14 TYPES OF PARAKEETS AND HOW TO DIFFERENTIATE THEM
Original Articles on WorldBirds.Org
by Garth C. Clifford
How many types of parakeets are out there and how do they differ from each other? If you’ve ever asked yourself this question, you’ll find the answer in this article. With its help, you’ll learn all about parakeets in terms of their diversity, appearance, standard features, and everything else you might want to know.
A parakeet can be a small budgerigar, or it can be a larger species that live for longer and is used to a different climate. There is no standard definition for a parakeet as the taxonomic group; it is a part of consists of several hundreds of birds, many of which live in completely different places across the world.
Parakeets have a long tail and are typically smaller than larger types of parrots such as Cockatoos or Amazons. They are very intelligent and active, and many are easy to train, so they can be taught to imitate human speech or some sounds in their environment.
Parakeets are a part of the general parrot family. In terms of appearance, they are usually equipped with tapered and long tail feathers and have a less stocky body compared to larger parrots.
The most common and popular type of parakeets are budgies, and the reason they are so widespread in households across the globe is that they are considered low-maintenance pet birds.
Larger varieties of parakeets do exist and they come in a diversity of bright colors and have different and eye-catching body features, but even among these, some are less commonly kept as pet birds, such as redrump parakeets.
Parakeet vs. parrot
The ‘parakeet vs. parrot’ dilemma is a never-ending one. Are parakeets parrots? Are parrots parakeets? The answer to the first question is hard, yes. All parakeets are considered parrots. But not all parrots are parakeets.
Parakeets are a group of small parrots that can be found in many places across the world from Asia to Central and South America and Australia. They are a part of the Psittacine Order, along with the rest of the parrots, even those that are unrelated to them.
Taxonomically, parakeets are a part of the Psittacidae subfamily, whereas some parrots are part of the Psittacinae subfamily. The latter consists of seven tribes and encompasses a wide range of parrots from the African Greys to Lovebirds and Macaws.
The parrot family is a very large one and it doesn’t just consist of the standard parrots you’d find in most pet stores. Parrots can range in size from 3 inches to 40 inches and they have impressive life spans, with some of them being able to live for up to 80 years.
Parakeets, on the other hand, range in size from 7 to 18 inches, so they’re small to medium-sized birds. Their life span varies a lot depending on the exact type of parakeet, but most varieties cannot live for more than 10 to 40 years.
Parakeet vs. budgie
If you’ve ever come across some parakeets information according to which they are different from budgies (also known as budgerigars), it was false. These two are, in fact, one and the same. All budgies are parakeets.
The reason there are two different names for them is that they are often called parakeets in the United States and other places across North America. Different countries have different names for parakeets. In French, for instance, they are called ‘perruches.’
In the rest of the English-speaking world, however, the budgie denomination is used more frequently. In Australia, for example, these pet birds are still called budgerigars.
When it comes to specifics, if you were to pick a more ‘correct’ denomination for the pet bird, it would have to be budgie.
Budgie is far more exact as the parakeet group consists of many dozens of different birds. These differ from the budgerigar both in terms of the place they hail from, their size, color, nutritional needs, and the environments that they prefer.
Parakeet vs. conures
Parakeets can often be mistaken for conures and the other way around. What you might not know is that all conures are, in fact, part of the large parakeet group. However, not all parakeets belong to the Conurus group, but conures do.
Conures are long-tailed parakeets that hail from South and Central America. Their name is a combination of two Greek words, with ‘cone’ meaning cone and ‘ourus’ meaning tail-bearing.
When it comes to taxonomy, Conurus is not a scientific denomination and is rarely used nowadays by biologists and ornithologists. The correct name of the bird group is Aratinga Genus and it encompasses many species and subspecies, with some of the most popular being the Jenday Conure or the Sun Conure.
Another genus that some other conures belong to is Pyrrhura, but they are mostly referred to as parakeets. Some birds in this group are popular in aviculture.
Conures can be referred to both as a conure and as a parakeet. But a budgie cannot be named a conure as it does not belong to the same taxonomic group.
Another aspect that makes the difference between the two is the place they hail from. Where do parakeets come from? Australia. By contrast, where do conures come from? Central and South America.
What are not parakeets?
Parakeets are considered small to medium parrots, but that, in turn, does not mean that all small to medium parrots are parakeets. The parakeet group is a very vast one, encompassing many breeds with different characteristics. However, some birds are not a part of this group.
Here are some examples of birds that shouldn’t be confused with parakeets or the way around.
There are many parrot species that live across the world, but they have multiple differences when put side by side with a parakeet, particularly the standard budgie that you’d come across in a pet shop.
If you try to compare an African grey parrot, for example, with a parakeet, you’ll soon realize that they are not part of the same family or genus. While African greys are less colorful and considerably larger, parakeets are smaller and come in bright colors. There are significant differences in terms of their behavior or nutritional needs, too.
Parakeets should also not be confused with Cockatiels, as they belong to a completely different family (Cacatuidae). By contrast, budgies are a part of the Psittaccidae family. To find out just which type of pet bird you are getting, ask the pet store manager or the breeder.
