4. Whatever happened to budgies?

In the 1950s and 60s every home seemed to have a budgerigar in a cage. They were originally imported from Australia, but seemed fairly easy to breed over here. My grandfather bred them in the 1930s long before I was born. The sole aim seemed to be to teach them to talk. Legend would have it that only the male could be persuaded to do this, but the identification did not seem clear. Males were said to have a blue patch (cere) above the bill, but this seemed to vary with age. However I have heard the birds speak, in a fashion.
I suspect that the introduction of television and the interruption of their non-vocal or perhaps their persistent vocal squawking put an end to their popularity.
Incidentally my other grandmother had canary that sang beautifully, but I guess these days the TV would win there too. Not seen one of those for years.


1 thought on “4. Whatever happened to budgies?

  1. We had a budgie Jim – and it could speak – as you say ‘in a fashion’. My Dad taught it several nursery rhymes, amongst other things, and when tape-recorded and amplified the similarity to my Dad’s voice and intonation was unmistakable! We also had a budge when the kids were small. It could speak ‘parrot fashion’ (although I was obviously not as talented a teacher as my Dad) but as someone interested in animal behaviour I soon realised it was also intelligent in ways I had not anticipated. The squawking you mention, for example, was issued only when we were not all present in the same room with the budgie. Once the whole family was gathered together the squawking came to an end. I could bore you with lots more examples but it encouraged me appreciate that most animals are smarter than we choose to accept. It’s convenient to think of them as qualitatively different from human beings but that does not correspond with Darwinism and there’s now masses of evidence that they can problem-solve and learn from experience much as we do.
    Now you didn’t think your reference to the demise of budgies as a family pet would trigger that kind of response did you!

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