Jonathan Jones: The Australian Budgie

Thursday, July 05, 2018

Commonly known as the budgie, the budgerigar (Melopsittacus undulatus) is a small seed-eating parrot endemic to Australia. They are around 18cm long and are green and yellow to blend in with the arid regions of Australia.

As a species, budgies are about 5 million years old. Today they are the most popular bird to keep and are the third most popular pet in the world, after dogs and cats.

Since the 1950s, budgies have been exported around the world and bred in captivity. This breeding has seen a variety of mutations, including in colour and size. There are at least 32 primary mutations, including blues, whites and purple, enabling hundreds of possible secondary mutations. Birds taken to shows and exhibited are known as English budgerigars and are more than double the size of wild ones.


Each week Jonathan Jones shares stories of native Australian birds, touching on their importance, the issues they face and what we can learn from them. Jones' upcoming artwork for the 9th Asia Pacific Triennial of Contemporary Art requires thousands of native Australian bird feathers, which he needs your help to find.

Image: Australian budgies, image supplied by Angela Heathcote for the National Geographic article 'How Australian budgies cope with the harsh desert climate'