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Are Budgies Parrots, Parakeets, or Both?

Budgies, parrots, parakeets, oh my! All these terms describe types of birds, and they’re very easy to mix up. So what’s the most accurate way to classify your pet budgie?

A Common Point of Confusion

You may have heard people refer to budgies as parrots, parakeets, or both. Is one term better or more accurate than the other? To answer this question, we first have to understand what “parrot” really means. 

Parrot: A scientific definition

Scientists classify animals according to a system called Linnaean taxonomy, named after the zoologist Carl Linnaeus (1707-1778). In this taxonomy, there is a seven-tiered hierarchy of classification. From largest to smallest, these tiers are kingdom, phylum, class, order, family, genus, and species. Animals are grouped in these categories according to their evolutionary relationships and physical characteristics. 

All birds are grouped together in the class Aves. This class is broken down into multiple orders, one of which is Psittaciformes. All birds within order Psittaciformes are parrots! They have several defining characteristics, like curved beaks and zygodactyl feet (two toes pointing backwards, two pointing forward).

 

All birds are grouped together in the class Aves. This class is broken down into multiple orders, one of which is Psittaciformes. All birds within order Psittaciformes are parrots! They have several defining characteristics, like curved beaks and zygodactyl feet (two toes pointing backwards, two pointing forward).

BeakFoot

Where Do Budgies Come In?

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The order Psittaciforme is broken down even further into three superfamilies. These are:

1.) Strigopoidea (the New Zealand parrots, including the kakapo and kea),

2.) Cacatuoidea (including the cockatoos and cockatiels),

3.) and Psittacoidea (macaws, conures, budgerigars, and many more).

Psittacoidea is by far the largest superfamily within order Psittaciforme. Of the roughly 400 species of parrots, over 350 fall within this superfamily.

Because budgerigars (A.K.A. budgies) fall within the order Psittaciforme, and so you can confidently tell your friends that your beloved pet budgies are parrots. To get even more specific, budgies are classified as having the genus Melopsittacus and species Undulatus. “Melo” is from the word “melodious”. “Psittacus” refers to their status as part of the parrot or “psittacine” classification. “Undulatus” is from the word “undulating”. 

Parrot vs Parakeet

Finally, what does parakeet mean? It’s actually not a taxonomic term, but rather an umbrella term that refers to a subset of parrots with the same general features: small, slender bodies and long tails. Besides budgies, other types of parakeets include conures and Indian ring-necked parakeets. So budgies are a type of parakeet and parakeets are a subtype of parrot. 

To sum it all up, budgies are a type of parakeet and all parakeets are parrots. Although parakeet is a slightly less formal, more specific term. To remember how everything relates, it may help to use this drink metaphor: if “parrot” is equivalent to “beverage” (a broad, inclusive term), then “parakeet” is like “soda” (more specific) and “budgie” is like “Coca-Cola” (the most specific).

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Now you know how budgies, parrots, and parakeets are all related. But there’s so much more to learn! Be sure to check out our other articles on The Budgie Academy website, and follow us on social media to stay up-to-date on everything budgie.

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Literature Cited

  1. Joseph, Leo, et al. “A Revised Nomenclature and Classification for Family-Group Taxa of Parrots (Psittaciformes).” Zootaxa, vol. 3205, no. 1, 2012, p. 26., https://doi.org/10.11646/zootaxa.3205.1.2.
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