Saturday, September 17, 2011
I have loved birds ever since I was young.
Calla-one of my Budgerigars (more commonly called Parakeets)
For 15 years now I have had birds of my own. I currently have five Budgerigars (commonly called parakeets in the pet trade) and one Green-cheeked Conure (pronounced con-yur). Conures are also members of the Parakeet family. Both Budgerigars (commonly called “Budgies” for short), and Conures, are native to Australia. For purposes of this blog article I will refer to them by the commonly held pet trade name—Parakeet.
All of my Parakeets are female and my Conure is male. The sex of a Budgie can usually be determined by the age of six months by the color of their cere (the fleshy looking growth containing the nostrils). In a juvenile bird the cere will be pink to purplish pink. Once they attain maturity at about six months the male’s cere will be a bright blue, and the female’s cere will become a light to pale beige, or darken to a brown during breeding season.
My Parakeets’ names are Parker (9 yrs. old), Avery (8 yrs. old), Myra (7 yrs. old), Perri (7 yrs. old), and Calla (5 yrs. old). Jazz is my Conure and he is 4 years old. Their behavior is so fascinating! I could watch them all day. Bird behavior is one of the things about them that I love. The way they interact with each other is very entertaining. They all have their own personalities too, especially Calla.
Calla is an albino, identified by the lack of color pigment in her feathers, along with the trademark pink eyes of the albino
Calla has the strangest personality of all my Parakeets. I named her after the Calla lily, which is an all-white flower because she is an albino Parakeet. Albinism is a rare condition that alters the pigment of the body to a white color. In this case, feathers and not skin, scales, or fur. She has all white feathers and pink feet and eyes. Because of the albinism, if she were a male her cere would not turn the typical blue color. It would remain the pinkish purple of the juveniles. Wild Parakeets are green with yellow heads. However breeders, pairing males with subtle color differences with females with color differences, have created a large diversity of colors for the pet trade —albinos being one of these.
Calla hangs upside down—a lot. She will even try to take her daily naps like this. In the evening when all the birds are finding their spot to roost for the night, she will be the only one hanging upside down. Every night I have to check on her and put her back on a perch. I probably will never understand why Calla does this. She is also a very frantic flyer. Sometimes she will just fly until she runs out of energy and does an emergency landing on the floor. More than once she has flown right into the side of my face. If you let your parrots fly around your house or a room it is important to have curtains over windows and to have all doors locked. Parrots could fly into windows and hurt or kill themselves, and if someone walked into a room unexpectedly, they could release a parrot into the wild, which could mean death to that parrot.
Being too forward is another one of her quirks. If she wants a certain perch or food dish, she will push the others right off! Females are typically more dominant and socially intolerant and this seems to be a trait she is displaying here. Calla also acts extra friendly to the other girls. She will often chatter right in their faces. (This is most likely a form of dominance.) Calla loves when I talk to her through the cage too. She gets excited and puffs up her head feathers and then her pupils get very tiny! Because almost all parrots are very social in the wild, in captivity humans often become part of a budgie’s “flock,” and parrots will show these behaviors to humans. She will always step on to my finger, but doesn’t stay there for very long because she seems to want to explore and interact with the other birds. She takes frequent baths in her bathing dish, but again she will nudge others off if they are in her way.
Calla’s diet, and that of my other birds, consists of mostly pellets. Pellets, manufactured by humans, are a very nutritious form of food that has a very scientific balance of nutrients. They do get vegetables and fruits from time to time and seed on occasion. I use one style of cup for the seed. Whenever she sees it, she knows what to expect. Sometimes something else will be in the bowl and when she takes a look, she will do a double take. It is funny and interesting because I can generally guess what her next behavior will be if I give her a form of enrichment that I have given her in the past. I have studied her behavior for five years now, so it’s fun to try to predict what she will do next.
Calla is definitely one of a kind, and always keeps me on my toes. A short while ago she was in the habit of kicking her pellets out of her food dish. I’m not sure why she does this. These behaviors may be similar to what some Parakeets do in the wild. I hope you enjoyed getting to know Calla and will look for future blogs about my other birds!
Submitted by Lisbeth Hodges, World Bird Sanctuary Naturalist/Trainer