THE NATURE OF BUDGIES - PARAKEETS
NATURE OF BUDGIES
Does a budgie have feelings and if so what sort of feelings has it got. Most people see a
budgie as a pretty little bird which is playful and constantly chattering. But behind that
enchanting facade lies in some budgies a scheming creature which will stop at nothing to
get what it wants. This goes as far as to killing an adversary including chicks. On the other
side of the scale are individuals who display extraordinary acts of compassion.
We humans rank ourselves as the MOST intelligent beings on the planet EARTH.
One of the things that sets us apart from the animal kingdom is our sense of humour.
But are we alone? I have witnessed numerous incidences of high level thinking in budgies
such as a sense of humour or what I perceive to be a sense of humour! This particular instance
involved two budgies who were vying for the same hen. On another occasion I observed an
act of assistance - from a COCKATIEL! to-wards a budgie whose claw became entangled in some twine.
On the other side of the coin there are examples of sheer SPITEFULNESS! where a flightless
hen was deliberately obstructed from returning to her nest by a rejected COCK!
These interpretations may be real or false but one thing is certain, BUDGIES belong in the
same intellectual realm as HUMAN BEINGS.
DO BUDGIES COMMIT SUICIDE?
I once bought a hen from a breeder whose mate was killed because he was infertile. She was a nervous bird and found it difficult to settle into the new regime. One of my existing hens who was aggressive in nature had a pal who took a fancy to the new hen. Within days this hen attacked the new bird through the bars of her cage. After isolating the attacker I released the new bird and the cock slowly became besotted with her. She clearly didn't want anything to do with him and rejected his repeated advances. She took up a nest (out of desperation?) but didn't lay. He would often be seen lying low right next to her and gazing up at her as if pleading. Weeks later she became ill and slowly deteriorated after which she finally died. A few weeks later exactly the same thing happened to the cock. No other bird in the colony was affected. On reflection it occurred to me that I hadn't noticed them taking grit. Had she found the situation intolerable and killed herself? Had the cock done the same after losing her?
THE LITTLE GREEN HEN HIDES AWAY
WHAT ARE BUDGIES TALKING ABOUT?
Anyone who keeps budgies in a group environment will not fail to hear the constant chattering going on.
But does this chattering consist of low level utterances such as a dogs bark or is it a sophisticated verbal communication system on a par with human speech? During the monitoring of my flock, the audio tracks were recorded as a "by product" of the video. Later on I slowed down some tracks out of curiosity and was astonished at the similarity to human conversation. It occurred to me that these creatures may be communicating in a fashion equally advanced as our own. I then started analyzing single calls and discovered that they were made up of two to five vowel type syllables.
Some calls were specific to a particular bird while others divided on gender. This short research was halted due to other demands and further work is necessary.
YOUNG HEN CALLS FATHER
Birds can get upset like all intelligent creatures, but do they act spitefully?
The yellow bird is a mature hen who lost her flight whilst being caught in a faulty net but was able to reach her nest by means of a line. The cock is about six months old and was fostered by another hen who previously was a nasty hen (She used to tease the young chicks before flying the nest) However she brought him up OK and lost her original nastiness, (As far as I could ascertain). I noticed him blocking the hens' return to the nest by not moving when clearly asked to do so - I assumed the reason was rejection.
He wasn't bothered about her eggs or the chicks she may have lost - all he was concerned with was his own self interest. He was a lively and cheerful young bird and very sociable. I liked him and was very surprised when I saw this. I thought to myself later on "was there a connection between this action and the way he was brought up - he was fostered from the egg stage."
I watched for a while in case she'd abandon her eggs and I would have to dash upstairs and distribute them. But it didn't come to that - she returned after two minutes,
This clip was taken in May 2003 and shows the left hand side of the cabinet nests. The budgie caught on the fleece I called "B" and his mate Snowy, (albino hen in the bottom left nest). "B" was a very capable and intelligent bird and also very highly sexed, Although not the top ranking bird in terms of combat, he was number one with the hens. Snowy was a very beautiful and sought after hen and despite her mates' frequent partners, remained true to him, Frostie, another albino hen who I believe was Snowys' mother lived in the nest above. At this particular time "B" was seeing her while Snowy was incubating eggs. Apparently he managed to get his claw caught in the fleece when visiting her. It's interesting the way one bird seems to take the opportunity to settle old scores. Prince (blue budgie) was a homosexual bird and followed "B" around a lot. Was this "cattiness" on the part of him in response to being continually rejected? Also "B" seems to reject all offers of help including that from Prince. Maybe this would have had a negative impact on his standing in the flock should he have been freed by a lower ranking bird. The cockatiels' behaviour is quite ambiguous - on the one hand he appears to intervene when Prince begins to preen him. but them attacks him. The green chick is one of "B" and Snowys' daughters.
