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Welcome to Birdata 22 September 2014

Budgerigar: On the Move

Peter Marsack

For many people, the only time they see a Budgerigar is in a cage. This is hardly surprising, as this diminutive parrot is the world's most popular cage bird. To many folk who live in inland Australia, however, seeing wild Budgies are a part of everyday life.

There are few sights in the outback that rival seeing a huge flock of Budgerigars flying through the mulga or the spinifex, their bright green and golden plumage contrasting with the ochre-red colour of the desert sand. These flocks are often on the move from feeding areas towards a waterhole or soak in the otherwise parched landscape. As Budgies feed almost entirely on seeds, which supply virtually no moisture, they need to drink fresh water every day to survive. Part of their daily routine is to mass at the edges of waterholes or tanks, where they congregate at the margins with other seed-eating birds, such as pigeons, finches and other parrots, or crowd onto any available perch protruding from the water before climbing down for a drink. Some Budgies hover above the water to drink, and a few may even settle on the surface of the water, with wings outstretched. So regular are these daily movements that they were used by canny explorers, who followed the Budgies because they knew they would lead them to water.

During frequent periods of drought, when waterholes in the inland dry up, large mobile flocks of Budgerigars are occasionally forced to move long distances in search of water. Sometimes these displaced flocks arrive well outside their usual range, in temperate or coastal parts of Australia. These drought-related movements into such areas are called irruptions. In one such irruption "clouds [of Budgerigars] big enough to cast a shadow" were recorded.

The accompanying map shows that Budgerigars are quite widespread, but some of these records reflect movement into temperate areas during the severe drought in the late 1990s and early 2000s.

If you want to discover more information about this species or any other birds that occur in Australia, just follow this link and you can explore BirdLife Australia's Atlas of Australian Birds.

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