Category Archives: Birds



By Alexander Wetmore
Originally appeared in the December 1938 issue of the National Geographic Magazine

This Web version COPYRIGHT 2004

A sketch by a Geographic staff artist shows the craftsmanship with grass and pliant twigs which has given the weaver family its name. A live red-billed weaver in the National Zoological Park in Washington, D. C., “posed” for the drawing. In decorating their cages they sometimes undo their work and start over again until finally satisfied.
Drawing by Hashirne Murayama



By Alexander Wetmore
Originally appeared in the December 1938 issue of the National Geographic Magazine

This Web version COPYRIGHT 2004

On one side of the narrow alley of steps hangs a small and modest cage, while on the other is a veritable bird apartment house. Even the poorer people have their canaries and finches. In this corner of a street of small shops there are a serrurerie (locksmith), a coiffeur (hairdresser), and an epicerie (grocery).
Photo by Relang from Three Lions


By Alexander Wetmore
Originally appeared in the December 1938 issue of the National Geographic Magazine

This Web version COPYRIGHT 2004

Forty nests under one thatched roof burden the branches of a tree at Maquassi in the Transvaal, South Africa. “Penthouse” colonies have been found containing as many as 200 pairs of birds. When a nesting site has been selected, all the feathered colonists join forces to build a common roof. Individual nests are constructed close together against the underside of the general covering. Each year, at breeding time, fresh nests are added upon the lower surface of the previous season’s “crop.” In many cases the mass eventually grows so huge and heavy that the supporting branches break under the load. A pair of pygmy falcons often takes up contemporaneous residence in one of the sociable weavers’ “sky cities.”
Photograph by Herbert Friedmann



By Alexander Wetmore
Originally appeared in the December 1938 issue of the National Geographic Magazine

This Web version COPYRIGHT 2004

“Birds to sing. If not sing can will be to change other. Dealer at moderate price.” So reads a Chinese vender’s shingle on his “houseboat” moored to a wharf at Kowloon, on the mainland opposite Hong Kong. Like water beetles, flotillas of junks and sampans crowd the shores of Cathay’s rivers. They are floating homes for thousands of families who never sleep on land.
Photograph by Alfred T. Palmer

A Cockatiel For A Pet

The cockatiel is a perfect pet bird. A hand-raised youngster quickly becomes attached to its owner. The males very easily learn to whistle tunes and can even be taught to talk. Cockatiels are easy to breed in either cages or aviaries. They are a great choice for anyone that would like to go into business raising birds. There is always a ready market for tame babies. Originally from Australia, many thousands are reared worldwide as pets. Cockatiels are also exhibited as a show bird.

The cockatiel now occurs in five well established color varieties. Some of these mutations also cause changes in eye color. Many other color variants have been reported. Some of these are new mutations being established by pioneering breeders. Others are simply combinations of pre-existing varieties or are imaginative names used in sales pitches.

The normal cockatiel is slate grey, reminiscent of a common pigeon. This is the form that exists in the wilds of Australia. A yellow suffusion covers the entire bird. This yellow is especially prominent in the head and crest of the male bird. Youngsters and hens have horizontal bars going down the tail.

The pretty Lutino is the best known cockatiel mutation. The Lutino cockatiel is right behind the budgie as far as popularity is concerned. The Lutino cockatiel is a white bird with variable yellow coloring. The yellow is here the same as the suffusion in the normal, but in the normal much of the yellow is hidden by the grey pigmentation. Lutinos have red eyes. Though not as easy as in the Greys, the sex of the Lutinos can be told through the color. If you look closely, the bars can still be barely made out in the tails of the hens. The males also again have more yellow in the head.

Lutinos are sometimes described as Albinos. This is not a good practice, for the true Albino is a different variety.

In the Cinnamon the grey of a normal bird is replaced by a deep brown. The exact shade is variable. The color of the male is often darker than the hen’s in the Cinnamon.

The Pearl cockatiel has the outer edges of most of the feathers colored, the insides of the plumage being white. This produces a scalloped appearance. A poorly colored specimen might seem to be a normal bird with a few white feathers. The better birds show only a fine penciling of color on the border of each feather.

The Pearl color form is regularly only seen in adult hens. Males Pearls can be produced, but, as adults, they molt out into the normal Grey color. Sometimes they will keep a few white flecked or shaded feathers. Adult males masking Pearl may be discerned by examining the tail feathers at the quill. A small amount of yellow will be discovered in this area. Pearls are particularly attractive in the Cinnamon color variety.

Pied cockatiels are very popular. Here random patches of color are lost. No two pieds look exactly alike. Some have only a stray white feather or two, others are so light that they may be mistaken for Lutinos. Most fanciers prefer birds that are evenly mottled. Pieds can not be sexed by the color of the tail feathers. Surprisingly enough, male cockatiels that are both Pearl and Pied, don’t lose the Pearl markings as they mature.

The White Faced cockatiel, also known as the Charcoal, shows no yellow or orange coloring. The White Faced color is most interesting when combined with the Lutino. This blend gives us the true Albino, a pure white bird with red eyes.

Whatever the color, all cockatiels make great pets and require the same care. If you want a tame bird, get a baby that is being hand fed. If you can’t handle the bird at the time of the sale, don’t expect to be able to play with it at all. Even though all cockatiels are bred in captivity, if the birds are not worked with at an early age, they become independent and wild. No matter how much you try, a rough bird will resent being touched and will let you know it by biting. Only the males whistle and talk. Unfortunately, gender can’t be distinguished when cockatiels are babies. A hand fed female will be a tame pet.

