Photo: Les Rance. Settled in: Les purchased four pairs of 2016-bred budgies from his friend Gerald Massey and collected them at the National Exhibition that October.

In the first of a three-part series on colony budgerigars, Les Rance discusses how he came to buy a small flock of these small parakeets, and how swiftly they settled down to breeding.

BUDGERIGARS have for many years been a very popular bird to keep and, because they are easy to manage, they are ideal for a beginner. With so many different colours available, they appeal to a wide range of birdkeepers and pet owners who find budgerigars to be great companions, especially if they are not able to keep larger parrot species due to space restrictions.

At eight weeks old, baby budgerigars are feeding themselves and, at this age, they are easy to train, especially if you only have one bird. This is because they are keen to join a “family” and bond with a human. They have that wonderful balance of a playful inquisitive personality and good intelligence, and for a small bird their talking ability is well known.

In a colony they will come to the front of an aviary to greet you when you approach – they seem genuinely pleased to welcome you and show great interest. This is very pleasing for any owner and it will give you great pleasure to interact with your birds.

Budgerigars are a native of Australia and have a nomadic lifestyle, following the rain clouds around the dry interior of this vast country. When the clouds finally deposit their rain, grass seeds sprout and quickly grow in the ideal damp and warm environment. Budgerigars use these conditions to find a location to nest and raise a family because the grasses produce their green seeds, which are eagerly eaten and fed to the babies.

The wild budgerigar is green, which gives it good camouflage and some protection from the native hawks that predate the flocks, some of which are large if the rains have been plentiful. It is the availability of the rains that stimulate these birds into breeding condition, whereas our wild birds in the UK are generally stimulated by increased daylight, which indicates the weather will warm. There will then be an increase in insects and other food to help our birds raise healthy youngsters.

During the summer of 2016 I decided to dedicate one of my 3.6m (12ft) long outside aviaries to a colony of budgerigars. Once I’d seen some excellent stock owned by my good friend Gerald Massey, I knew where my new birds were going to come from. At the PS summer show at Stafford I booked four pairs of 2016-bred youngsters for delivery at the National Exhibition that October.

When the day of delivery arrived I was very excited and really looking forward to seeing the birds that Gerald had selected for me. I was not disappointed because they were fabulous. The feathering was excellent, they all had tail feathers and there were no missing wing feathers. They could fly strongly and were a wonderful mixture of colours. I was delighted.

Their aviary was fitted with eight identical nest-boxes all hung at the same height of 1.5m (5ft) above the sand floor and protected from the rain by a glass-
fibre roof. This covers three-quarters of the length of the flight, allowing the last 90cm (3ft) to give the budgerigars access to rain and natural light.

If the nest-boxes are not identical and hung at various heights, there is invariably competition for the highest box because this is regarded as the prime residential location. It is quite possible that they will fight for that box. Consequently, all mine are the same size and hung on the wire of the aviary at the exact same height. These are small parakeet style boxes with eight staples on the inside below the entrance hole. This forms a ladder for the birds to climb down to the wooden concave where they lay their eggs. The top of the box lifts off for nest-box inspection and to ring the babies. One great advantage of breeding in a colony is that the budgerigars can pair with the partner of their choice. This does appear to give greater fertility and, hence, larger clutches.

My young budgerigars rapidly settled into their accommodation and were soon investigating the nest-boxes during early October. By November I was closed-ringing youngsters with 2016 rings with my initials on them and the parents were also wearing 2016 rings! This just shows how eager, fit, healthy well-feathered budgerigars can reproduce.

Les Rance is secretary of The Parrot Society UK. For more information, see: www.theparrotsocietyuk.org

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