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The budgerigar is also known as the common parakeet or by the shortened name of budgie. These colorful little members of the parrot family are native to Australia, New Zealand, New Caledonia, and the surrounding islands. Commonly kept as pets, budgerigars can be found in a variety of different colors but are frequently seen with green, blue, or yellow plumage.
The average budgerigar is about 7 inches (18 cm) long and weighs between 0.9 and 2.1 oz (25 to 60 grams). There are more than 100 different color combinations and patterns seen on the plumage of the budgerigar, though many show a distinctive, black and white stripe pattern across the back of the neck and the wings.
Above the beak is a fleshy patch called a cere that can be used to identify the gender of the bird. In breeding males, it is blue or purple in most varieties of budgerigars. The patch is light brown or pink in non-breeding males, brown in breeding females, and white or light blue in non-breeding females. Juveniles have a purplish-pink cere.
These Australia natives are hardy birds, making their homes in arid environments that force the birds to fly long distances in search of food and water. Highly social birds, budgerigars thrive in groups of up to 60 but average between 20 and 40. An old species, they have been thought to have been making their homes throughout interior Australia for more than 5 million years. The name budgerigar comes from the aboriginal word betcherrygah, which means "good to eat."
Popular pets, budgerigars are intelligent and social birds that can be kept in pairs, or singly if provided with plenty of human interaction. As members of the parrot family, they can be taught to speak; there have been recorded examples of budgerigars taught to recite nursery rhymes and phrases. Budgerigars in captivity enjoy interacting with their human owners as well as playing with toys and learning tricks. Capable of flying for miles in the wild, they do best in large cages or when allowed time to fly free throughout a room. The typical lifespan of the pet budgerigar is between five and eight years, but some may live up to 15.
Male budgerigars tend to be more vocal, active, and friendly than females, who tend to have a more aggressive nature and be more likely to chew on the wood items in their cages. Both genders are prone to boredom, and can begin demonstrating behaviors like plucking out their own feathers. With time and training, both sexes can make rewarding pets.