Cockatiels are very easy to feed. A vitamin, mineral, and protein enriched seed or pellet mix is the backbone of the cockatiel diet. Health grit and cuttlebone or mineral block must always be available. Spray millet, egg sticks, honey sticks, and fruit sticks are great as treats. Small amounts of fresh greens, carrot, apple, scrambled egg, corn, or whole wheat bread can be given to round out the diet. Vitamins are mixed with the water to make sure that the nutrition is complete in every way.

If your cockatiel is taken out often for play and exercise the cage only has to be big enough for the bird to flap its wings. If the bird is kept in the cage all the time, a cage thirty-six inches by eighteen inches is the smallest that can be used. No matter what, the cage can never be too big. Make sure that your bird can’t stick its head out through the bars. If something scares the bird, it will jerk its head back and get stuck. In a panic, the bird will keep pulling until it breaks its neck or chokes itself to death. For this reason, large parakeet cages are better for cockatiels than small parrot cages.

The opposite holds true for toys. The cockatiel has a much stronger beak than a budgie. Plastic keet toys will quickly be destroyed. By swallowing the plastic, your cockatiel might harm itself. Use only hard vinyl, acrylic, wood, metal or lava rock toys for a cockatiel.

Temperature is not really important. Anything that is comfortable for you will be fine for your cockatiel. Do be sure that the bird is not kept in a draft. Remember, in the summer, a draft from a fan or an air?conditioner can make any bird very sick.

To be certain that the cockatiel is getting proper rest it is a good idea to cover the cage from dusk to dawn. Interrupting the sleep of any bird is a bad practice but especially harmful for cockatiels. These birds are subject to night frights and can gravely injure themselves by getting upset and panicking during the night. A cage cover and a small night light can be a great help in preventing this problem.



The cockatiel, Nymphicus hollandicus, or Quarrion, is a perfect avicultural subject. Originally from Australia, many thousands are reared commercially worldwide for the pet industry. The American Cockatiel Society has established a standard of excellence for the exhibition minded fancier.

The cockatiel now occurs in six well-established mutations. These factors, three sex-linked recessive and three autosomal recessive, all affect the coloration of the plumage. Some traits also change the eye color from black to red. Many other color variants are reported. Some of these new colors are definite mutations in the process of becoming established. Others are simply combinations of pre-existing varieties or are imaginitive names used in sales pitches.

The normal cockatiel is slate grey, reminiscent of a blue domestic pigeon. Some white extends from the wing butt down the outer edge of the wing. The cheeks have orange patches. A yellow suffusion covers the entire bird, more so in the males. The yellow suffusion is especially prominent in the head and crest of the cock. Adult hens have horizontal bars going down the tail.

The Lutino is the most widespread cockatiel mutation. In the United States Lutino cockatiels are right behind the Budgerigar as far as popularity is concerned. The Lutino is a white bird with variable yellow coloring. The yellow is the same suffusion of the normal, but in the normal bird much is hidden by the grey coloration. The eyes are red and the orange cheek patches are retained. Though not as obvious as with the normals, Lutinos may still be sexed by means of color. Though no melanin is present, the yellow in the tail of the hen still retains a barred pattern.

This abnormal coloring is caused by a total lack of melanin due to an inability to synthesize the enzyme tyrosinase. This factor is sex-linked recessive.

Particularly in Great Britain, heavily suffused Lutinos are sold, at a premium, as Primroses or Buttercups. An extreme few fanciers, through selective breeding, do possess strains that are consistently more brightly colored. This attractive appearance is derived from a slow accumulation of desirable modifiers. Genetically, these Primroses and Buttercups are, albeit superior, Lutinos. Unfortunately, the great majority of advertised Primroses and Buttercups are only fractionally more colorful. This small improvement might even be from ingenious lighting!

Lutinos were originally described in the United States as Albinos. This is no longer a good practice, for true Albinos are now being produced through multiple mutations.

The Cinnamon was the second sex-linked recessive mutation. Here the grey of the normal is turned to a deep brown. This melanin color is extremely variable. Cinnamon cockatiels have various shades of brown. Cocks are most often darker than the hens.

The term Isabelle is sometimes used in connection with this color. The cockatiel color is not similar to the Isabelle found in either the canary or the domestic pigeon. It is almost always preferable to use the same name if an analogous color occurs in the budgerigar. With this in mind, it is better to use Cinnamon.

The Pearl, sometimes called Lacewing, is the final well- established sex-linked color. The color of this variety is very similar to the lacing seen in the Oriental Frill breed of domestic pigeon. In the cockatiel the outer edges of the feathers of the head, back, mantle and sometimes chest are colored. This produces a scalloped effect. This scalloping is variable. A poorly colored specimen might seem to be a normal grey with a few pale feathers. The better birds show only a fine pencilling on the edge of every feather.

The Pearl is regularly only seen in hens. Cock Pearls molt out to the normal color with, rarely, a few white flecked or laced feathers. These adult males masking Pearl may sometimes be discerned by examining the tail feather at the quill. A small amount of yellow will be noted in this area.

We may speculate upon the change of color of the adult Pearl males. This plumage may be under hormonal control. An alternate explanation is that homozygous pearls appear normal. Certain autosomal factors drop out in this manner in the budgerigar. It is impossible to obtain a two factor hen Pearl. Being a sex linked trait the hens are necessarily homozygous.