The day before, on routine checking of the nests I found one of Queenies' chicks at the side of the box and was cold. It was five days old and it looked like it'd been abandoned....Now I don't know a lot about these things but I've read that if a chick doesn't cry then it won't get fed. I'm not so sure about that. In any case I brought him down and put it with "Z" a very experienced and trustworthy hen who had successfully fostered a number of chicks. However on this occasion it didn't work. She paid absolutely no attention to it. Although I'd put her in the Budgie House which was warm, she wasn't in lay and "B" had gone back to Snowy. The only possibility was to put it with her as she was in lay. Later I noticed "B" visiting the nest far more frequently than normal which set alarm bells ringing. Although It may have just been curiosity on his part, I was worried and decided to cage him for the night. The next day Snowy paid him a visit and was seen casually preening at the side of his cage. Nothing wrong with that you may think, but it seemed odd and I went to check. I found the chick dead in the plant pot and it hadn't been fed.
Prince and the rest of the budgies more than likely would have known about the chick and when "B" was caged they'd come to the wrong conclusion. That is why Prince was "having a go" at him. The cockatiel came to defend him but on finding out from Prince about the chick changed his stance. Prince was seen conversing with Snowy later on - not about Bs' plight or anything else but the chick. But how did he get the message across to a bird of another species? Anyone who keeps Love birds in the same environment as budgies (not necessarily in the same space as they don't mix well) will not fail to notice that they understand each other very well. Whatever the nature of this communication is cockatiels may also share it.
"B" was not an aggressive bird but his abnormally high sex drive made him gullible. Snowy was very possessive and known to be vindictive - Bs' constant wanderings hurt her and with no way to get back had she neglected the chick?
HEN SAVES YOUNGSTER
About 3 months later I went upstairs and found a young hen ill on the floor of the attic. She was from the Snowy/Frostie line - an albino who I named "Mk4" and a fairly attractive looking bird. She was motionless and unable to stand. The hospital which was downstairs was available but since she'd be alone down there I decided to put her in one of the cabinet nests and crank up the heating. There was only one nest occupied (#4A) by a very gentle and down to earth hen who I called "Orange right". She was sitting on six eggs which were days away from hatching. The nest where I put Mk4 was next door to this. She seemed OK the next morning but in the evening she looked a lot worse. I decided to put her with Orange right as I didn't expect her to last the night. This can be a dangerous thing to do but I was reasonably confident knowing her nature that she wouldn't attack the hen and this was the case. Later on I checked on her and was astonished to see the youngster tucked up under Orange rights' wing. The next evening she was in the chicks part of the nest, standing and looking a lot better. Her condition seemed to have stabilized. However when I checked three days later I found her slumped by the water trough with her head leaning back. She wasn't moving and I thought she'd passed away but she hadn't. I gave her some milk and brought her down and put her in the hospital. I seriously doubted she would last the evening let alone the night but she confounded me once again. I found her the next day lying in the seed tray underneath the warm bulb. I decided at that point to fight for her. Three weeks intensive nursing with the aid of the hospital and Orange rights' wonderful care saw the young hen who was inches from death on the road to recovery.
MK4 IN THE HOSPITAL A MONTH INTO HER LONG ILLNESS ...................................... GENTLE HEN ORANGE RIGHT
On the mend
After completing the extension to the COMPOUND a sensible but nervous hen who I called "Blue" took up the centre nest in the windowed passage. Her mate was the lowest ranking cock of the flock who I named "The proverbial." She hadn't laid when I re-introduced a rather aggressive hen into the compound. Previously, she had taken the right-hand DOUBLE - BRICK NEST and laid 6 eggs of which 3 were later found to be destroyed. I concluded her mate to be responsible. This nest was then segregated and I provided her with feed. This time as soon as she had laid her first egg, I segregated the nest. Two days later, on inspection I found the egg to be missing! Not wanting to jump to conclusions I left things be, after which she laid two further eggs. One of these was found shortly afterwards to be damaged but not perforated. I de-segregated the nest and fostered the eggs out to Blue who had laid three of her own eggs. She later became agitated and was seen leaving the nest a lot. That evening a broken egg was discovered in the windowed passage beneath the entrance to her nest. It was getting late and I didn't make any further investigations.
