In seeking to take proper care of any animal, learning their biology is key to understanding how they see the world and why they engage in certain behaviors. Budgies, like other parrots, are flock animals. Over the course of their evolution, they have developed a collection of flock-related survival and defense mechanisms which enable them to survive in the often-treacherous, semi-arid wilds of Australia.
In this article, we’ll go over some key points of budgie instincts that will help you better understand your bird’s motivations and behaviors.
Birds of a feather flock together
Budgies are flock animals, so their behaviors must be understood in a flock context.
Wild budgies live in small- to medium-sized flocks throughout the year, migrating in search of stable food sources. When food is plentiful in an area, many flocks can converge to form one massive flock with members numbering in the thousands. As a result, a huge part of a budgie’s instincts and characteristics are influenced by this flocking aspect of their biology.
Fly first, think later
Budgies are tiny prey animals. When threatened, their main survival mechanism is to take off and fly away.
If a single bird in a flock senses danger and takes off, the rest of the flock will likely follow suit. This is why new owners might perceive their birds as “randomly” taking off and frantically flying around. It’s not actually a random behavior, but rather a calculated response to a perceived threat!
Bad vibes are real...kinda!
Along the same lines, budgies rely on other flock members to sense danger.
If one budgie is demonstrating fearful behavior, other budgies in the flock will pick up on this and act defensively, fly away, or go on “high-alert” as a means of self-defense. When there are two budgies in a cage, the more fearful budgie’s behavior can seem to “rub off” on the more daring budgie, causing them to pull back. This is part of their survival mechanism. If one budgie senses danger, it’s best not to stand around and look for a potential predator themselves and take off instead and is part of the way these animals evolved to instinctually react.
Another major flocking behavior found in budgies is their social eating behavior.
Budgies travel together to search for food and learn to identify new food items by watching others. As a result, we often see budgies come together to eat in the same area or off the same plate. This is why it’s important to offer food on plates or flat surfaces. Offering food from a bowl that is too narrow to accommodate multiple birds can lead to conflict and fighting.
This social eating behavior is among a budgie’s strongest instincts and is also why diet conversions are much easier when a new, incoming budgie gets introduced to an existing flock that already is on a healthy diet. The new budgie watches the others and learns that those items are also food that can be eaten. To learn more about using the social eating instinct in diet conversion (among other techniques), check out our article here.
Vocalizations are a major means of communication between budgies.
You’ve likely noticed that your budgies are quick to jump into the “conversation” when someone is talking on the phone or playing upbeat, layered music. You may also have noticed that if you suddenly go quiet, they tend to stop vocalizing as well. This is actually a defense mechanism! In the wild, if a predator is suddenly spotted, the flock goes quiet to avoid giving away their location.
How budgies see humans
Without any training, budgies will likely view humans as threatening and display fearful behaviors.
This is why budgies that are not used to associating with people are, by default, extremely fearful of humans. Budgies are not unique in this behavior. Most animals view large, unfamiliar items with caution and in the wild, animals who walk away tend to live to reproduce and pass on their genes onto the next generation.
This is also why a budgie acting scared or biting does not automatically mean it was previously abused! Although this is a common fear among budgie owners, it is much more likely they simply have had no or very limited prior human contact that resulted in any positive experiences. These budgies only see something large and unfamiliar that is rapidly approaching or reaching at them with no warning. With training, budgies learn rapidly to associate with humans and coexist with them comfortably.
Fortunately, budgies are very intelligent and learn quickly. With the right training techniques, they learn quickly that humans do not need to be feared and are, in fact, very useful to them!
Budgies are uniquely adapted to survive in their harsh Australian homelands. Behaviors like forming flocks, startling easily, and eating in groups have all helped these little birds thrive in the wild. These behaviors persist even in pet budgies, and recognizing them is key to understanding how your bird sees the world.
For a practical look at how the social eating instinct can be used in diet conversion, check out our article on introducing pellets. If you’d just like to learn more about budgie biology, explore our articles here! And don’t forget to connect with us on social media–we’re on TikTok, Instagram, and Facebook–so you never miss out on new content.