Young hens could be treated with male hormones to experimentally determine if this is the cause of the transformation. If hormones produce no change in the lacing, then genetic control may be inferred.

The Pied is th ony popular autosomal recessive trait. The melanin is deleted in random patches. Pieds cannot be sexed according to the barring in the tail. Carriers of Pied sometimes show white or yellow flecking on the back of the neck.

Most people consider the lighter Pieds to be more attractive. These heavy Pieds sell at higher prices. A few strains of heavy Pieds exist. Most often this trait is of variable penetrance. A pair of heavy Pieds may fail to produce any heavy Pieds. The reverse is also true.

The Fallow is a red eyed brown cockatiel. This trait is also an autosomal recessive. As in the Cinnamon, the shade of brown is variable. Fallows are most often lighter than Cinnamons. Again as in the Cinnamon, cocks are on the average darker than hens. Some Fallows are two toned. Thomson (82) reports that the head and body are golden yellow and the wings are tan.

The White Faced mutation is the most recent autosomal recessive mutation to become well-established. This factor deletes the yellow suffusion and orange cheek patches. This yields a charcoal colored white faced cockatiel. Some writers have indeed given the name of Charcoal to this variety. Cooper (81) states that some call them Blues. Even though this follows the rule of using budgerigar terminology, this name is best avoided. The feathers of the cockatiel possess no refractive layer so no sky blue, as in the budgerigar or blue jay, is ever displayed.

The White Faced is most interesting in combination with the Lutino. A White Faced Lutino is a true albino. Here we get a pure white red eyed bird. True albinos are in very short supply.

Through combinations and crossing over many blends of colors may be achieved. Some of these combinations, i.e. Pied- Cinnamons, Pied-Pearls, Lutino-White face, Cinnamon-Pearl look exactly as would be expected. Others are not so elementary. In genetics the whole does not always equal the sum of the parts!

Smith (82) reports a Marbled cockatiel. Here we observe a silver grey bird with the mantle feathers scalloped by lighter grey. This bird is almost certainly a Cinnamon-Ino, a combination of the Cinnamon and Lutino derived from crossing over. This combination is called a Red Eyed Lacewing in the budgerigar. Roper(82) notes that Lutino-Pearls are being sold as Golden Laced. This last combination is particularly interesting for Thomson (82) notes that some Marbled cockatiels molt out normal. This would be as expected for any males that were heterozygous for Pearl.

Three different Silver or dilute mutations have been reported. All are very poorly understood. Smith (82) describes a very pale sex linked recessive Silver. Eye color is not given. Thomson (82) reports on a variable shaded Silver with red eyes. This variety is noted for poor eyesight and are autosomal recessives. Birds manifesting this trait may be either Silver or Brown. Cole (81) notes that a Black Eyed Silver mutation exists. This mutation is of extremely variable penetrance. Some of these Black Eyed Silvers cannot be distinguished from normal greys. Others could be taken for black eyed clears. All intermediate shades also occur. This factor is presumed dominant.

Smith (82) states that he has received rumours of Green cockatiels but had not seen any evidence.

Cole, T.G., 1981, “Dilute or Blackeyed Silver Cockatiel”, The Magazine of the Parrot Society, vol. XV, no. 10, p. 272

Cooper, N.D., 1981, “The Whitefaced Cockatiel”, The Magazine of the Parrot Society, vol. XV, no. 10, Oct., pp. 252-253

Roper, M.D., 1982, “Fanciful Names of Cockatiel Mutations”, The Magazine of the Parrot Society, vol. XVI, no. 11, Nov., p.346

Smith, G.A., “Some Ringneck (Psistaculla frameri) and Cockatiel (Nymphicus hollandicus) Mutations”, The Magazine of the Parrot Society, vol. XVI, no. 7, July, pp. 214-217

Thomson, 1982, “Cockatiel Mutations”, The Watchbird, vol. IX, no.

The Budgerigar (Keet) FAQ

Please post as comments all suggestions, material for the FAQ, criticisms, etc.

NOTE: I’ve already planned a section on genetics. I really need a qualified party (Champion breeder and/or judge) to author a section on exhibiting and judging.

