Parakeets comprise around 115 species of birds that are distributed in South America, Africa, Asia, and Australasia.
Many parakeets are kept as pets, but the Common parakeet, aka the budgerigar, is by far the most popular. In fact, the budgie is the third most popular pet after cats and dogs. Parakeets have established populations in many European and North American towns and cities, so can a parakeet survive in the wild?
If we’re talking about parakeets bred in captivity to be kept as pets, the odds of survival are fairly slim. For example, wild budgerigars live in Australia, a far cry from even warm parts of the USA, let alone Europe. As such, there are no feral populations of budgies in Europe, but there are a couple in the USA, including on the west coast of Florida.
Considering there are over 115 species of parakeets distributed across several continents, they certainly do survive in the wild. In fact, parakeets thrive in the wild and have set up numerous strongholds in European and North American cities ranging from San Francisco to South Florida and London to Berlin. As many as 56 species of parakeets have been spotted across the USA.
Parrots are generally highly intelligent and adaptable birds, which is how they’ve adapted to urban life in many cities around the world. Studies show that feral populations of parakeets were once kept as pets before they escaped to breed successfully in the wild.
There’s much more to learn - read on to discover more about feral parakeets!
Parakeets can survive in the wild, as many species live in the wild, but escaped captive birds generally have slim chances of survival
Escaped parakeets have established strong populations thousands of miles away from where they typically live in the wild. In the USA, some 56 species of parakeets have been spotted by birders, with strongholds in Texas, California, Arizona, Florida, and New York City.
Many of these birds were originally kept as pets, escaped, and went on to breed successfully in the wild. Parakeets are resourceful and intelligent, so they successfully adapt to different environments, even those completely different from their typical habitats.
For example, London is now home to more than 50,000 Ring-necked parakeets which live in Africa and Asia in the wild. They even occur as far north as Glasgow in Scotland!
Interestingly, this is quite a recent phenomenon, as parakeets were seldom spotted in the UK even 50 years ago.
There have been many theories for how parakeets came to London, including:
However, ornithologists generally believe that many smaller releases of pet and captive parakeets led to them establishing breeding populations - it couldn’t have been a single event.
It’s worth noting that not all parakeets can survive in the wild. For example, though there are sizable populations of budgerigars in Florida, they probably wouldn’t have a hope of surviving in most US states, let alone in most of Europe.
While parakeets are intelligent, they can’t always adapt to their surroundings. As a result, escaped parakeets are more likely to survive in warmer urban areas than in colder rural or wild areas that are not well-suited.
Ring-necked parakeets have successfully established breeding populations around the world
Parakeets, like all parrots, are generally highly intelligent. There are 115 species of parakeets and hundreds more parrots besides, and they live on practically every continent. This tells you something about how resourceful parrots are - they can adapt to various habitats.
With that said, parakeets certainly prefer warmer tropical and subtropical climates, which is why feral populations become rarer the further north you go. However, as parakeets in New York City and Glasgow demonstrate, parakeets are capable of adapting to the cold.
It’s probably more likely that food and shelter play a greater role in how parakeets survive in the wild as opposed to the temperature. Parakeets are adaptable feeders but feed almost solely on seeds, grains, nuts, and fruits.
They’re also cavity nesters, meaning they need woodpecker-like hollows to nest in. So long as parakeets can obtain enough food, water, and sufficient nesting sites, they can probably survive, so long as temperatures aren’t too low.
Again, this doesn’t apply to all parakeets. For example, Ring-Necked parakeets, Monk parakeets, and Nanday parakeets are some of the hardiest parakeets, which is why they’re some of the most likely to succeed in non-typical habitats. Other non-hardy parakeets have much lower chances of surviving if they escape.
Monk Parakeets are one of the hardiest parakeet species
Firstly, it depends on the parakeet. Some species of parakeet are stronger fliers than others and may travel miles before stopping, which makes the odds of returning very slim. Budgerigars aren’t strong flyers, however, and probably won’t get more than a mile or so before they have to stop.
Will they turn back and return? In the case of domesticated birds that fly too far away, probably not.
Domesticated parakeets have weak instincts and will probably only survive if they can join a nearby feral flock. The odds of the bird returning are low.
However, someone in the local area might spot it - so if your parakeet escapes - keep your ears to the ground to listen out for any local sightings.
Other things you can try is leaving the bird’s cage and food out somewhere it can see. This might help tempt the bird back if it’s not too far away.
If you can, follow the bird on foot for as long as you can while calling it and offering it food. If you’ve had your bird for a long time and formed a strong bond, the odds of it returning are probably higher.
Because domestic parakeets generally have weak instincts (due to being raised in captivity), the chances of them returning can be fairly low, although it does happen
Parakeets aren’t particularly strong fliers, but the trouble is, an escaped parakeet may get excited by its new environment and fly further and further away. Budgies are probably the most likely to tire quickly and likely won’t leave the local area immediately.
Some may fly to a nearby perch, in which case you can call them and tempt them back with treats. It might even be possible to follow the bird on foot.
The worst-case scenario is that an escaped parakeet will fly non-stop for as far as it can, which may be many miles. In this case, the chances of it returning home on its own are very slim, but that’s not to say that you won't find it.
Owners of escaped parakeets have found their birds days, weeks, or even months later. While not all escaped parakeets can survive indefinitely in the wild, many have a fighting chance of lasting out until they’re saved.
Nanday parakeet in flight
If you find a parakeet in the wild, don’t automatically assume that it’s an escaped pet. Instead, check to see what kinds of parakeets occur in your area and check if the bird matches. This is especially true if you live in a city or urban area where parakeets are reasonably common.
With that said, parakeets are social and live in flocks, so seeing a lone parakeet does increase the odds of it being an escapee.
You can try alerting your local police department to see if anyone’s reported a lost bird and check local Facebook groups and social media. If you believe that the bird’s injured, try calling a local wildlife hospital for advice. They might suggest that you attempt to safely trap the bird until help arrives.
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