Budgie Boom!By Ellen Lambeth; photos by Roland Seitre/Naturepl.com
Look out below, because budgies—lots and LOTS of them—are coming in for a landing!
“What’s a budgie?” you may ask. Well, there’s a pair of budgies in the circle above. Some people keep these birds as pets and call them parakeets. But there are many different kinds of parakeets, which include any small parrot with a long tail. The kind of parakeet in this story is the budgerigar (BUHjuh-ree-gar). Most people call it “budgie” for short.
Wild budgies live across the middle part of Australia (see map), where it’s usually hot and dry. So it’s a good thing that budgies can manage quite well on little water. But whenever and wherever water is available, budgies will show up—sometimes in great numbers, as you can see here!
LIFE IN THE MIDDLE
Most people in Australia live along the coasts. That means much of the region in the middle area is pretty wild territory. Much of it is also desert, but that doesn’t mean it never rains. In fact, sometimes there’s a lot of seasonal rain.
The rains bring new crops of grasses, which is great for budgies: Grass seed is their favorite food. And the birds can survive for long periods on the water that’s in their seedy meals. Most of the time, budgies live in small flocks that move around from here to there. They land in the grasses and gobble up all they can find.
When they’ve stripped all the grasses of seeds, they fly off to another spot and start feasting there. Sometimes, their luck runs out. The rains stop, and the grasses wither and die. Once in a while, there’s even an extremely long dry period called a drought (DROWT). During such hard times, many budgies die. Survivors may travel hundreds and hundreds of miles in their search for scarce food or water.
Finally, they discover a shrinking source of water. Meanwhile, other flocks have zeroed in on the location, too. The birds swarm in overhead and fly down by the thousands—even hundreds of thousands—to drink their fill.
Eventually, the rains return. That makes the grasses grow and develop new batches of seeds, providing plenty of food for all! And that means it’s a good time to settle down for a while and raise some budgie families.
BUDGIE BABY BOOM
As long as there’s a lot of food available, budgies start splitting up into pairs. Each pair finds a cozy tree hole to nest in. Mom lays four to six eggs and keeps them warm. Dad is in charge of bringing food to Mom during this time and after the chicks hatch. Once the chicks open their eyes and grow some warm feathers, Dad may babysit whenever Mom needs to take a break.
With luck, a whole new batch of budgies will leave the nest. Soon, they’ll join with many other new families to roam the countryside, just as all their parents and grandparents did before them.