Version: 10/12/2014
© 2014 Anthony Olszewski

Are Keets the same as Budgies? What’s an English Parakeet? Somebody at the bird club said that my birds are Budgerigars, not Parakeets. Are they correct?
How many different colors of Keets are there? Are Albinos and Lutinos blind?
What is a Show Parakeet?
Can Keets be crossed with other birds? Are their other species of Budgies?
What is a basic Budgie diet?
Some expensive brands of bird seed claim to be vitamin enriched. Are they worth the extra money?
Grubs and moths are growing in the bird seed. How can this be prevented?
Are pellets necessary?
The pet shop has a whole aisle full of seed bells, biscuit, fruit sticks, etc? Are these any good?
Should Keets get people food?
What does grit do?
What is cuttlebone? My bird just shreds the cuttlebone. Is there anything else that I can use?
Do Keets need special water?
What kind of cage is required?
Should I let the bird out of the cage for exercise?
What is used to cover the bottom of the cage?
What sort of cage is used to breed Keets? What is a nest box?
Do Keets breed better as a flock in a large walk-in cage (a flight)?
How do I tell the difference between male and female Keets?
What is the natural Keet breeding season?
How long does it take for the eggs to hatch?
What is banding?
Are any special foods required for nesting and rearing the young?
What should I do if the father abuses his young?
How can I tell the age of a Keet?
How long do Keets live?
What is the best temperature for these birds?
How do I give a Keet a bath?
Does the quality and quantity of light make a difference?
Can Keets be tamed and trained to talk like the large parrots?
Does my bird need a toy?
My bird’s beak is starting to grow crooked. Somebody tells me that it is mites. What do I do about it?
Can my family or my other pets catch any diseases from Keets?
What is French Molt?
What is egg binding?
1. Are Keets the same as Budgies? What’s an English Parakeet? Somebody at the bird club said that my birds are Budgerigars, not Parakeets. Are they correct?
Let’s start with terminology. The Keet, American Parakeet, Shell Parakeet, English Parakeet, Budgie, and Budgerigar, are all the same species The scientific name is Melopsittacus undulatus. Bird experts prefer that these birds not be called parakeets, for there are a large number of other parakeets found in Australia, South America, and the Indian Sub-Continent. “Parakeet” is simply a common term for a small parrot-type bird with a long tail. In the United States, the term “Budgie” is thought to refer only to the English exhibition or show Keet. In Great Britain, “Budgie” is used to refer to any Keet. “Budgerigar” is an attempt at a transliteration of an Australian Aborigine phrase. When asked by a European explorer the name of the little birds that lived in huge flocks, the reply sounded like “Budgerigar” to Western ears. It really means something like, “tasty snack”! It was easy to hunt the birds by throwing a boomerang into the flock.

2. How many different colors of Keets are there? Are Albinos and Lutinos blind?
Budgerigars come in a wide range of colors. The Light Green is the natural, wild color. In captivity, where predators are not a concern, color has no bearing on health or disposition. It’s a myth that the Albinos and Lutinos (all white and all yellow, both with red eyes) are blind or suffer from extremely diminished vision. I’ve kept both in walk in walk-in cages with lots of other Keets. Some of the other popular colors are Blue, and the several forms of Pied (splashed-colored). There is also a Crested mutation of the feathers of the head. These birds seem to possess the same Beatle hair-do as the Gloster Canary, though the genetics are completely different.

3. What is a Show Parakeet?
The Show Parakeet is nearly twice the size of the more common, wild type bird. Quite a bit of this apparent bulk is really due to just bigger feathers. The head, even in proportion, is much larger in the exhibition birds. The difference is completely due to selection by Fanciers, just as in dogs, pigeons, or any other domestic animal. Raising Budgerigars for show is especially popular in the United States, Germany, and, of course, England. The British so dominate this sport that the show birds are very often all called “English Budgerigars”, no matter where they are!

4. Can Keets be crossed with other birds? Are their other species of Budgies?
There are no known hybrids of the Budgie. It is the only (monotypic) member of its genus.

5. What is a basic Budgie diet?
Keets all require the same care, whether pets, breeders, or show stock. Budgerigars are basically seed eaters. The basic diet consists of Millet Seed and Canary Seed. Spray Millet is a greatly loved treat. You can give the birds as much as you care to buy; spray millet is expensive. Hulled oats (groats) are another favorite, though, because of the high fat content, should be fed sparingly.

6. Some expensive brands of bird seed claim to be vitamin enriched. Are they worth the extra money?
Various “treat” and protein supplement foods are commercially available. These items are important when the birds are breeding. To truly enrich seed in vitamins, it must be soaked in an oil. Vitamin powder coatings are a waste, for the vitamins all fall off when the bird hulls the seed kernel. Be particularly skeptical of “colored seeds.” Many of these simply contain food dye! You can vitamin-fortify the seed yourself by mixing one teaspoon of wheat germ oil and one teaspoon of cod liver oil with ten pounds of seed. Let it soak over night. . For fewer birds, adjust the amount accordingly. Since an average parakeet eats roughly one-third of an ounce of food a day, eight pounds will last one bird a year. (A healthy Keet normally consumes an amount of food equal to one-quarter of its own body weight In a cold environment, very likely more will be required.) A batch of oil enriched seed should be completely used in less than a week or refrigerated.
The fat soluble Vitamins, those found in Cod liver oil and wheat germ oil, can be toxic in high levels. Don’t be tempted to increase the dosage. Too much of these supplements will give you very dead birds, not very healthy ones.

7. Grubs and moths are growing in the bird seed. How can this be prevented?
Refrigerating bird seed will also prevent or control seed moths. The moths and their caterpillars cause the birds no harm. The insects are definitely unsightly. In large numbers, the bugs ruin the seed.

8. Are pellets necessary?
Pellets, though an interesting item in the diet of the larger parrots, are really of very limited use in Budgie nutrition. You can try them out, if you wish. If your Keets don’t like the processed food, it’s not as if they are dropping out of High School, or using drugs! There’s lots of things to be concerned about in life; Keets disliking pellets ain’t one of them.

9. The pet shop has a whole aisle full of seed bells, biscuit, fruit sticks, etc? Are these any good?
Seed bells, seed sticks, fruit sticks, egg biscuits, et cetera are all fine as treats. All this stuff is a little pricey and is not required for good health. Keets do appreciate these treats.

10. Should Keets get people food?
Small amounts of cooked chicken egg, apple, pear, cantaloupe, leafy greens, whole wheat bread, and corn bread are very good for Budgies. Really, anything that you eat yourself, with the exceptions of chocolate and avocado, can be offered to Keets. A different fresh food should be fed every day.

