This is the summer holiday season for people living in the southern hemisphere. Like many Australians, Georgia is away from home for six weeks, touring Europe. She’s studying Creative Writing at the University of Queensland, restarting in late January.
While visiting friends in Ireland, Georgia was delighted to discover that they kept budgies as pets. One bird – named Cosmic – caught her attention in particular. He’s a good-looking, sociable male budgie, who enjoyed coming out of his cage and sitting on her head.
In Queensland, budgies live in the wild. Georgia lives in a leafy suburban part of Brisbane, and she often sees wild budgies in her back garden. They’re also common on the university campus. Flocks of a hundred birds or more fly around together, squawking loudly. They’re colourful birds – wild budgies are bright blue, yellow or green, just like pet budgies, and they add a cheerful, bright tone to life in Brisbane. They feed on the tropical vegetation that grows locally.
People in Queensland keep budgies as pets as well, but they only keep birds that have been bred in captivity, rather than wild ones that have been caught. There’s always some degree of two way traffic between wild budgies and pets, as Georgia has experienced for herself.
Pet birds in Queensland sometimes escape, returning to join their wild cousins. On one occasion, Georgia’s mother bought a beautiful white budgie. He used to be allowed out of his cage to fly around, and on one occasion, someone left a window open. The bird flew out of the window, and that was the last they saw of him. It’s likely that he simply joined up with a flock of wild budgies, and he’d have had a good chance of surviving and thriving. Here in Ireland, a budgie wouldn’t be able to last for long on its own in the wild: it’s too cold, and the right type of natural food source isn’t available.
Wild budgies are not normally trapped to be kept as pets, but there are times when they get into difficulties, and they need to be looked after by humans. Georgia once witnessed a single budgie being chased by three large Butcher Birds. These are large Australian birds that are similar to magpies, working in small flocks to chase and catch prey. They mostly eat insects – they get their name from their habit of impaling captured insects on thorns or in crevices. This “larder” is used to store the prey for later consumption. Butcher Birds also sometimes eat small animals, and on this occasion, they had the budgie in their sights. They’d managed to knock the budgie to the ground, and they were closing in on it as Georgia watched. She rushed out with a broom, and managed to chase the larger birds away. The budgie was stunned, so Georgia took it home to nurse it. It turned out to be tame, and she suspected that it has originally been a pet that had escaped. She called the bird Yuki, and she ended up keeping him as a pet.
Georgia’s family kept a series of budgies as pets when she was younger. They usually named them after writers – there was Banjo (after Banjo Paterson, the Australian Bush Poet), Henry (after Henry Lawson, another Australian author) and DH (after DH Lawrence). The bird that Georgia remembers most fondly was an exception to this naming rule: his good looks were spoiled by a growth on the side of his face that made him look ugly: he was called Fugly. He outlived all of the birds with the fancier names.
Georgia fell in love with Cosmic, an Irish cousin of her native budgies. She’s heading home soon, and although she can’t take him back, she’ll be bringing plenty of good memories of Ireland home with her.
- All pet budgies originate from Australian budgies that live in the wild
- Budgies are social creatures and should always be kept in pairs or small groups
- They can be easily tamed, enjoying human company