Types of parakeets
This beautifully colored, talkative, and smart bird is one of the largest Asian parakeets in the world. It was brought to Europe in the 4th century B.C., so it is one of the oldest known species.
It is an affectionate bird that can live up to 40 years. An adult can reach a body length of 25 inches.
Budgerigars are native to Australia. They are nowadays kept as pets as they are curious, energetic, and friendly, and can also learn how to talk. Most are quick learners and will pick up words or phrases from their human friends.
Adults measure about 7 inches in length and weigh less than 1.5 ounces.
This small and bright green parrot has a green to the yellow abdomen and a grey breast. It is naturally found in South America. Some of them survive the winters in New York and Chicago, where they live in flocks.
In captivity, they can live for as many as 15 years, but in the wild, they usually survive for 6 to 7.
Psittacula parakeets are commonly found in South-East Asia and Africa and they make the most varied subspecies of parakeets (there are more than 14 known today).
Rose-ringed parakeets are outgoing and intelligent, but they have to be properly socialized. Adults can have a length ranging from 13 to 23 inches and they can live for up to 35 years.
With its friendly and endearing personality, the plain parakeet has become one of the most popular ones out there. It is native to South America, especially Brazil. Most individuals are green and have pink feet and a pink beak.
They have a length of about 9 inches and can live for up to 10 to 15 years.
This parakeet comes from China, India, and Tibet, so long as the regions are covered by forests. It is now considered a threatened species due to losing its natural habitat.
An adult measures approximately 20 inches in length and can live up to 30 years. As for its temperament, it is docile and affectionate, but it does need constant socialization.
Indian ringneck parakeet
Also known as rose-ringed parakeets, Indian ringnecks are native to several parts of Asia, from Pakistan and India to the Middle East. In the wild, this type of bird prefers to live in flocks of more than 100 individuals.
As an adult, the bird measures 16 inches in length and weighs less than 4 ounces. These birds have colors ranging from bright greens and yellows to cinnamons.
Plum-headed parakeets can be found in the wild in places such as Pakistan, Bangladesh, and Sri Lanka. This Asian variety is less aggressive than others, but it requires constant human interaction so as to remain well-behaved.
Adults have a body length of 12 inches and usually weigh less than 3 ounces. They can live for 15 to 20 years.
Also known as the monk parakeet, this kind of bird is small and bright green and usually lives up to 15 to 20 years. Their bodies are rather small since they measure 11 to 12 inches in length and weigh in at less than 5 ounces.
Quaker parakeets love to fly, so they need spacious cages. They also enjoy talking with each other and with their human friends, too.
Regent parakeets come from Southwestern Australia, where they live in woodlands and shrubland. They are among the rarest types of parakeets out there, but they are appreciated as pets due to their affectionate personality.
An adult can measure up to 16 inches in length. In terms of color, they can be yellow or green. They can live up to 25 years.
Lineolated or barred parakeets
Lineolated parakeets are native to Central and South America. They prefer living in higher regions, which is why they are more commonly found in the Peruvian Andes. They like to live in flocks that can be composed of up to 20 birds.
They’re calm and quiet and they enjoy flying, but also walking. This type of parakeet can live for up to 10-20 years. Its body measures between 6 and 7 inches.
This red-breasted parakeet is a small to medium parrot that can be found in Southeast Asia. Unfortunately, it is an endangered species due to the loss of its natural habitat.
With proper care, a moustache parakeet can live for as many as 25 years. Most birds in this genus have a sweet temperament and an outgoing personality.
Also known as ‘Bourkie’, Bourke’s parakeet is a small parrot that can be found in Australia. It is smaller and quieter compared to similar sized pet birds and it has a gentle temperament.
An adult measures 7 to 8 inches in length and can live for as long as twenty-five years.
Brotogeris parakeets live in South and Central America. They are closely related to monk parakeets. They are great fliers and they have a body that is smaller than that of a cockatiel.
The length of a brotogeris parakeet usually ranges between 7 and 9”. As for the color, they are most commonly found to be green.
The parakeet species encompasses a large number of parakeet types, but they all share some characteristics, especially in terms of their body shape, beaks, the sounds they make, and also how social they can be. Here are some standard budgerigar features.
Body shape – Regardless of the parakeet breeds that exist, they all have small and slender bodies and a somewhat long tail, by comparison. The feet are X-shaped unless they have sustained an accident. Two of their toes should point backward and two forwards.
Every parakeet is capable of rotating its head to 180 degrees.
Colors – Colors can vary widely depending on the individuals they were bred from. These birds come in many colors ranging from green and bright yellow to violet and orange. The cere of a parakeet changes color as the bird reaches sexual maturity.
The more exotic the color, the higher the price of the budgie. A blue parakeet is typically more expensive than green and yellow one simply because it is rarer.
Beak – Budgerigars have multi-faceted beaks that they use for chewing food and peeling fruit, but also for removing the outer shell of seeds.
Their hooked upper bill can assist them when digging or holding on to things inside the cage.
Sounds – Each parakeet has a different voice, and that usually happens because they are intelligent and can learn how to replicate the sounds that they hear in their environment.
