Australia – where the wild budgies live
Wild budgies are native to Australia. Their scientific name is Melopsittacus undulatus and they actually belong to the bird family called parrots or Psittacidae as scientists say. Down under, budgerigars, in particular, live in the wide, open landscape that is called the Outback. It rarely rains there, the vegetation is accordingly sparse in most places and sandy ground dominates the scenery. During the day it gets very hot, at night it can become quite cool. Thus the Outback is a great challenge for all animals living there. To find enough food and water, surviving there is only possible for the budgies by roaming around and looking for places with good conditions. To live permanently in one place would not be possible for these little parrots.
With their length of only 18 cm or 7 in the wild relatives or our domesticated birds are very dainty. In almost each wild budgie, the feathers at their breast and belly as well as at the lower back are light green. The birds have a yellow face and a black-yellow wave-like drawing at the head, upper back, and on the wings. Budgies are slim built, which helps them to be powerful and athletic flyers. Outside the breeding period, budgerigars join together to huge flocks, that usually include at least several hundred to thousand or occasionally even ten thousands of individuals. As green clouds, they move through the country – always in search of food, water, and places where they can breed.
After the rain comes green
As soon as suitable weather conditions arise and it has rained in the outback, the green will sprout. If the wild budgies find such a place where there are enough fresh grasses and other plants, they usually quickly start to come into breeding condition. The small parrots prefer to nest in natural cavities within the branches of eucalyptus trees. Smaller caves are preferred by budgies, in the bigger ones that are also typical for gum trees, other birds like for example the Cockatiels (Nymphicus hollandicus) raise their chicks. These preferred nesting trees can often be found near dry river beds, at the edges of ponds, or near so-called billabongs. The latter are branches of a river forming backwaters or stagnant pools.
Similar as seagulls, cormorants and some other bird species, budgies breed in colonies. Most of these holes in the trees are very close to one another. In some huge eucalyptus-tree, more than three pairs raise their chicks in separate cavities. Probably they breed in colonies to protect themselves efficiently from predators. Where many birds gather in a small space, numerous eyes search the surroundings for potential enemies. This considerably increases the security of a single individual. So that they can warn each other acoustically, the birds must speak the same “language”. Therefore budgies have a typical sound-repertoire, that every bird masters and understands. Also, our domesticated birds in aviaries or living rooms make the same sounds and would understand their wild Australian relatives immediately in case they met them.
But let’s get back to the wild budgies. If necessary, the females extend natural caves in the trees with the help of their beak. So in fact it is no gossip that female budgies can bite more firmly than males. It’s up to them to make sure the hollow is large enough for nesting, that’s why they need their powerful beak. After laying their eggs, the feathered future Mummys incubate the eggs for 18 days. During this period, the males provide them with food. But the survival of the females and the eggs doesn’t only depend on the male budgies for these 18 days. After the chicks have hatched, the mother still has to stay with them to keep them warm for at least another week. Only after a certain time, the chicks can maintain their body temperature. This means that that the female budgies can now leave the nest for a while to search for food like their male counterparts. Thus both parents then provide the constantly hungry chicks with food and water.
The tiny seeds of Spinifex, Mitchell, and other grasses are the main food of wild budgies, but wild millet is also on their menu. Occasionally they also eat wheat from the fields of Australian farmers – much to their chagrin. In the early morning hours, the animals often gather in huge flocks of several thousand individuals to start the day together and go in search of food. They often go to the ground to drink the morning dew from the grasses or to take a bath by rubbing their feathers on the wet grass. For food and water intake, the small parrots usually fly many kilometers per day.