English and wild type budgies
Are there different types or maybe even species of budgies? This question keeps many bird owners busy, especially beginners often struggle with it. If one looks more exactly at budgies, one notices quickly that they occur not only in different colors but also in different sizes. So what is it all about? And why are some birds called English budgies and others not? Well, they are all budgies – exactly like the smaller relatives, who still resemble their wild ancestors in Australia. That is why, independently of their size all budgies belong to the same species, which is called scientifically Melopsittacus undulatus.
But there are different types within this species. These types are the result of breeding these birds in captivity for about 200 years now. However, they are not called breeds, as is the case with dogs for example. Budgies of the different types also show different colors – the so-called varieties or mutations – and some birds even are crested.
It is mainly the body size, which is typical for the different types. In addition to this, the feather markings differ a bit. Budgies living in Australia are the smallest. Most pet budgies are at least a little bit taller than they are. Small domesticated budgies are called wild type since they are only slightly bigger than their wild relatives. The largest birds are the English budgies and show budgies. Because large and small budgies can reproduce with one another, there is an intermediate type, whose size lies in the middle range. On this page, you can learn more about all these types.
In their native habitat, wild budgies are all equally colored: The plumage at breast and stomach as well as at the lower back is light green, the face is yellow, the head, the upper back, and the wings are yellow-black colored and show the wave pattern which is typical for this bird species. On each side of the face, the birds have one dark blue cheek patch and three small black throat spots. The long tail feathers are dark blue. The typical size is approximately 18 cm or 7 in and their weigh about 22 g.
Typically for domesticated budgerigars is that they occur in many different color varieties. Therefore the coloring of wild type budgies is very variable. Their size and the appearance of the face are characteristic for it: Like the wild Australian budgies, wild type birds only have six small throat spots. In most color varieties they’re black but can also be grey or brownish; in some color varieties, they even lack. There are three throat spots on each side of the face. The distance between the tip of the upper beak and the lower edge of the facial feathers, i.e. the distance to that point where they meet the breast feathers, is comparatively short. It is usually shorter than the length of the upper beak. The feathers on the forehead are not very voluminous, the eyes of the birds are visible from every perspective.
The height of wild type budgies is normally between 18 cm and 20 cm (around 7 to nearly 8 in), measured from the head to the tip of the tail. Their normal weight normally varies between 35 g and approximately 38 g, particularly small birds can also weigh only approximately 28 g to 30 g, however. Wild type budgies with green coloration and the typical yellow and black drawing still look very similar to their free relatives from Down Under.
English budgies are approximately 22 cm or even up to 24 cm (more than 8 in) tall. They usually weigh about 50 g to 55 g without being overweight. Their physique is accordingly broad and bulky. The plumage is very voluminous and dense, the individual feathers are comparatively long. In their face, there are numerous big throat spots. Because of their voluminous, long feathers on the forehead and on top of the head, one cannot see their eyes from some perspectives.
Some people don’t like this breed-form because it deviates quite strongly from the natural look of the Australian budgies. Others however adore those large, fluffy birds as beautiful creatures and they think that English budgies are more attractive than their wild relatives. To my opinion, it is a question of personal taste and you have to decide for yourself what you think about this topic.
You may now wonder why the birds are called English budgies. The reason is simple: Some years after their discovery by the naturalist George Shaw in 1805, the first budgies were brought to Europe by ship. Relatively soon first breeding successes were achieved. In the beginning, the birds bred in captivity were similarly small as the wild ancestors and they were just equally colored. Then, after a few years, the first color mutations appeared, including blue budgies with white faces, albinos (pure white birds with red eyes), and lutinos (pure yellow birds with red eyes). Gradually, numerous further color mutations occurred and the breeders also succeeded in creating larger budgies.
Because especially the color varieties and the stately size were popular from the beginning, the breeders soon tried to establish these amazing new color mutations and the increased body size permanently by selective mating of their birds. While some breeders rather concentrated on the color mutations, the breeding goal of some others was to increase the body size of the domesticated budgies and to breed their plumage more voluminous. England was one of the strongholds of these breeding efforts. That is where the new ideal of beauty was given a name: The English budgie was “born”.
These birds are to a certain extent an intermediate form of wild type and English budgies. At first, English budgies were rare and expensive. They were presented at shows and evaluated in breeder competitions. But after a while, there were so many English budgies that breeders started to sell them as pet birds. Several of these English budgies lived together with wild type budgies and often raised chicks. This established the intermediate type.
Intermediate type budgies have significantly more throat spots on their face than the wild type budgies (with exception of the color mutations which do not have throat spots at all). But there are less of these spots than in English budgies’ faces. The space between the tip of the upper beak and the edge of the facial feathers, where they meet the chest, is usually slightly larger than in wild type budgies and a bit shorter than in English budgies; the space can be about as large as the length of the upper beak.
On the forehead and the top of the head, the plumage is a little more voluminous than in the wild type budgies, but not as bulging as in the larger English budgies. The eyes of the intermediate type birds are usually quite easy to see from almost all perspectives because in general they are only partially covered by feathers. Typically these birds are between 20 cm and 21 cm in size (about 7 in) and usually weigh about 40 g to 45 g.
Because meanwhile also many intermediate type budgies were mated among each other, their size and their appearance vary considerably. They may be middling between wild type and English budgies or have an appearance which is quite close to that of one or the other of these two breeding types. Therefore the number of throat spots, as well as their size, differs a lot. But usually, they have more than six throat spots, unless they don’t belong to a color variety which lacks this typical face drawing.
Today, extremely large budgies mostly are bred exclusively for bird exhibitions or shows. This is why they are called show budgies. And in fact, they are very tall English budgies. Conversely, however, it does not apply that each English budgie is also a show budgie. This is because show budgies have to fulfill very strict standards to meet the beauty ideals demanded at bird exhibitions. These birds are characterized by extremely voluminous and long feathers and their numerous throat spots are very large. Depending on the color mutation these throat spots can also be reduced or in some cases, they even lack. Show budgies can be up to 25 cm tall (more than 8 in) and they weigh over 55 g.
Only very rarely, such birds can be found in pet stores. They’re usually too valuable for the breeders to be sold as “simple” pet birds. With especially “high quality” birds, prizes can be won at a bird shows.