11. What does grit do?
After raising thousands of Parakeets, talking to hundreds of breeders, and reading hundreds of books and magazines my opinion is that Mineral grit must always be available. Grit provides calcium, salt, iodine, trace minerals and, in the bird’s crop, grinds the seed to ensure proper digestion. Some say that only Poultry need grit. Others think that grit is the cause of impacted crops. I think that this is like calling bridges the cause of suicides, because some poor soul jumps off one! Every seed eating bird that I ever cared for was allowed access to grit.

12. What is cuttlebone? My bird just shreds the cuttlebone. Is there anything else that I can use?
A cuttlebone should be placed in every cage. Cuttlebone is the internal skeletal structure of the cuttlefish, a relative of the squid. If the birds just waste the cuttlebone, use one of the harder mineral blocks instead.

13. Do Keets need special water?
Change the water every day. Whatever water you drink, tap or spring, will be fine for a Keet. Vitamins can be placed in the water. Exactly follow the printed directions. All dishes should be washed as often as necessary.

14. What kind of cage is required?
If your getting one or two birds as pets, most any cage that you like will be OK. A minimum is 12″ by 10″ by 10″ for one or two Budgies. The bigger the cage, the happier your guys will be and the more fun that you will have watching them play. DO NOT get a wicker or bamboo cage. The Keets will quickly chew their way out.

15. Should I let the bird out of the cage for exercise?
The cage is your bird’s home. Unless the Keet is tame, don’t let it out of its cage. Mirrors, windows, fans, open flames, cats, dogs, and open doors are all death traps to a free flying Budgie.

16. What is used to cover the bottom of the cage?
Special paper sold in pet shops can be used on the cage bottom. Corn cob bedding must be changed frequently, for it can quickly become moldy. Newspaper really works very well. A large scale operation can just scrape the droppings from the uncovered metal pans.

17. What sort of cage is used to breed Keets? What is a nest box?
If you wish to breed Keets, get a special breeding cage and nest box. The breeding cage has a little trap door so that the nest box can be attached to the cage.
In the wild, Budgies nest in holes in trees. In captivity, these birds use nest boxes, generally constructed of wood. Unless you own a lumber yard, you are better off buying the nest box.

Keets don’t build a nest like Canaries, Finches, Robins, or Pigeons.

Breeding cages can be constructed out of one inch by one half inch welded wire mesh, bent and fastened with “J” clips.

I liked to use a cage 24″ by 18″ square, with the nest box on the front. One pair of birds was kept per cage. The birds lived their whole lives in the cage. No flights were used. Breeding was started/stopped by installing/removing the nest box. I found it very stressful to the Keets to move them in and out of the flights. The security of a “home” cage resulted in much better breeding results.

Half-inch by half-inch “baluster” board makes the best perch material. If you’ve got to use dowel wood, run a hacks saw down it, as the smooth wood is very uncomfortable to the bird’s feet. Perches can be cleaned with a solution of pine oil and bleach in very hot water. This is good for the nest boxes, too. Dry in the sun.

Pine shavings are very good inside the nest box. It’s said that cedar shavings are poisonous, but I’ve never observed any bad effects on either the breeding pair or chicks.

18. Do Keets breed better as a flock in a large walk-in cage (a flight)?
Budgerigars can be bred as flocks in flights. The only good reason to do this is to save labor. Feed will be wasted. Less young per pair will be produced. In a flight make sure that the number of males and females is exactly equal. Extra males are a waste. Un-paired hens will raid the nests of the breeding birds. Use twenty-five percent extra nest boxes, for the Keet hens always squabble over nests.
These are social birds. A single pair will very rarely breed. Four pairs, in the same room, are the minimum for successful breeding. There are many exceptions to this rule, but if you really want to raise Keets, start off with a number of pairs.

19. How do I tell the difference between male and female Keets?
With Budgerigars, the males are playful, foolish and care-free while the hens tend to be serious, grumpy and moody – just like in people! (This is meant to be amusing, but there IS a definite difference in the disposition of the male and female budgerigars.) You can distinguish the males, for the cere, that fleshy area over the beak, around the nostrils is bright blue in the boys. If it’s ANY other color, the bird is a hen. In the light colored Keets, particularly Albinos and Lutinos, the Ceres in both cocks and hens are pink. When you have a breeding pair, you may never witness any interaction between the two birds. The male will do acrobatics about the cage. The hen will sit in one spot and grumble and nag to herself. This is normal for Ma and Pa Keet!

20. What is the natural Keet breeding season?
Budgerigars do not have a regular breeding or molting season. In their Australian outback native haunts, they commence breeding whenever the rains bring about a growth of vegetation. In captivity, Keets will breed best in the Spring and early Summer. If the nests boxes are then removed, they will go into a heavy molt. Keeping the birds on a seasonal schedule is a good idea. This allows the Fancier the ability to plan ahead. Being in a regular cycle gives the bird’s system a good pace at which to work.

21. How long does it take for the eggs to hatch?
The eggs hatch in eighteen days from the time the hen starts sitting. She may not sit until several, or all the eggs are produced. Five eggs is average. The hen incubates the eggs and handles most of the feeding chores.

22. What is banding?
The babies should be “closed-banded” so that records can be kept. If you wish to show your birds, you will have to use bands issued by the American Budgerigar Society, or some other official organization. The young are banded before they develop pin feathers. Then, the toes are still pliable and can be manipulated and pulled through the ring. In a few days, the toes grow and the bones harden. After this time, the ring will neither go on or off.

