Basic Information Sheet: Parakeet

Parakeet

Parakeet

Species



“Parakeet” is a broad term for a small parrot with a long tail. There are many parakeet species, however the most popular pet parakeet is the budgerigar parakeet or “budgie”. Free-ranging “budgies” live in large flocks in a variety of habitats such as woodlands, open grassland, and dry scrub throughout non-coastal Australia and Tasmania. Another popular species is Bourke’s parakeet, which is from the southern and eastern regions of Australia.

Taxonomy



Class: Aves

Order: Psittaciformes

Family: Psittacidae

Melopsittacus undulates – budgerigar parakeet or “budgie”

Neopsephotus bourkii – Bourke’s parakeet

Conservation status



Bourke’s parakeet is on CITES Appendix II, which means they are not necessarily threatened with extinction, but may become so unless their trade is strictly regulated.

Six parakeet species are listed on Appendix I: blue-chested, Forbes’s, golden, horned, Mauritius, and red-fronted parakeets. Appendix I species are threatened with extinction, and commercial trade is prohibited and importation/exportation for scientific research requires special permits. The International Union for Conservation of Nature lists the budgerigar parakeet’s conservation status of “least concern”.


Physical description


  • The standard or wild-type budgerigar parakeet has yellow feathers barred with black on the back of its heads and body with plain yellow feathers on the forehead and throat. A row of black dots sit across the throat and greenish-yellow feathers are found on the underside.
  • The two basic types of pet budgerigar parakeet are the English “budgie”, a show bird with a bigger head and chest, and the American “budgie” a more active bird with a shorter tail.
  • Numerous mutant color varieties have been bred into the captive population.
  • Budgerigar parakeets are sexually dimorphic. The cere may be blue in males, pink or brown in females, and pearlescent in juveniles.


Diet


  • Budgerigar parakeets are granivores. Free-ranging birds are ground feeders foraging for grass seeds and chenopod seeds. Budgies have also been reported to eat grain crops.
  • Since psittacine birds hull seeds before ingestion, they do not require grit. In fact, some individuals will overeat grit when ill putting the bird at risk for impaction.
  • All-seed diets are deficient in protein, vitamins, and minerals including calcium and vitamin A.


Husbandry


  • Provide a cage that is a minimum of 18 in (46 cm) wide and long. Cage length is more important than height.
  • Cage bar spacing should be approximately 3/8 in (0.95 cm).
  • Perch diameter should be between 3/8 to 3/4 in (0.95-1.9 cm). Sand paper perch covers are very abrasive to the feet, and are not recommended.
  • Consider housing in pairs or groups.
  • Offer regular baths or misting with water to maintain healthy plumage.


Behavior


  • The English budgerigar parakeet may be slightly more docile than the American.
  • Parakeets are social and can become hand-tamed.
  • Parakeets are great whistlers and learn to mimic sounds and words.
  • Foraging is an important part of normal daily parrot activity. Teach and encourage pet birds to play and forage.


Normal physiologic values


Temperature (average)*41.8 C107.1 F
Resting heart rate (beats/min)Approximately 274
Respiration (breaths/min)60-75
Body weight (g)25-35
Mean life span (years)7-15
Mean number of incubation days18
Average number of eggs laid4-6
Target environmental temperatureMimic natural environment.Household temperatures of 70-80°F (21-27°C) are generally acceptable, however healthy birds can tolerate hot and cold temperatures.
* Routine avian exam does not include measuring body temperature


Anatomy and physiology


  • The “budgie” heart rate is 7 times faster than in humans.
  • Anatomic traits of Order Psittaciformes include:
    • Communication of the right and left nasal sinus
    • The only avian tongue with intrinsic muscles
    • Simply syrinx
    • Craniofacial hinge of beak is a synovial joint
    • Ceca absent
    • Gall bladder often absent
    • Zygodactyl foot: two toes pointed backward and two pointed forward


Restraint



Budgies may be restrained by holding the head between index and middle fingers. Support the body with the palm of the hand as well as the thumb and little finger.

Venipuncture



Use a 27-gauge needle and 1 to 3-mL syringe to draw blood from the right jugular vein. Collection of up to 1% of body weight is acceptable in healthy patients.

Preventive medicine



Injections


Intramuscular (IM)Reasonably safe, most accurate.Inject middle of muscle mass.Ideal location –Pectoral muscle mass
Subcutaneous (SQ)Large volumes can be injected, poor absorption.Location:  Inguinal or precrural fold
IntravenousEffective, narrow safety range.Right jugular vein or brachial vein is most commonly used. Alternative option: superficial metatarsal vein.


Important medical conditions



Non-Infectious Diseases

  • Obesity and fatty tumors
  • Goiter
  • Neoplasia
    • Renal
    • Gonadal
    • Pituitary
  • Reproductive problem such as chronic egg laying and yolk peritonitis
  • Xanthomatosis

Infectious Diseases

  • Trichomoniasis
  • Avian polyomavirus or “Budgerigar fledgling disease”
  • Knemidokotpes (“Scaly face and leg”) mites

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References