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What is a Parakeet?

By Debra Durkee
Updated Mar 05, 2024
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The parakeet is a small, colorful bird commonly kept as a pet. Originally from Australia, it made its way first into Japan and then into England and continental Europe, where its popularity as a household pet quickly rose. While yellow and green birds are common, there are dozens of different species and color combinations to be found. A parakeet native to South or Central America is also called a conure.

A relatively small bird that can be kept comfortably in a cage, a parakeet is a hardy, easy to keep pet, and has made a first pet for countless children. It is also relatively inexpensive, and can be purchased from pet stores throughout the world. Easy to keep, it requires only seed and gravel in the cages for diet, and some toys and a mirror for entertainment, along with a mineral block for naturally trimming the beak.

In their native environment, parakeets are highly social birds that travel in huge flocks. Also known as the budgerigar, the parakeet originally had either green or yellow feathers. The first new color to be created was the blue; after that, different genetic lines were cross-bred to create the vast array of colors that are now available. Many parakeets in pet stores are still in the basic colors, with distinctive brown and white or black and white mottled feathers around their heads. New species include the plum-headed parakeet, with red or purple feathers on its head, and the solid-colored Indian ringneck parakeet, known for the colored collar around its neck.

There is a wide variety among parakeet species; because of this, it is important to research a species before purchasing. Some species are highly intelligent and can easily be taught tricks or taught to speak, while others typically do not even like to be handled. Australian parakeets are among the most brightly colored, while those from the Americas typically have more muted colors. Most species enjoy being around centers of activity in the home, and will benefit from care and attention.

For most species, pairs of parakeets will breed quite readily in captivity. As they are naturally highly social birds, they are well adapted to sharing their cage with a companion. Each species can have its own specific requirements for laying and hatching their eggs, and considerations can include temperature, humidity and the diet of the adult birds. Birds mature quickly, and can fend for themselves when they are only a few weeks old.

Frequently Asked Questions

What exactly is a parakeet?

A parakeet is a small to medium-sized parrot with a long tail and a slender body. The term 'parakeet' is often used interchangeably with 'budgerigar' or 'budgie,' which is one of the most popular species within the group. Parakeets are known for their vibrant plumage, social behavior, and ability to mimic human speech.

How many species of parakeets are there?

There are over 100 species of parakeets. These birds belong to several genera, with the most well-known being the budgerigar (Melopsittacus undulatus) from Australia. Parakeets are found in a variety of habitats worldwide, with a rich diversity of species in South America and Australasia.

Can parakeets talk like other parrots?

Yes, parakeets can mimic human speech. Among parakeets, the budgerigar is renowned for its ability to learn a large vocabulary. With consistent training, these birds can learn phrases and songs. Their vocal abilities make them popular pets for those interested in teaching their birds to talk.

What is the lifespan of a parakeet?

The lifespan of a parakeet varies by species, but the common pet parakeet or budgerigar typically lives between 5 to 10 years in captivity. With excellent care, including a nutritious diet, proper housing, and regular veterinary check-ups, some budgies can live up to 15 years or more.

What do parakeets eat?

Parakeets are omnivores with a diet that includes seeds, fruits, vegetables, and occasionally insects. In captivity, a balanced diet is crucial for their health, consisting of high-quality seed mixes, fresh produce, and formulated pellets. It's important to provide variety to ensure they receive all necessary nutrients.

Are parakeets good pets for families?

Parakeets can be excellent pets for families due to their social nature and relatively easy care requirements. They are interactive, can be hand-tamed, and enjoy social interaction. However, they do require daily attention and mental stimulation, so families should be prepared to spend time with their feathered friend each day.

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Discussion Comments

By Lostnfound — On May 20, 2014

Parakeets are nice little birds. I think they need more than seeds to eat, though. My friend who kept them always had parakeet pellets they ate. She kept a millet spray in the cage, along with a cuttlebone, for calcium. You have to keep the water changed out too, because birds are not neat, and will flip things into their water bowls.

She always had a toy or two in his cage, and he loved to ring a little bell on the end of one of the toys. He always looked so pleased with himself when he would hit that bell. He was a very sweet, sociable bird.

By Grivusangel — On May 19, 2014

Seems like I remember seeing wild parakeets when we went to Aruba. They may have been parrots, but I believe our hotel concierge said they were parakeets.

When the only parakeets you've ever seen have been in cages in homes or pet stores, it's a little odd to see them actually in flocks in the wild.

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