The English budgie is a particularly large and cute breed of parakeet.
Perhaps you’ve never heard of an English budgie.
Or maybe you’re here because you’re thinking about bringing a parakeet into your family.
Either way, this is the article for you.
We’ll discuss the history of the English budgie, how the English and American budgies are different, and the beautiful colors of the English budgie.
We’ll also cover health issues to be aware of, plus how to get set up to welcome your new pet!
History of the English budgie
The English budgie, or English budgerigar, is technically a native of Australia.
In Australia, these birds were commonly called “betcherrygah” which translates to “good food.”
These birds’ formal name, “budgerigar,” likely came from English and European explorers trying to pronounce the aboriginal tribes’ name for their favorite main course.
In 1840, the smaller grass parakeet was brought to England and then to the United States.
The English budgie has never existed in the wild – its larger size and distinctive appearance is a product of deliberate and selective breeding of the smaller wild imported parakeets.
Today, English budgies are popular pets but are even more frequently bred for show.
The original grass parakeet, now called the standard parakeet or American parakeet, is now a staple of the pet trade. They are the most popular pet parrot in the world.
English budgie size
The English budgie of today is visibly larger in every way than the original Australian budgie.
The English budgie typically weighs anywhere from 1.6 to 2.2 oz (45.3 g to 62.3 g) and measures about 10 inches (25.4 cm) from crest to tail tip.
In contrast, the American parakeet typically weighs anywhere from 0.8 oz to 1.1 oz (22 g to 32 g) and measures 7 to 7.8 inches tall (18 cm to 20 cm) crest to tail tip.
English budgerigar versus American parakeet
What many people who are interested in budgies don’t realize is that there is only one species of budgie (parakeet): Melopsittacus undulates.
In this way, the budgie is quite similar to the domestic dog! There are many different dog breeds that can look quite different from each other.
But underneath, all dogs are members of Canis lupus familiaris.
Similarly, the English budgie and the American parakeet both belong to Melopsittacus undulates. They can look quite different in terms of size, body composition, color, and markings.
The English budgie and the American parakeet can also have quite different personalities.
The larger English budgie is more mellow and calm than the petite, excitable and active American parakeet.
Melopsittacus undulates translates literally to mean “melodious wave-patterned parrot.”
English budgie basic facts
All adult parakeets, including the English budgie, show their gender by the color of their cere (the small area above the beak where the nostrils are located).
Immature budgies will generally have a pinkish cere.
A male adult English budgie will have a blue-hued cere. A female adult will have a white to brown cere.
Sometimes the English budgie is nicknamed the “puffer” budgie because of the intensely fluffy, puffy feathers that surround the head and cere region.
These features can be so prominent you have to look closely to see the English budgie’s eyes!
English budgies retain most of the same characteristics as their smaller wild parakeet counterparts.
They are intensely social birds and need lots of attention if kept alone!
Budgies in general do better in captivity when they have a same-gender budgie playmate. (Always opt for same-gender unless lots of baby English budgies are in your future plans!)
English budgies can be taught to talk and can even learn to whistle whole songs.
English budgie types
Several different types, or mutations, of English budgies have been developed through captive breeding programs.
These English budgies all conform to the basic size and weight of the English budgie but display some distinct differences in their feathers.
Crested English budgies, also called tufted budgies, have a distinctive feather tuft or fluff right at the front of their head.
The crest can display in a number of different ways, including a full tuft or a half tuft.
Japanese crested budgies have a distinctive feather feature on their wings where the feathers form a type of crest.
The formal name for this mutation is Hagoromo – “helicopter” budgies. They are only bred in one aviary in the Americas at the time of publication of this article.
Feather duster English budgies are often mistaken for a deliberate mutation.
Unfortunately, these budgies are born with a rare condition that causes their feathers to never stop growing.
This places tremendous pressure on the immune system.
Most feather duster budgies only live for a year or so.
English budgie colors
The English budgie can display a wonderful variety of colors and patterns.
The traditional wild coloration for all parakeets is a green front, yellow head and blue/black tail feathers with black markings.
The most common colors for budgies today are the dominant wild green/yellow and the recessive blue/white.
However, breeding in captivity has produced a dizzying array of rare, rarer and rarest color mutations.
Some of the less common colors include grey, violet, olive, mauve, cinnamon, and variations across the blue/yellow/green spectrum.
Patterns can be equally complex, from clearwing to lacewing, opaline to pied, yellowface to goldenface, fallow to spangle.
The genetics involved in producing some of the rarer English budgie colors and pattern markings can take a lifetime of study!
English budgie cage
Like all pet parrots, your English budgie will appreciate more cage space rather than less. A good cage size for an English budgie is 30” x 18” x 18” or larger.
If you plan to keep two English budgies together, add at least 10 inches of horizontal cage space for the second bird, and more if your own space permits.
For flighted English budgies (if you don’t clip their wings), you may want to select an even larger cage that can double as a flight cage.
