Originally published on 2018/11/07. Click here to return to the OneWordBirds Archives.
On (rare) occasion, we here at OneWordBirds receive requests to write about a particular species. Sometimes we are able to accommodate these requests. Sometimes we accommodate the requests and said accommodations are met only with scorn and derision1. Keeping the masses happy is no easy task.
There is one request I’ve had in the back of my mind for some time now, and I must admit I’ve been putting it off deliberately. I’m not even sure why I’m reticent…it’s a perfectly good bird. I suppose I just haven’t been sure what to say about it. But sooner or later we all must pay the piper, and I fear if I don’t tackle this pesky critter my readers2 may abandon ship.
I think part of what turns me off about this bird may be that most people recognize it not from the wild, but from the neighbourhood pet store. I have nothing against birds as pets mind you, and I happen to think this species can make a good one, but this is a blog about wild birds dammit. I have standards to maintain.
So it is with some hesitation and a little reluctance that I present to you today’s one-word-bird. I promise I’m gonna do it, and I’m definitely not stalling or looking for a way out. No, I’m fully committed to giving the audience what they want, and I won’t let my personal feelings interfere. Just give me one more moment to swallow my pride and you shall have the one, the only: the Budgie.
Now if you’re an astute student of the world and a regular one-word-birds reader, you may be thinking to yourself that there’s no way that Budgie is this bird’s official, Clement’s-assigned, proper name. If you’re thinking that, good for you. Budgie is ridiculous. But fortunately for us3, though the bird’s proper name contains more letters, those letters are all smashed together. I therefore more correctly give you: the Budgerigar.
While it can be found in pet stores the world over, the Budgerigar is an Australian bird and its unusual name seems to originate from one or more of the Australian Aboriginal languages – it is apparently an anglicized mispronunciation of gidjirrigaa. While most sources agree on this foundation, the meaning of that word seems unclear4. It may mean something along the lines of “good parrot”. Other translations suggest it means “good food”, indicating either that the bird was eaten by Aboriginals or that they followed it to find the good food upon which it foraged5. At any rate the name Budgerigar proved a bit verbose for pet store shelves, so Budgie is how the birds are known to most.
In case you’ve never been in a pet store, or you grew up in some sort of cave with no access to outside information, you should know that the Budgerigar is a parrot. A small parrot. It has a round head, a comically small beak, adorably beady eyes and a long, streaming tail. Its head is yellow, its body is green, its tail is blue and its wings are scalloped in black. It’s quite pretty, actually.
In the wild, Budgerigars are highly gregarious. Their flocks are nomadic, moving about in scrublands, grasslands and open woodlands in search of abundant food and water. Seeds make up almost all of the Budgerigar’s diet, and these seemingly-innocuous birds can actually be pests of cereal crops and newly-seeded lawns.
Budgerigars are extremely popular as pets, and are apparently6 the most numerous pet in the world after cats and dogs. Their small size, relatively easy maintenance, willingness to breed in captivity, selectively-bred colour varieties, and ability to mimic a variety of noises probably contribute to their popularity. They are purchased for children, kept in classrooms and given as companions to the elderly.
Unfortunately, the perception that Budgerigars are easy pets does these little birds no service. They are highly social and very intelligent, so a single Budgie in a small cage is probably not living its best life7. Budgies need lots of stimulation to approximate their wild lives, and they may not be the low-effort family addition you’ve been looking for.
On the flip side, if you have the time and energy to care for a Budgie properly, these little birds are sure to surprise and impress. They can be trained to perform any number of complex behaviours, and thrive on the opportunity to put their brains to use. They also have a knack for mimicry, and can master human speech to an outright creepy degree8.
If seeing Budgerigars in the wild is more your speed, Australia may be on your bucket list. It’s not your only option though, as escaped pet Budgies have spawned new populations in locales with suitable climates. A significant number now fly wild in parts of Florida, while individual birds can be seen almost anywhere people and warm weather coexist.
I may have been hesitant to cover the little fellow, but in captivity or in the wild the Budgerigar is a worthy bird. Surely their ubiquitous presence makes them one of the better known one-word-birds in the world, even if most people call them by their bastardized, cutesy name. In any case I hope this request is better-received than the last, otherwise it’s my way or the highway from here on out.
1I freaking did the Smew, ok. It’s not my fault it’s just a normal duck in a fancy costume.
2Both of them.
4If you are a scholar of Aboriginal languages I would love to hear from you!
5You may choose whichever of those meanings you feel best believing, but reports that these birds are a traditional snack are highly variable in their credibility.
6You’d better believe this statistic comes from Wikipedia.
7As the kids are saying these days.
Top: By Jim Bendon from Karratha, Australia – Budgerigar 1, CC BY-SA 2.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=47811971
Bottom: By Ben Cordia – Own work, CC BY-SA 4.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=56969113