The following morning, she and her mate were seen to visit the right-hand adjacent nest. Clearly the "fostering out" had upset her. In the afternoon, a further destroyed egg was discovered in the same place as the previous. The pair were then seen to visit the FORE-COURT of the right-hand DOUBLE - BRICK NEST where the donor hen had remained. As she was in lay I had been reluctant to close the nest. Blue returned to the remaining eggs but the next day abandoned the nest. I had fostered eggs out on a number of occasions with success and this was unexpected. Blue amongst all the hens was the most keen to start nesting and the pair were strongly bonded.
However these were situations where the hen made the decision and had no further interest in the eggs. This was different and I failed to recognise the danger. My view is that Blue was in fear of repercussions from the donor and didn't want to be caught with her eggs. After disposing of them, she would have the same number as she had before the donation and wouldn't be at risk should the hen come round. However, the eggs close to her nest would be suspicious so she considered moving "next door". But for some reason she rejected this idea and decided to "come clean" and explain to her what happened or to spin a yarn! Whatever the case, the hen was not convinced and Blue reluctantly left the nest. As it turned out all the eggs were clear (as was usual with this particular hen). But the bird had temporarily lost her nest due to a mistake by the keeper.
RECORD OF THE INCIDENT IN DECEMBER 2007
"BLUE" WITH MATE PRIOR TO HER CRISIS
EXPLANATION OF NOTES:
"Blue" out lot - upset. 20:15 Eggs at DNB (Centre nest)- broken.
Taken away and checked. Dry yolk.
THEY DON'T TRUST US
One persons' pet budgie became agitated after it's cage partner died and wrote to a forum for advice. I submitted the following posting.
Getting him a new friend is a good idea, but NEVER mix male and female in the same cage unless its a breeding cage and the pairs are already bonded. The reason your bird is going scatty is because he has no idea why his friend has died. Budgies have little knowledge of disease or heart failure and although they are logical creatures, they are VERY suspicious. In this situation they will very often come to the wrong conclusion and suspect the keeper! I once found a half dead mouse sitting pathetically in the middle of my living room floor. It didn't move as I went past which is a sign that it'd taken the poison I'd previously laid down. Instead of slinging it in the bin as per usual I decided to try and save it in the new hospital I'd just completed. The next day it had gone and I thought it had recovered. However the smell in the aviary after two days suggested that it hadn't. I found it under the insulating blanket covering the hospital and I disposed of it straight away. Unbeknown to me, the birds were clocking all of this and were rapidly trying to assimilate it. The next day and for weeks later I found loads of seed at the bottom of the water trays. This had never happened before and I was curious as to how it got there and why. It slowly dawned on me that they concluded that I had poisoned the mouse (which I had) and were washing the seed !!!!! The second conclusion they came to which was that they were next was wrong !!!
THE DARK CAGES
The COMPOUND was built up slowly and I found that after the completion of each new section, the birds would be very reluctant to go into it. In some cases taking up to a week. A visitor once remarked "A hamster would be up and down there in no time." That set me thinking. Does that mean a hamster is more intelligent that a budgie? or is there another reason? In 1840 an explorer brought back the first pair of budgies to come into this country (England). These birds were very different in terms of colour and nature to any previously known and caused intense interest. They were later exhibited in the bird societies as a perverted display of mans' vanity and domination. Shows were organized with competitions and judges. These judges decided as today on physical appearance and posture to chose a "winning" bird. In order to meet these criteria, birds are trained to pose in a certain way and also force-bred with parents, siblings, and offspring to produce the required physical characteristics. "Unsuitable" birds are killed.
Are we still living in the DARK AGES where other creatures rights are given scant regard?
The reason I believe the hamster would feel free to wander and the budgie not, is mistrust. They've learned over the years to be be very cautious as one mistake could get them killed. The hamster hasn't been abused by man and the budgie has.
