I can remember a time when every budgie I looked at seemed to be a special, and totally random, mix of colors. However, as I learnt more I realised there was a pattern to those beautiful mixes. With a little bit of effort you too can identify the lovely budgie colours and varieties that make each of them look unique. And from there you are just a hop, skip and a jump away from being able to breed the specific ones you want! But that’s another story… for another page…
Let us start with the ancestor of all our lovely budgies, that wild budgie out on the Australian Outback.
Wild budgies usually only come in one colour and one variety, but all our pet budgies colours have come from there. They live in flocks that reach hundreds of thousands in good years, breeding clutches that are often 6-8 chicks in size and creating flocks that are a marvel to behold. They are all what we would call a Light Green Normal and are truly a beautiful sight. It is useful to know where all other budgie colours came from, so click here to learn about them and see images of them in the wild.
If there is only one type of budgie in the wild, how did we end up with so many different budgie colors in captivity? Well, in all living things the process of mutation occurs. If a mutation occurs in the sex cell of a budgie (the cell that is passed on during breeding, to form the next generation) it can have an effect on the new chick. Now, this is likely to cause death, as most genes are vital exactly as they are, but occasionally you get a mutation that alters something not life threatening, like the colour of the feathers. And in captivity we are able to protect these birds and breed more of them, leading to much more variation than you could get in the wild.
The best place to start learning is the body colour of your budgie. By this I mean the colour from its chest down to its vent and around under the wings and on the back.
We have seen that the wild type budgie has green body colour and a yellow face. These colours are caused by a combination of pigments and physical structures in the feathers. The pigments are melanin and psittacin - melanin is responsible for the brown, blacks and greys, while psittacin gives yellow pigments. There are actually no blue or green pigments in budgie feathers. The blue is created by feather structure and then the yellow pigment creates green when added. To learn about feather structure and how colour is produced, there is more specific info here.
However, I am sure you have noticed that there are many shades of green,
blue and grey available. You can read about all the many different body colours here.
Once you have explored the body colours you may want to learn more about the many different varieties that budgies come in. The variety of a budgie effects the colour and position of the markings , and can alter the shade or presence of the basic body colour. This is where the truly amazing diversity of colours and patterns are produced.
Take a look at the links above and see if you can identify your birds colour and variety.