. All are all treated equal within the group. They eat, they select mates, and they find nesting grounds all on a first come first serve basis. Small fights can break out when a bird’s personal space is invaded or when two birds are going for the same seeds at the same time but these fights are rare and the winner doesn’t seem to gain any sort of lasting authority among the flock.
Wild Parakeet Food
The diet of a wild parakeet consists of the seeds of over 20 plants which is an amazing variety for any wild animal. That’s more variety than most people typically get in their own diets. Most of the seeds come from grasses like Astrepla Lappacea.
Wild parakeets seem to be totally vegetarian. They have never been seen to eat insects or other animal foods. They are not picky eaters. They will eat the seeds from virtually any plant they find (as long as the seed is ripe).
Parakeet flocks will feed early in the morning, nap in a tree throughout the day when it’s hot, then go out in search of food again in the late afternoon as the temperature begins to cool once more.
Wild Parakeet Coloration
Pet parakeets can come in all shades of green, yellow, blue, and even white but wild parakeets are almost always green with yellow on the face, blue spots on the cheeks, and black stripes on the head and wings. The green coloration helps them blend in with the trees on which they live and the black stripes help them blend in with the rest of the flock to confuse predator birds that may be wanting to attack from above.
The amazing color variations found in the pet trade are the results of careful selective breeding over the past 150 years.