So, you see, there's a whole world of
difference between the exhibition budgie of today, and the wild
or old-fashioned bird. You can also see that the changes haven't
been in the bird's best interests. They don't benefit the pet owner
either, because the larger bird is much less lively and may sit
about a lot instead of doing entertaining things and getting up
to endearing mischief. Today, the average budgerigar is so
much slower and less active than the authentic budgie that it is
almost impossible to grasp with the mind just what has gone
missing. Unless you have owned a really dynamic little gem, (and
such are always very tiny), you can't, I don't think, appreciate
the irresistible beauty of constant graceful movement and
irrepressible vitality. A tiny budgie in robust health is really
dynamic!! beyond the imagination of anyone accustomed only
to bigger budgies. Also, exhibition breeders themselves believe
that today's winning strains have a shorter life expectancy.
Inspiring Words from the
Sadly, few younger people
today have had the chance to meet a wild-type budgerigar, because
they have become so rare, (although there is regional variation).
I believe they are certainly in danger of extinction in Britain,
and action is urgently needed or the worst will happen.
They cannot be bred from birds which simply do not have their
I once ordered an old, old book from the library called 'Budgerigars in Bush and Aviary' by Australian author Neville W. Cayley. Though I am no bookworm, I became so absorbed in the fascinating contents of those thick,
fading pages that I read the whole volume in one sitting,
finishing in the small hours! My favourite quote from Neville
Cayley is: "One of the chief charms of the budgerigar is its
small size. This places it in a class apart from other parrots.
And being an Australian species it is the duty of Australians to
combat and condemn any attempt that may be made to alter its size
and so spoil one of the world's most beautiful parrots." (2nd
edition 1935; published by Angus & Robertson Ltd., Sydney).
May I add that there is a responsibility resting upon breeders in
other budgie-keeping countries also?
|"One of the chief charms of the budgerigar is its
small size. This places it in a class apart from other parrots." -- Neville Cayley 1935|
The budgerigar's situation is
made much worse by the tremendous damage caused by up to a
century of reckless inbreeding - (pairing of related birds). In
fact this damage is more serious than anything mentioned so far.
Here, non-exhibitors are just as guilty as anyone else, because
in many a garden aviary no attempt is made to prevent close
relatives from pairing. A cock will be free to breed with his
mother or sister, and a hen with her brother or father. Other
available mates will in any case be uncles, half brothers,
cousins etc. The budgerigar is not a species designed to cope
with this, and the damage is the same as it would be in a human
community. The effects are depressingly common and include slow
growth, slow maturity, general lack of vigour, life long
production of soft or pale droppings, accelerated claw growth,
lowered fertility, weakened respiration, very highly strung or
aggressive temperaments and premature death from all sorts of
complaints. Few budgerigars around today have completely escaped
all of these sort of problems. Additionally, there are nasty
genetic diseases about, such as the prolapse factor that ended
one of my budgie families. Buying a bird, especially for breeding
purposes, is a very risky business - which of course gives people
another reason to inbreed.
Loved Little Budgies
The original budgerigars were loved for their beauty as well as for their charm and talent. Their small size was a cause of wonderment, considering that previously known talking parrots were so much bigger.
When budgerigars began to be exported from their native
Australia, people in Europe went crazy over them. They didn't
complain that the birds ought to be a whole lot bigger, they just
loved them. They certainly didn't grumble that their eyes showed
too much. Budgerigars were a big craze in the old days, before
they underwent massive modification. By 1865, the birds at a
dealer's at Wapping sometimes numbered 2000. By the late 1880's
budgerigar breeding was an industry, and one establishment at
Toulouse in the south of France, had fifteen thousand birds! By
1913, the figure at the same establishment was between 80,000 and
100,000. Their chief customers abroad were England, Germany and
Russia. The point I wish to make is that all these myriads of
budgerigars were un-modified, wild-type birds, and most of them
Sacrificed in Pursuit of
The exhibition budgerigar has evolved rather than being designed
deliberately from the outset. The increase in size began, I
believe, with breeders' efforts to reverse the dwarfing and
degeneracy that had come about because of inbreeding. Inbreeding
had been used intensively to build up the numbers of the exciting
new colours, which sold for very high prices. This started the
trend towards heavier birds, a trend which has continued mainly
because breeders have wanted a challenge and have therefore
updated their 'Ideal' bird every so often. Show-breeding can't
stand still, and no one involved in it wants it to stand still.
"Their Beauty lies in
I shall close this article with another quote from Neville W.
Cayley's book 'Budgerigars in Bush and Aviary'. This time, Mr.
Cayley is himself quoting someone else - namely one E. W. Jones:
"Some breeders, especially those overseas who have never
seen these birds in their natural state, persistently breed for
abnormal size and are encouraged by judges who would like to see
them a foot long and as big as a Cockatiel or Rosella and still
call them Budgerigars. - - - - I maintain that their beauty lies
in their diminutiveness."
Are YOU A Breeder or Aviary Owner?
If you are interested in smaller, more natural budgies after reading this article, then maybe you would also be interested in helping found a club with others of like mind? Read the follow-on page Helen's Club Dream!!