The Behavior of Parakeets

The first locomotion you will perhaps observe in a newly purchased bird is its tripping along a perch. If the newcomer is not cowering in a corner on the bottom of the cage it is likely to be sitting on a perch and watching its surroundings either shyly or with curiosity. But no wide-awake parakeet can sit still for long, especially if it is excited. So it will start moving back and forth sideways on its perch with tiny, quick steps. Usually its body is at right angles to the perch when it moves like this. Perhaps it will hop to a perch on the opposite side to trip back and forth there, and at some point it will fly to the bottom of the cage or aviary to peck at gravel and food. When moving on the ground in search of food, the parakeet also takes tiny, quick steps, but now the direction is forward rather than sideways. If there is more room than what a cage bottom can provide, the bird will occasionally hop, pushing off from the ground with both feet, and sometimes this hopping is combined with a few quick flaps of the wings. We have already mentioned that parakeets in Australia often cover hundreds of kilometers a day in rapid flight when searching for food and not involved in breeding.

It goes without saying that no bird living under human care can ever develop its full flying potential. A pet bird will not be able to develop the stamina necessary for survival in the wild or reach its top flight speeds, no matter how generous the aviary or large the available living room. Nevertheless a healthy bird will take full advantage of an aviary or room for flying and gradually get to know every corner. Usually the parakeet has fixed flight routes around obstacles and favorite landing places. But a parakeet needs at least one companion of its own kind as a stimulus for flying. It is true that a single bird, too, will fly and climb, especially if encouraged by its keeper, but its level of activity does not compare to that of parakeets living in contact with each other. Climbing is just as natural a mode of locomotion for parakeets as flying. Parakeets like to cover shorter distances by climbing, longer ones by flying. Natural branches in an aviary or climbing trees in a living room quickly become their favorite places since they are good for climbing and for taking off into the air. If you are keeping one or two parakeets in a cage you will often see them spreading and flapping their wings while hanging on to the perch tightly.

They go through the motions of flying without taking to the air. Research shows conclusively that this beating of the wings occurs only in birds kept in cages either exclusively or most of the time. Aviary birds do not need this exercise since they have enough opportunity to satisfy their need for flying. The beating of wings is therefore a sign to be heeded by the keeper that the bird is suffering from lack of exercise and is forced by the unnatural confinement of its environment to resort to this unnatural behavior. The situation is different in young birds that have just learned to fly. These birds, too, flap their wings in an aviary or on a climbing tree, even though they have adequate room for flying. They are apparently exercising their joints and flight muscles. To conclude this section I should like to repeat that birds kept singly move less than pairs or small flocks do. As true flock birds, parakeets respond in mood and activities to the stimulation of fellow birds. If one bird begins to preen itself, its neighbor will soon follow, and broodiness, yawning, and sleepiness are similarly contagious. A bird taking off has the effect of a command; the whole flock is compelled to follow. Let me therefore stress again: Have at least two parakeets if you want to have birds that stay active, keep themselves busy, and remain fit by flying and climbing. Other behaviour & social apsects.

E-Mail: berniehansen@sympatico.ca



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Hamilton & District Budgerigar Society Inc.