23. Are any special foods required for nesting and rearing the young?
Protein supplement foods MUST be provided during nesting and the molt for optimum health. Many different nesting foods are on the market. Cooked chicken egg serves the purpose. If you’ve a number of birds, place a whole hard boiled chicken egg, shell and all, in the food processor or blender. The bits of egg shell are a great source of calcium.

24. What should I do if the father abuses his young?
Sometimes the cock will kill or abuse the chicks as soon as they come out of the nest. If ANY HINT of trouble is observed, remove the young, if they are eating on their own, or remove the father.

25. How can I tell the age of a Keet?
A young Budgerigar has a smooth cere, black stripes (except for the light colored types) on the forehead (giving the term “bar-head” for a immature Keet), and a completely black eye. Within six months, the forehead is white or yellow and the eye has a white iris. The male’s cere remains smooth. The hen’s darkens in color and becomes crusty and flakey in appearance, not to be confused with a mite infestation. This is a normal sign of sexual maturity and can be used to differentiate the genders in Albinos and Lutinos, where cere color is no help.
Keets are ready to breed by nine months. I’ve seen hens as young as five months old produce healthy nests.

26. How long do Keets live?
Budgerigars have short life spans. Seven years is very old for the average bird. The show birds rarely reach five. This is for the males. Breeding hens don’t live this long.

27. What is the best temperature for these birds?
Sixty-five to eighty degrees Fahrenheit is a good temperature for Keets. They can adjust to anything from freezing to one hundred degrees. Don’t subject them to extremes, unless that’s how you live yourself. As the thermometer goes over eighty, mist the birds with a fine spray of cool tap water, as often as possible.

28. How do I give a Keet a bath?
Keets like to bathe. You DO NOT restrain and scrub a Budgie, like you do a dog. A small pan of water is placed in the cage. The bird will perform its ablutions by splashing about. Be ready to clean the cage afterwards.

29. Does the quality and quantity of light make a difference?
Budgies, like all pet birds, must have a regular schedule. The birds should wake up and go to sleep with the sun. Covering the cage at night is a good way to ensure proper rest. If the Keets are in a dark area, set up full spectrum lights. These florescent bulbs, sold in pet shops, mimic the sun’s rays in a healthful manner.

30. Can Keets be tamed and trained to talk like the large parrots?
Budgerigars can be tame pets and can be taught to talk. You must get a male baby right out of the nest. Be prepared to watch that he is eating on his own. PARAKEETS ARE SOCIAL BIRDS! If you plan to train a baby parakeet, realize that somebody should almost always be home, or the bird will sorely feel the lack of companionship. The young Keet, desiring a friend, will naturally accept your advances. You can teach him to talk by repeating a single word over and over. “Hello” is a good start. Most birds in pet shops will be too old to train. If the bird has a white or yellow forehead, not black stripes, it is WAY past taming age.
If you do not wish to put the time into training a Keet, if somebody is not always home, or if you can not obtain a very young bird, you can still enjoy the pleasure of Budgies. In this case, get at least two birds. Try to get either two males, or a male and a female. Two hens will just sit at either end of the cage glaring at each other. With a friendly, little group, the antics of the birds and the cheerful chirping will never cease to amuse and entertain.

If you at first acquired a single Keet and now want to get a buddy for the bird, don’t immediately put the new bird in the same cage. Imagine coming home to find a stranger plopped down in front of the TV! Put the new guy in a separate cage, right next to the original bird. When you see them playing through the bars , then they can be placed together.

31. Does my bird need a toy?
Budgerigars enjoy toys. Bells, wheels, and chew toys are best. Avoid mirrors and plastic birds, for these items distract the birds. Mirrors will turn male Keets into (literally) the spitting image of Narcissus.

32. My bird’s beak is starting to grow crooked. Somebody tells me that it is mites. What do I do about it?
Mites are a terrible affliction of Budgies. Infestations can be prevented and controlled by spraying the bird, the cage, and the area surrounding it with a .05% pyrethrin solution. If the beak itself starts to look flakey, the cere starts to get a “spongy” look, or a male Keet’s cere begins to turn brown, stronger measures are required. Mites can be eliminated by the application of IVERMECTIN, under the directions of a veterinarian. Left untreated, the beak will begin to grow in a horrible, twisted shape. Death from starvation is possible.

33. Can my family or my other pets catch any diseases from Keets?
Budgerigars, like many other species of birds, can carry Psittacosis, which can be fatal to people, and Coccidiosis, a protozoan parasite that can also attack people, cats, and dogs. Psittacosis, “Parrot Fever,” has many symptoms. Coccidiosis shows up mostly as foul, wet droppings.

34. What is French Molt?
Keets that never seem to grow in flight or tail feathers, might have “French Molt”, which can infect many other species of birds, particularly Cockatoos, with dire results. If disease is suspected, DO consult a veterinarian.