The Performing Animals (Regulation) Act 1925 (UK)
The welfare of performing animals is provided for in the general provisions to avoid suffering and ensure welfare in the Animal Welfare Act 2006. In addition the training and exhibition of performing animals is further regulated by the 1925 Act which requires trainers and exhibitors of such animals to be registered with the local authority. Under this Act, the police and officers of local authorities, who may include a vet, have power to enter premises where animals are being trained and exhibited, and if cruelty and neglect is detected, magistrates' courts can prohibit or restrict the training or exhibition of the animals and suspend or cancel the registration granted under the Act.
In 2001 I started as a total beginner to breed budgies. Two and a half years later I had raised 72 chicks. These chicks grew up and were free to chose any mate they wanted - apart from direct relatives, (parent, sibling or offspring). Just one hen chose a direct relation as a first choice. This suggests to me that the majority of hens find this close in-breeding abhorrent. To force a hen to this is in my opinion mental cruelty.
During my journey through the BUDGIE WORLD I have witnessed the remarkable compassion a hen can give to an unrelated youngster, the collaborative efforts a flock can make to free a fellow bird, the selfless devotion the birds give in rearing their young. However as with all intelligent creatures there is a darker side to their nature. This goes beyond the natural instincts to feed and procreate and to defend oneself. On the 20th February 2009 on routine monitoring of my flock I noticed a nesting hen having difficulty with flight. I continued monitoring during the rest of the day to ascertain if she was egg bound. Later that evening I found an egg on the roof of the Love birds' pen. Clearly something was wrong as she had laid all her previous eggs in the nest. I checked her later and found her in the nest but not incubating. On inspection I found her procreative apparatus - "womb" etc to be trailing outside her body. I took this to be the equivalent of a prolapsed uterus. I was uncertain what to do. However as she appeared to be comfortable and not in distress I let her be. Her mate appeared to be a "pestering cock" and their bonding was not a true bond. In view of this I decided to block his visits in order that she could recover from her trauma without further stress. I placed feed for her in the "kitchen compartment" of her nest but on inspection the next morning I found her dead.
Later on I laid her out on the platform to the nest in order for her mate and the rest of the free birds to appreciate what had happened to her and to pay their last respects. I had done this for a while with positive results. When a bird simply vanishes with no indication as to the reason then this engenders mistrust and uneasiness in the flock. Some birds especially close bound mates will go to the deceased and preen their heads or wings. Some will attempt to try to "wake them up." I believe the birds find it easier to move on when given this opportunity. However in this case things went disturbingly wrong. After finding his mate motionless on the platform, he initially appeared to try to arouse her. But after establishing that she was no longer alive he seized the opportunity to "rape" her. When other cocks flocked to the scene I initially thought they were trying to intervene. But no - they also appeared to want to take advantage of this unique situation. What happened on that platform that day is not totally clear as the hen was not in view owing to the angle of the camera. However I believe that this interpretation is correct. The fact that this has never happened before (in my experience) suggests to me that there exists in these creatures a kind of moral code of conduct similar to that of humans.
HISTORY AND ASSESSMENT:
The hen on introduction to the flock two years ago was "HOT PROPERTY" Every cock apart from the homosexual went wild over her. She proved very capable of dealing with her unwanted suitors and things settled down. However on maturity she began to intimidate a brooding hen at her nest and she was placed in the COMPOUND. After another period of relative chaos she chose an emotionally immature mate
and took up the RIGHT HAND DOUBLE-BRICK NEST where she began to lay. This nest needed to be isolated due to repeated damage to the eggs. When the bird was released, she paired with an older mature cock and took up the BRICK NEST on the wardrobe. Things appeared normal with usual nesting behaviour and no damaged eggs. However later on she would be seen feeding herself often and not receiving her mate as one would expect. It appeared that their relationship (if it ever existed at all) had broken down. The nesting was merely a charade or a means of escape from an unwanted partner.
The disturbing incident at the platform was an expression of the cocks' frustration during that time.
THE YOUNG GREEN HEN IN THE SMALL ROOSTER BEFORE HER UNTIMELY DEATH
In the early days I didn't have a specific place for long term segregation. The flock was not so large and I dealt with the problems that arose on a ad hoc basis. There were three locations at my disposal. The attic of the house which was the main breeding aviary, a small porch at the side of the house and the dining room which adjoined the porch. It was the two latter rooms which were used for the resting hens and chicks and it was also where the problem birds were kept. At this particular time the transition from the porch as the main breeding place to the attic had not been fully completed. There were two nests in the porch as I brought the "FROSTIE BABE" down as it appeared that her relationship with her father was becoming more than platonic. She was the third chick in Frosties' second clutch with a very precocious and headstrong nature and a confidence befitting a bird twice her age.