This is ideal if you can’t let your birds out of the cage for safety reasons, since they can get plenty of exercise flying inside their flight cage.
If you have to choose between one or the other, offering more horizontal than vertical space is ideal, since budgies fly horizontally rather than vertically.
Be sure the cage bars are spaced no more than one-half inch apart for your bird’s safety. It doesn’t matter if the bars are positioned vertically or horizontally.
English budgie supplies and toys
Once you have selected your English budgie cage, it is time to accessorize it with supplies and toys!
Your cage may already come with some accessories, including perches, food and water cups and a cage grate or tray for cleaning.
You may want to just use paper towels to place across the floor of your budgie’s new cage to make cleanup easier. For sanitary reasons, some owners prefer a water bottle to a water cup.
English budgies, like all budgies, usually love mirrors and love to chew.
Bird yucca kabobs, finger traps, adding machine paper, natural wood perches and wicker toys will likely be enthusiastically chomped on.
Be sure to supervise your bird with new toys until you are sure they are safe!
What to feed your English budgie
Veterinarians and breeders today typically recommend feeding budgies a pelleted diet that is nutritionally whole and complete.
This is preferred over birdseed, which encourages picky eaters to select their favorite seeds and leave the rest.
For treats, you can offer a selection of fresh greens and herbs, diced fruits, millet and some sunflower seeds.
Be sure to provide a cuttlebone and mineral block so your bird can free-feed on calcium as needed! However, your English budgie doesn’t need grit.
English budgie personality
The English budgerigar is an active, social parrot who can thrive as a pet with enough interaction and plenty of enriching activities.
If you have lots of time to spend with your new bird, you may be able to provide this for your budgie!
Your bird will then bond with you instead of with another budgie playmate.
What if you might not have a lot of time each day to play with, train and socialize your bird? In that case, avian breeders and veterinarians recommend that you bring home a pair of English budgies instead of a single bird.
English budgie lifespan
You may be asking, “How long do English budgies live?”
Due to a more limited gene pool from intense show breeding, the English budgie typically has a shorter lifespan than the smaller American parakeet.
English budgies generally live between 5 and 7 years. In contrast, the smaller American or wild parakeet can live as long as 11 or 12 years.
English budgie health
Your English budgie should come to you with an initial guarantee of good health.
You will want to have your bird checked out by an avian veterinarian soon after arrival (ideally the same day) to be sure your new pet is healthy!
Parakeets can be susceptible to a variety of health issues.
The most common health concern is gastrointestinal parasites. You can reduce the risk of this issue by purchasing high quality food and practicing good cage hygiene.
With the natural aging process, budgies can develop tumors. Bumblefoot is another concern that can affect the bottom of your budgie’s feet.
Providing a variety of clean perching surfaces that are smooth and properly sized for a parakeet’s small feet can help ward off this issue.
Most health issues that affect parakeets relate back to hygiene or genetics.
Choosing a responsible breeder who places the health of the babies above all else is the best way to ensure you bring home a healthy bird!
Ideal home for an English budgie
The ideal home for an English budgie will involve lots of time to care for, train and interact with your pet bird! Budgies in general are gregarious and social.
They won’t thrive if left alone for hours each day.
English budgies need lots of social interaction, toys, enrichment and playtime to stay happy and healthy.
In general, they can make great family pets even if they are not socialized for handling.
One word of caution: if your family already includes any cats or dogs with a strong prey drive, you may want to reconsider adding an English budgie to your household.
Choosing your English budgie bird
As you search around online or in your local community for baby English budgies, you may see notices for “hand raised English budgies.”
What does this mean?
A hand raised English budgie is a baby bird that has been fed and handled by people almost from hatching.
Hand raised English budgies are specifically reared to be pets.
They are generally very tolerant of handling and have often learned basic commands like “step up” before you even bring your bird home.
A very common question brand-new budgie owners have is, “Should I get a female or a male English budgie?”
There is no right or wrong answer to this question.
If you have your heart set on teaching your budgie to talk or whistle songs, you may want to pick a male English budgie, since they tend to be more outgoing and talkative in general.
English budgie price
English budgies can vary a great deal in price based on their mutation.
Because the English budgie is less widely available than the American parakeet, you can expect to pay a bit more for a bird, especially if your English budgie is hand raised and tame.
Plan on spending between $50 and $90 depending on the color and pattern (mutation) of your bird.
English budgie and you
Is an English budgie the right bird for you? Please post a comment to let us know what you decide!
Resources and Further Reading
Walker, B., “The English Budgerigar,” AFA Watchbird, 1992.
Juniper, T., et al, “Budgerigar (Melopsittacus undulates),” Parrot Encyclopedia, 1998.
Ira, S., “English Budgie Care and Information,” Lucky Feathers Aviary, 2018.
Welle, K., DVM, “Bird Basics: Proper Parakeet Husbandry,” The University of Illinois-Champaign College of Veterinary Medicine, 2018.
Burgmann, P., DVM, “Symptoms & Treatments of Bumblefoot in Parrots,” HARI, 2018.