35. What is egg binding?
If you expect the hen to lay an egg and you see her on the bottom of the cage in obvious distress or exhaustion, she probably has egg binding. The bird will die within a few hours without help. The best course of action is to seek a veterinarian’s help. I’ve gently felt the outside of the afflicted hens abdomen and was able to propel the lodged egg through the vent. But I have no medical training, so can not tell you to do the same thing. DO NOT HOLD THE HEN OVER A POT OF BOILING WATER! DO NOT ATTEMPT AN OLIVE OIL ENEMA! I’ve seen both of these idiocies offered as serious advice in published works.
Egg binding can be caused by a lack of calcium, so be sure that a mineral grit and cuttlebone is available at all times. Vitamins are needed for calcium to be utilized by the bird’s system, so be sure that all aspects of nutrition are correct.


by Ernest H. Hart



The American Budgerigar Society
Dinah Moore
A.B.S. Secretary
404 Tram Road,
Whiteville, NC 28472


COPYRIGHT 1996 By David Poole

Good safe foods that I also use with my birds are: Banana, Apple, Pear, Melon, Strawberry, Raspberry, Blackberry, Cherry, Apricot, Peach, Nectarine, Pineapple, Guava, Mango, Grapes (only a few for they have very little nutritional value). Potatoes — either boiled or dry roasted (a safe alternative for the delicious but totally unhealthy french-fry) Swede (sorry rutabas)– boiled in water or cooked with carrot in fresh orange juice. Cauliflower, Spinach, Kale, Cabbage, Pumpkin (seeds as well), Vegetable Marrow & Courgette (sorry Zucchini), boiled or baked, Sweet Potato boiled in water or orange juice or baked, Sugar Snap Peas and Mange-Tout (lightly steamed), Green beans,boiled or steamed, Bean Sprouts — Mung and Fenugreek, either fresh — make sure they are thoroughly washed, or lightly steamed. Onions — either fresh, dry roasted or boiled. Garlic — same as for onions. Whole wheat, brown rice, pearl barley, oats, bulgur wheat. Natural yoghurt sweetened with fresh fruit is a very good source of beneficial bacteria and promotes optimum conditions within the digestive tract for natural, healthy flora. Low fat or hard cheese can be a beneficial source of protein and oils if used with caution. Both onions and garlic can also be used as flavourings as can very sparing amounts of cinnamon, ginger, black pepper and sweet bay. Dried, powdered chillis and paprika can be used reasonably liberally.

Bad foods are Avocado — highly toxic and rapidly fatal. Rhubarb — excessively acidic and may contain remaining traces of the toxin, oxalic acid even after cooking. Olives – excessive oil/salt and if not properly prepared, may contain toxic residues remaining from the processing. Aubergine (Egg Plant) may contain slightly raised levels of solanin which although comparatively harmless to humans in such quantities, may cause digestive upsets or worse with parrots. Asparagus — Asparagin which gives the characteristic flavour can cause severe stomach upsets. Chocolate — Theobromin which gives chocolate it’s characteristic flavour and is thought by some to have a soothing near addictive effect on humans, is toxic to psittacines and has been associated with respiratory and cardiac problems ultimately leading to death. Anything containing caffeine — tea of coffee can eventually lead to cardiac problems and in certain cases can also lead to hyper-activity. Anything containing alcohol. Milk or cream in any large quantities cannot be properly digested and can cause digestive problems with very long term, regular use. Butter, because of its pure fat content and also the possibility of the same digestive problems caused by milk and cream. I would be cautious in the use of nutmeg as a flavouring — it is poisonous even to use if taken in excess and I believe that the ‘jury is still out’ with regard to coriander.

No doubt there are many others which should be added to the list of baddies, but I can’t think of them at the moment and I think the best maxim to apply with the diet of any parrot is “If in doubt, don’t” There is such a vast amount of good things to give your bird without having to resort to those which are, or may be questionable. Hope this helps.


The Blue-Fronted Amazon Parrot, Amazona aestiva, whose ancestors called the wilds of Argentina, Brazil, and Paraguay home, counts as one of the most desirable pet birds. This exuberant and outgoing parrot is one of the best talkers.

In fact, its only fault is a love of vocal expression. The Blue-Fronted Amazon is a natural mimic and chatterbox. This talent is practiced throughout the day, but especially at sunup and sundown. A household pet will not understand why his performances that are such a source of joy for you on weekday mornings are not also appreciated on the weekends. Your parrot has no way of understanding that you were out the night before and wish to sleep late. Keep this in mind when you are considering where to place your bird’s cage. Noise can be controlled, to some extent, by keeping the cage covered when you want the bird to sleep.

The Blue-Fronted Amazon does not simply `parrot’ human speech. Very often, birds imitate people’s expressions seemingly on cue. The very real possibility exists that parrots have some understanding of what they are saying. For example, “Hello” is almost always given only as a greeting. I have seen (and heard!) Amazon parrots that would whistle only at women.

I worked in a store that had a pair of Amazon parrots in the window. One clever little fellow silently looked young ladies over as they entered the shop. As they walked down the aisle, turning their backs to him, he would let out an exuberantly delivered wolf whistle. I, standing behind the counter, in front of the bird’s cage, invariably instantly received a reproachful glance from the female patron. Luckily, the bird always immediately reproduced the whistle, saving me an explanation that probably would not have been believed. Men never received this attention from the feathered Don Juan.

A friend of mine owned a tame and talking Blue-Fronted Amazon, Bruce. Bruce was kept in an insurance agency. The bird just wasn’t cut out for the nine to five routine. His great pleasure was trying to join in on telephone conversations. The secretary did not consider this an endearing trait.

My friend decided to find Bruce a new home.

Doreen, the sister of my office manager, had a birthday coming up. She always wanted a parrot. Bruce fit right into his new home, becoming the ruler of the roost. He soon named his new owner “Ma.” Bruce, whose wings are clipped, takes great delight in climbing up a flight of stairs. Upon reaching the top, he yells, “Come get me, Ma!” You can see that Bruce is definitely not a bird brain. The only problem that Bruce is causing his new owner is not his fault. Before getting the parrot, she wanted to give the human child that she is expecting the name Bruce. Since the parrot arrived before the infant, the bird gets to keep the name.