Within minutes of being released, she flew to one of the nests and partly entered it. At three months old this was not particularly unusual but shortly afterwards she picked a fight with Snowy who was between clutches and preparing for her next brood. There were no injuries as a result of this challenge and the youngster flew off in short measure. On account of this and her constant calling I decided to take her back to the attic as my original assessment regarding her relationship with her father may have been wrong. As it turned out this may well have been the case. In researching this section, It appeared that on introducing the bird back to the attic her father "TURKEY" plus another adult cock "B" (SNOWYs' mate) were making advances towards the young hen. Her response to this was to "peck them off". Her mother who was sitting on eggs and caring for a newly hatched chick was discovered a week later with head injuries. How these injuries occurred could not be established as no monitoring facilities had been installed at that time. However they were commensurate with an attack from another bird and the wounds had congealed. There was one other free hen in the aviary at the time, a very down to earth hen who had never shown any aggressive tendencies. To take action against any of these hens would have been incorrect. (A physical attack on a hen by a cock is unknown). After establishing that she was comfortable with no further bleeding and the chick unharmed I took no further action.
Snowy and her box were later taken up and installed in the attic as a next step in the transfer process. A few days later the FROSTIE BABE was noticed on the perch of SNOWYs' box and physically intimidating her. Snowy had shown herself very capable of dealing with the youngster and I left things be. My belief (or hope) that she would find her correct place in the pecking order and settle down was to be proved very wrong when later that week I heard a commotion in the attic. It was early morning and I rushed upstairs suspecting the worst. On opening the door I found the two birds in combat on the stairs. On hearing my entry the birds immediately flew apart. In these situations seconds count and I was surprised and relieved to find SNOWY had only received scratches to the head while the youngster fled unscathed. It was then I decided NEVER to bring the bird up again. Eight months later after she'd seen numerous birds being taken up to breed I had a rethink. She was that much older and perhaps that much wiser and monitoring equipment had been installed. After receiving much attention from the cocks she chose a very stable and reserved partner who was a brother from an earlier clutch. Within days she began to prepare a spare nest box for laying. Her mate was high ranking and remained true to her and would often be seen at the box fending off her many suitors. Although never having offspring the transformation of her nature was remarkable. She never interfered with another hen and caused the least problems in the whole flock.
BRIEF EXPLANATION OF NOTES:
22nd MAY 2002
17:22: "Z" in (BUDGIE HOUSE). Fed chicks upstairs, 1 1/2 Minutes, "F1c" okay, Frostie double spotted bad. Turkey fed Frostie.
28th MAY 2002
8:10: "Z" chicks moved to the cage ("Z1c" at the bottom re squawking) 8:30. Snowy and F3b in the attic fighting on the stairs. Opened door. F3b flew to the kitchen, Snowy flew in the bedroom. Snowy taken back to the attic. Both okay. Snowy slightly spotted.
THE FROSTIE BABE BEFORE HER EVENTUAL RETURN TO THE ATTIC
SNOWY AND FROSTIE IN THE PORCH AVIARY DURING THEIR RESTING PHASES
Picture this scenario. You're at the bar in the disco with your mates and you're chatting up a girl (or if you're a girl, a bloke). You're getting along great and there's a good rapport between the two of you - then you feel a dig in the back. You turn around expecting your mate to say something to you but find him (or her) gazing in the distance oblivious to anything. You shrug it off and continue with your conversation. A few moments later it happens again! This time you "grill" your mate but he swears it wasn't him and he didn't see anything. This wasn't the time for a fuss and you ask him to keep his eyes open and you continue trying to impress your friend. But moments later it happens again! You've had enough and stand up infuriated, but before you have a chance to shove your pal to the floor he dives off and you don't see him again for the rest of the evening. I witnessed these events - it took place at a nest in the ATTIC AVIARY between two budgies and a nesting hen! The similarity in personalities between budgies and humans is striking. Although we are mammals we are closer to birds than we think.
! THIS ACCOUNT IS NOT SUITABLE FOR CHILDREN !
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