I’m often questioned on the pros and cons of keeping Budgerigars (parakeets) and other parrots singly as opposed to in pairs or groups. Most folks are aware that parrots housed alone tend to form strong bonds to their owners, more so than birds that have others of their own kind to interact with. While this may be true to some extent, there are other considerations. A recent question from a bird owner who planned to give away one of her budgies, in order to make a “better pet” of the other, has prompted me to post some thoughts here.
Social Life in the Wild
Parrots, including budgies, almost always fare best when kept in pairs or appropriate groups. Those I have observed in the wild (and this is echoed by all careful parrot-watchers) are in almost constant contact with their mates and flock members. Even in large flocks, and during flight, it is usually quite a simple matter to spot paired birds…they remain, literally, within touching distance of one another.
A great many of the problems experienced by pet parrots are related to their being kept alone. The agitated “dances”, displays and attacks on toys exhibited by solitary birds, and which are found amusing by those unfamiliar with parrot biology, are actually born of frustrated urges to mate and defend a territory. Several parrot interest groups have now published position statements to the effect that housing a parrot alone is, in most cases, considered by the group to be animal abuse.
Filling in for a Missing Mate
I advised the afore-mentioned budgie owner that while the bird may indeed form a strong bond with her if kept alone. However there would be no way to predict such, as her pet had already been housed with another bird (this will affect its reaction to being kept alone).
But above all, the most important consideration to bear in mind is that spending a few hours each day with a budgie would not be adequate; parrots kept alone need the near constant companionship of a person if that person is to be considered a “substitute” for the missing mate. This is difficult to arrange for most people.
Parrots that bond with people may make wonderful pets but sometimes raise a host of unexpected problems. For more information, please see another article I have written, Parrot Bonding: Positive and Negative Aspects.
I’m curious as to what one does when the budgie in question attacks any other bird that you bring in? I’ve tried three separate times to find a ‘friend’ for my budgie. It’s such a pain in the butt that she won’t accept anyone. Three months of quarantine, 3-4 weeks in a separate cage near hers… And without fail, when I’m finally able to introduce them, she has an absolute conniption. Luckily, I have a friend who has room for more than just one permanent cage. What do you do when you have such an unsociable bird?
Hello Alicia, Frank Indiviglio here.
Thanks for your interest in our blog. Unfortunately, captive parrots of just about every species may exhibit that type of behavior…so much changes by virtue of captivity that its very difficult to draw any parallels to what occurs in the wild. Sometimes putting the dominant bird into the newcomer’s cage helps, or establishing both birds in a new cage; setting this up in a different room, if available, may also be useful, but there are birds that just will not accept another under any circumstances.
Please let me know if you need any further information. Good luck and please keep me posted.
Best regards, Frank Indiviglio.
I was always considering about adopting a lovebird whom I can trim, tame, and hopefully becomes my responsive bird.
I’m allergic to budgies’ dander as I’ve learned the hard way… Do you think lovebird’s dander have the same effect? Though I’ve kept one when I was little and nothing seems to happen…
Also I need your opinion, I had canaries who are quite tame and trusting but I know they’ll never be as tame as hookbills. I’m just afraid that I would neglect the canaries, no longer playing with them instead be focused on the playful newbie… Or would the presence of a tame lovebird actually help the canaries become more tame as they watch and learn?
I was always thinking about letting the 2 species play together in the aviary, but of course with my supervision. The lovebird will be trimmed so it won’t be able to chase the canaries if aggression occured.
What do you think Frank? Thank you…
Nice to hear from you.
Unfortunately, canaries will not likely pick up any behavior by watching a tame lovebird. Lovebird are very aggressive and can rarely if ever be trusted with other birds…even larger species. A group I cared for at the zoo often chased small antelope away from food bowls; they really are fearless! Hard to tame unless you purchase one that has been hand-raised; usually quite loud, and tend to bite when all is not to their liking, even if hand raised. But very active, intelligent and curious as well.
I’m not sure about the dander…I’ve read them described as “low dander” but I’m not sure what that is based upon. They do produce it; the effect would likely depend upon the severity of your allergy. Sorry I could not be of more help, stay well, Frank