When shopping for a Blue-Fronted Amazon, or any parrot for that matter, insist on a hand fed, domestically reared bird. You might want to purchase a nestling that still requires formula feeding. By hand-feeding your new baby bird, it will very quickly become bonded with you. Hand-feeding is not difficult, but must be done correctly. A bird this young is also not as hardy as one that is slightly older. A bird that is eating on its own will also probably be able to regulate its body temperature. This means that you will be able to keep your new pet in a bird cage instead of a heated fish tank.

Researchers have developed some excellent hand-feeding formulas for avian infants. These are vastly superior to the many “home brew” recipes that were used in the past. The new manufactured baby parrot foods may be conveniently purchased from most pet shops. No grinding or soaking is required. The modem nestling foods offer complete nutrition, only requiring the addition of hot water. It is very important to mix fresh for each feeding. Infant formula spoils in as little as twenty minutes, even under refrigeration. A microwave oven is very helpful in warming the baby food. Do test the formula on your wrist; it must be warm. If too hot the baby parrot may be injured or killed. For the exact feeding technique, consult the store where your bird was purchased.

Some may consider saving money through the purchase of a wild-caught bird. This is an example of misplaced economy. It takes great patience to tame a wild bird. If the bird was trapped as an adult, it generally never accepts people as friends. A captive-raised bird is naturally tame and will very likely already say a few words. By buying a domestic bird, you will not be contributing to the destruction of the rain forest. A wild-caught bird will always have been subjected to a great deal of stress, if not outright abuse. With birds, as with most everything else, what you see is what you get. A bird that is not tame, without professional training, is unlikely to become tame. Patience and expertise is no guarantee-many wild-caught birds are impossible to tame.

Remember, acquiring a Blue-Fronted Amazon is a long term commitment; these birds easily live to be fifty years old. Make sure that you want to be a bird owner at least that long.

Blue-Fronted Amazons are very easy to feed. Basic nutrition is supplied through any of the many fine vitamin, mineral, and protein enriched large hookbill seed mixes or pellets available at your local pet shop. This is just a start. Most parrots, and all Amazons, require fresh food. This might be any healthy human food. The exceptions are chocolate and avocado. Chocolate and avocado are poisonous to parrots and should never be fed. Amazons are particularly fond of beans and corn. All items should be fit for human consumption. When you are cleaning out the refrigerator, think of the trash bin, not your parrot! The owner of one or two parrots will find it very easy to simply give the birds a portion of his own dinner.

All birds must have fresh water daily. Many good vitamin preparations are produced for pet birds. If you place any of these in the water, put special emphasis on cleaning the water dish. Treat the bird’s dishes just like your own.

Most Amazon parrots are extremely healthy. Make sure your bird gets eight hours of uninterrupted sleep every night. Any temperature that is comfortable for you in a shirt will be fine for the bird. Don’t subject the bird to quick changes of temperature or to a draft. A draft is a moving column of air, hot or cold. I know of a fine collection of parrots that was unintentionally destroyed by a well meaning owner. During an especially hot New Jersey summer, she placed a high speed fan in the birds’ room in the morning, right before leaving for work. When she returned home, all the birds were already extremely ill. By trying to treat them herself, they were not given a chance. An air conditioned room is fine, as long as your pet is not directly in the path of the cold air.

You may want to speak with your avian veterinarian about inoculating your parrot for Pacheco’s disease, particularly if it will ever be housed near a conure.


Though the article focuses on parrots, the same foods may be offered to most seed-eating birds. The cooked beans can be mixed with cooked brown rice or whole wheat bread crumbs. For birds that eat their food whole — like doves — first grind the larger beans before mixing them with bread crumbs to form a granular meal.

By David Poole

A whole host of pulses are extremely good for providing excellent levels of protein and carbohydrate as well as fibre. However, they *must* be cooked because many contain enzymes which inhibit protein assimilation. I use the following on a daily basis and find that they are excellent dietary constituents: Haricot, Black-Eyed, Lima and Garbanzos, yellow and green Split peas, Lentils of any colour.

Most weekends I have a big ‘boil-up’, having soaked a cup of each overnight. The beans and peas are all cooked separately and if I feel so inclined, throw in a few chillis for flavouring. When the beans are tender, they are drained and allowed to cool before packing and storing in the deep freeze. My CAG gets a heaped teaspoon each, of any 3 of the above every day to which I add broccoli, carrot and frozen peas. The whole lot is nuked until piping hot and allowed to cool for around twenty minutes.

Occasionally a small piece (1cm.cube) of hard cheese is finely diced and sprinkled over the top and sometimes, finely diced chillis and/or ripe bell peppers are also added. As a especial treat, a teaspoon of low-salt, homemade tomato sauce which contains onions and garlic is poured over the top before nuking. This makes a very acceptable baked-bean ‘taste-a-like’ and my CAG goes wild over this. Fruit in some form is also available every day and of course constant supplies of pellets. I do not now offer any sunflower at all, but I do provide millet which contains the lysine that is missing from pulses.

Jalapenos are perfectly OK for all parrots that will eat them and you need have no worries about the ‘heat’ that we experience with chillis. The pinkest M2 that I’ve ever seen is given 2 or 3 hot chillis every day and his owner claims that they were the cause of the bird’s vivid colouration. After 15 years the bird is in rudest of health and has never plucked or bitten a single feather in all of that time.