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History of Budgerigars

Wild Budgerigars in Australia

Budgerigars are beautiful birds. They are available in a myriad of colours and pattern combinations; they are comparatively easy to manage and to breed; they adapt to almost any climatic conditions; they make affectionate and absorbing pets. Small wonder that these colourful parakeets have become so universally popular.

It was not always so. Until the 1900s, they were virtually unknown outside their native Australia. When that country was discovered by Captain James Cook in 1770, one of wonders reported was flocks of tiny parrots, so great in numbers that when they flew overhead, they blotted out the sun for miles, and when they alighted on the branches of dead trees their brilliant green plumage gave the impression that the tree had been instantly resurrected and had broken into leaf.

Budgerigars were introduced to England by John Gould in 1840 and soon afterwards a few arrived in America.  By the late 1880s, dealers were importing hundreds of thousands of pairs into Europe until, in 1894, the Australian government put a ban on the export of parakeets.

By this time, enthusiasts all over Europe were beginning to breed budgerigars and were so successful that the Australian ban had very little effect on the budgerigar population.

At first, all the birds were of the basic light green variety, but in 1870 the first colour mutation appeared in Belgium, causing quite a sensation. It was described as a pure yellow bird with red eyes and is presumed to have been a lutino.  At the same time, yellow birds with black eyes and pale wing markings appeared. The breeders knew nothing of sex-linkage at that time and the lutino was ‘lost’, but the black-eyed yellow variety was established.

Stories began to circulate of a budgerigar of incredible beauty.  It was described as having a pure white face with a smooth, skyblue body. It remained but a legend until, in 1910, two skyblues were shown at a bird show at the Horticultural Hall, London.

With the advent of the blue series birds, the Royal House of Japan became interested in budgerigars and were reputed to have paid astronomical sums for pairs of blue birds. Japanese nobility started the fashion of giving these lovely blue and white birds as ‘love tokens’ and soon the fashion had spread to anyone who could afford the high prices being charged.

In 1927 the Japanese government banned the importation of budgerigars, but by this time the Japanese were breeding the birds themselves, and to this day, Japan has a strong following of budgerigar fanciers.

After the skyblues came the dark greens which, when mated with the sky blues produced cobalts, and then, as the hobby passed out of the hands of the few into the realms of the ordinary fanciers, the mutations multiplied until today’s enormous variety was achieved.

Stan & Barbara Moizer
Budgerigars – A Complete Guide



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