Why is My Budgie so Big?

Budgies, or parakeets as we call them in the US, are a small, seed-eating parrot.  Budgie captive breeding dates back to the 19th century. 

These colorful little birds are native to Australia, but in some tropical areas, escaped budgies have formed colonies successfully adapting back into the wild.

Budgies are typically small, and the question of why some budgies are bigger often rises.

Your budgies larger size is a clue that it may be an English budgie, bred to be larger and showier than wild or regular bred budgies.  Selective breeding over many generations produces a larger bird for competitive shows.  Other significant differences can help you tell if your budgie has some English budgie in its ancestry.

Other reasons can also cause your budgie to get larger.  In some cases, you should take your budgie to an avian vet for a diagnosis.  On the other hand, your budgie may just be one of the few budgies that grow a little large. 

Figuring out the cause for your budgie’s size is a crucial question to know if the bird’s size is a problem or not? We walk you through some of the reasons your budgie is big.

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The English Budgie – Bigger, Bolder, and Brighter

After the English began to colonize Australia, budgies became a sensation.  Thousands of the birds were brought back to England with sailors and traders.  The English people were fascinated with the colorful little birds who took to domestication quickly.

The breeding of budgies in England soon fostered societies and clubs that delighted in comparing their budgies.  This friendly rivalry evolved into competitions that still exist. 

This competitive spirit led to the selective breeding of wild budgies into the birds that are now known as English budgies. English budgies differ from wild or other captive-bred budgies in several characteristics.

  • Size-  English budgies are typically 2 – 3 times the size of a wild budgie.  If you find young English budgies in a pet store, it isn’t unusual for a 2 – 3-week old English budgie to already be bigger than an adult wild budgie.
  • Markings – English budgie breeders are interested in size, but they also breed selectively for colors and markings.  English budgies are distinguishable by the longer and fluffier plumage, especially the feathers on the head.  The marking on the throat of English budgies is more pronounced as well.
  • Personality – Wild budgies, even those bred in captivity, tend to be must more aggressive than English budgies.  Wild budgies will bite when handled, a trait that seems to be absent in English budgies.  If your budgies are less aggressive, loves to cuddle, and be touched, your bird is probably at least part English budgie.
  • Vocalization – Wild budgies can be noisy little creatures.  They sing, chirp, and vocalize almost constantly.  English budgies seem to be much quieter, although they will sing and chirp, but not constantly.  English budgies also tend to mimic more than their wild cousins.  If you want a bird that will “talk,” an English budgie is an excellent choice.

If your larger budgie exhibits some or all of these characteristics, your bird probably has descended from an English budgie or may well be full blood. 

Fluffy long feathers on the head and the large dark neck spots coupled with the larger size are giveaways of English budgie heritage.

When is it Time to Ask an Expert? – Going to the Avian Vet

Sudden changes in your budgie’s size can be a cause for alarm.   It would be best if you took your bird to an avian vet if changes occur in size or shape such as:

  • Swollen or enlarged breast or breasts
  • Swelling around the legs or feet
  • A sudden change in weight
  • Any growths or swelling on the wings

Budgies are surprisingly hardy birds having very few health problems throughout their life.  Watch for a sudden change in:

  • Size
  • Shape
  • Plumage

This should be dealt with by a professional avian vet as soon as possible.

Caring for Your Budgie – Living a Long and Happy Life with Your Bird

By nature, budgies are social animals.  In the wild, they live in flocks that tend to be nomadic, moving from place to place as food and other environmental factors dictate. 

Because of their social nature and the tendency to live in flocks, captive birds need stimulation and companionship from their owners.

To keep your bird healthy and happy, you should make sure that they get the socialization and stimulation they need.  Accomplishing this is easy in several ways.

  • Provide your budgie with toys and ornaments in the cage.  Rope ladders, swings, and toys they can move as entertainment are ideal. Don’t simply hang a toy and forget it.  Budgies need variety.  Change the toys out regularly to keep your budgie interested and entertained.
  • Your budgie needs a place to rest comfortably.  The quality of the perch you provide can be a factor in leg and foot health with your budgie.  A good perch has several characteristics.
    • About 1 cm in diameter
    • Have a rough texture.  Smooth perches are hard for the budgie to grasp and balance
    • A natural tree branch is best
    • Change the perch regularly.  Budgies will peck and nip at the perch
    • If possible, sterilize the perch by baking in the oven for an hour.  Baking the perch will kill any insects or parasites that might be living in or under the bark.
  • Holding, petting, and stroking your budgie is an excellent way to create a bond with your bird.  Handling your budgie will teach the bird to accept being held and moved around.  Many budgies will bond quickly and will want to spend more time with you instead of sitting in the cage alone.
  • Budgies love to take a bath.  Putting a birdbath into the cage on occasion will help your budgie stay happy and clean.  A regular splash in a birdbath promotes good health and better feathers.
  • Budgies like to chew and will eventually tear apart almost anything you put in the cage.  Adding a length of cuttlebone will help alleviate damage to other things and gives your budgie a good source of calcium.  Adequate calcium is especially important if you are trying to breed your birds as calcium is a crucial component of healthy egg development.

Having a Companion that Talks – Budgies that Vocalize

Once your budgie settles in, and you have begun to socialize with your new companion, you can teach your bird to vocalize.  Budgies are excellent mimics and will pick up on sounds and begin to repeat them back.  There are a few tips for getting your budgie to vocalize.

  • Repeat the words that you want your budgie to mimic by speaking close to the bird in a soft, calming voice.
  • The phrase should be short and uncomplicated.  The bird’s name or some other keyword is an excellent place to start.
  • Try to keep the rest of the room quiet while you are working with your budgie to eliminate distractions
  • Don’t just repeat the same word over and over.  Talk to you budgie in a conversational tone but keep returning the critical phrase over and over
  • Talk to your budgie all the time.  Don’t limit your interaction to just your training sessions.  As you go about your daily routine, converse with your bird
  • When your budgie starts to repeat the words back to you, return the favor.  Repeat the phrase again immediately to reinforce the behavior
  • A reward occasionally is not a bad idea. 
  • Don’t get frustrated and raise your voice if things aren’t going well.  Your budgie will pick up on your vexation and become stressed as well.

Living a Long and Happy Life with your budgie, no Matter What the Size

Budgies can live as long as seven years, sometimes even more than that, and can be great companions despite their size.  With a little care, a little companionship, and some training, your budgie can be entertaining and a constant source of fun. 

There is some effort involved, and you should learn all you can learn about Budgies.  In the end, you will probably become a budgie owner for life.