A highly social species, the budgerigar is typically seen in large, noisy flocks which twist and turn in unison in the air, flying with rapid wing beats (2) (3) (5) (7). The largest budgerigar flocks occur in the centre of Australia, particularly after heavy rains (3), and may sometimes number into the hundreds of thousands (5). Budgerigar flocks may travel large distances in search of food (3).
The budgerigar’s diet consists primarily of small seeds, including a range of grass seeds and crops (2) (5) (6). This species’ small, compact beak, hinged upper mandible and thick, flexible tongue allow it to dextrously manipulate seeds and remove the outer husks (5). Most feeding takes place on the ground, but the budgerigar also climbs up plants to strip seed heads (3) (5).
Budgerigar flocks usually feed in the early morning, spending the hottest part of the day resting, preening and socialising in the trees (2) (3) (5). The budgerigar needs to drink every day, often gathering in large numbers at waterholes to drink and to bathe (3) (5). However, if a water source is not available this species may lap up dew and bathe by rolling in damp grass (5).
The budgerigar can breed at any time of year, but typically nests after rainfall, which ensures a ready supply of food (2) (3) (5). In the south of its range, breeding tends to take place during the spring and summer, from around August to January, but in the north the budgerigar tends to breed in the winter, from June to September. This species usually breeds in colonies, sometimes even sharing nesting hollows, and pairs may mate for life (2) (3).
The male budgerigar courts the female by nudging her bill, bobbing his head towards her and offering food (6). Interestingly, as in many parrots, parts of the budgerigar’s plumage reflect ultraviolet light. Unlike humans, many birds are able to see this wavelength of light, and this reflectance may therefore play a role in enhancing the budgerigar’s bright patterning and help individuals to attract a mate (9).
The budgerigar’s nest is usually located in a small hollow in a tree, or in a hole in a stump or log (2) (3) (6). No nesting material is added, but there may be some wood dust or wood chips at the base of the hole (3) (6). The female budgerigar typically lays between 4 and 8 white, rounded eggs (2) (3) (5) (6), which she incubates for around 18 days, during which time she is fed by the male (2) (6). The young budgerigars are cared for by both adults, and leave the nest at about 30 to 35 days old (2) (3) (5).
The budgerigar is capable of raising more than one brood a year (2) (3) (5) (6). Juvenile budgerigars are able to breed from just 3 to 4 months old (3) (6), and this species may live for up to 8 years in the wild, or up to 20 or more in captivity (3).