Some can be taught to repeat words, or they can learn how to whistle.
Activity level – Budgies like to stay busy all the time, especially if you made the mistake of getting just one, not a pair. They will nibble on their toys, fly from one perch to another, and groom themselves and each other.
Making their cage as entertaining as possible is recommended since they have so much energy.
Very social – While different types of birds might not like to live in a pair, budgies love sharing their space with a friend. Whether they are the same gender or not, they often get along great.
Many can be social with humans, too, and exhibit affection toward them. This usually happens if they are socialized and trained while growing up.
There is a wide range of parakeet colors across the globe and they vary depending on the different types of budgies that exist.
In the wild, a parakeet bird is green and yellow and has black markings and stripes, as well as a dark green, blue, or black feathers. This is the original color of the Australian parakeet.
All of the other colors that you might encounter in a pet shop are the results of years of captive breeding. Captive pet parakeets can come in two basic series of colors:
- a yellow-based one (which includes colors like olive, light green, yellow, dark and gray green)
- a white-based one (encompassing colors like white, violet, mauve, gray, blue, and cobalt).
The most common colors you can come across these days are the following:
- Green – The original color helped wild parakeets to hide from predators between tree leaves. Nowadays, a green parakeet can be light or dark green or olive.
- Blue – Blue budgies are a recessive mutation. They are harder to breed compared to other colors, which is why they also tend to cost more.
- Purple – This color dates back to the 1930s and it remained a rarity for a good part of the 20th century.
Cinnamon, rainbow, or red parakeet are rare, by comparison.
What does a parakeet look like as it ages? A budgie can change cere color (a band of tissue that contains the nares) as it grows older.
For example, a young budgie can have a pale blue or light tan cere, depending on its gender. Most females’ ceres become a light tan, whereas that of males become a vibrant blue.
Where are parakeets from? Budgies, as we know them, are native to Australia only. However, that doesn’t mean that they haven’t changed a lot throughout the years.
Many breeders have taken it upon themselves to combine some of the best-looking individuals and come up with even more eye-catching color combinations. The budgies you can now find in pet stores are not native to Australia any longer — they are born and raised in captivity.
The first documentation of a parakeet was made in 1805 by an English zoologist and botanist, George Shaw. The British bird enthusiast John Gould compiled a book titled ‘Birds of Australia’, where he described over 600 Australian birds, the parakeet being one of them. At the time, he was strictly referring to the budgerigar.
There are approximately 100 different types of parakeets that are known today. The name ‘budgerigar’ seems to have resulted from a combination of aboriginal language and Australian slang, which meant ‘good to eat.’
The origin of many other parakeet types besides the budgie is varied. Some come from Central and South America while others hail from Asia or the Middle East.
Some of the oldest imported types of parakeets are Alexandrine parakeets, which are named after Alexander the Great. These were brought to Europe around 327 B.C. This is a species that is different from the standard parakeet you’d encounter in pet stores.
Even though most budgerigars are native to a part of central Australia, the ones that you now see in pet shops are, in fact, bred by people. Budgies were brought to Europe for the first time by John Gould at the beginning of the 19th century.
Parakeets became popular as pet birds in the upper class of Europe, and they were bred in captivity sometime around 1840. Budgerigars became so appreciated that even Queen Victoria was given a pair as a gift.
At the time, John Gould’s brother, who managed to breed them, sold a pair for what would be estimated at several hundred US dollars in today’s time.
At the end of the 19th century, Australia banned the export of live budgerigars. That is why the ones that you can buy are now only from captive breed stock.
Some sources suggest that over 40 million pet parakeets live in various places across the globe right now from the United States and the UK to South Africa.
What are fancy parakeets?
A fancy parakeet does not differ from the rest of budgerigars out there. They are merely called so because they can come in different and eye-appealing colors.
What birds are parakeets?
The parakeet group consists of more than one hundred different species, which have a similar appearance among one another and also share many nutritional needs.
Are budgies the same as parakeets?
Budgerigars and parakeets are the same type of birds. Their name varies depending on the geographical location as they are more often called parakeets in the United States.
What is a flock of parakeets called?
A flock of parakeets is called a company, a pandemonium, or simply a group. All of these denominations are considered acceptable across the world.
Why do Americans call budgies parakeets?
The name ‘parakeets’ stuck when parakeet breeders and pet shops started calling them that. In fact, that is how they were and are marketed as pet birds in the U.S.
Why does my parakeet bite me?
The reasons for aggressive behavior in parakeet birds, particularly toward people, are many. A budgie can be tired, angry, or fearful, or they might want to protect their territory.
Are parakeets high maintenance?
While they do need some degree of care and attention, parakeets are considered low maintenance birds, especially in terms of cages, accessories, and food requirements.
What gender parakeets should I get?
Same-gender pairs do just as well as different gender ones. However, if you get a male and a female parakeet pet, you can expect them to breed.
Do parakeets do better in pairs?
Since parakeets are social birds, they always do better in pairs or as a part of a flock. Human companionship is important, too, but having a parakeet friend is even more so.