Budgies – or budgerigars to give them their full official name – are sociable and fascinating birds, also known as parakeets in some countries. Although native to Australia, they are kept as pets all around the world, in cages or aviaries. But how does their diet in the wild compare to what they are fed in captivity? In our guide, we take a look at the food preferences of budgies and also explore whether there is anything they should not ever be offered to eat.
The bulk of a budgie’s diet consists of grains and seeds, both in the wild and in captivity. Fresh fruit and vegetables are also vital, offering a range of key vitamins and minerals. In the wild, insects are sometimes eaten by budgies, but are not a major requirement for budgies kept as pets.
Certain fruits and vegetables must be avoided as they are toxic to budgies, and others should only be offered in moderation due to the risk of excess fructose, oxalic acid or high water content causing major digestive issues.
To find out just what foods a budgie needs to avoid, and what choices are recommended to ensure a budgie is offered the healthiest possible diet, please read on.
Three budgies enjoying some spray millet
Budgies are incredibly picky when it comes to food, and have clear food preferences. When offered seed, they will pick the grains they like the best and ignore anything that does not take their fancy, which means that the healthiest seeds may be left untouched, while the fattest grains will be freely taken.
Just like humans, individual budgies have different food preferences, but sprays of millet seem to be universally loved. Budgies are especially attracted to brightly coloured foods with different textures, and offering a variety of different fruits as part of their diet will be beneficial to their long-term health.
A budgie’s daily diet should primarily consist of grain and seed (around 75-80 percent). This can be as a seed mix or in pellet form. This should be supplemented by a smaller amount of fresh fruit and vegetables each day.
A calcium source should also be readily available, either in the form of a supplement block or cuttlefish. Shop-bought “egg food” can also be offered once a week, to provide an artificial boost of vitamins and minerals required for good health.
Cuttlefish cuttlebones are a great calcium source for budgies
Avocado is highly toxic to budgies and should never be offered. It contains the fatty acid persin, which is particularly harmful to budgies, even in the smallest quantities.
Other foods that are potentially harmful and should be avoided include spring onions, mushrooms, and garlic. Some research indicates that these are safe for budgies, while others firmly suggest giving them a wide berth if you want to ensure your budgie enjoys a long, healthy life. Rhubarb leaves, raw potatoes and unripe tomatoes are also not recommended.
Dairy products, especially milk and cheese should never be offered to budgies as they are lactose intolerant.
Budgies enjoy a variety of fresh vegetables in addition to a diet of seed, grains and fruit. The best vegetables to offer are:
A pair of budgies eating lettuce and carrots
Budgies can eat a wide range of raw and fresh fruits, and are especially fond of tropical and juicy fruits. The following are particularly enjoyed:
Care needs to be taken with certain fruit, such as cherries, peaches, apricots, and apples – stones and pips need to be removed as these can be toxic.
Sprays of millet are highly popular with pet budgies. Flavoured seed sticks sold by pet stores can be offered occasionally in addition to a healthy and balanced diet of grains, seeds and fruit. Tropical fruit, nuts, and corn are all well-loved choices as budgie treats.
Two budgies enjoying millet
Budgies constantly graze if a food supply is available. They will frequently visit to feed throughout daylight hours, only stopping when darkness falls.
For budgies kept in captivity, a mix of around 1.5 to 2 tablespoons of seeds or pellets must be given each day. In addition, a daily portion of fresh fruit or vegetables is important.
Close up of a green and yellow budgie
In the wild, budgies are fed fruits and insects by their parents. Insects offer the vital protein needed in the early stages of life. Both male and female parents provide crop milk, mixed with regurgitated food for the first 4 to 5 weeks of life. After this, juvenile budgies begin to feed themselves with solid foods.
Budgies drink water, but only need around a teaspoon of water each day to stay well hydrated. In the wild, they drink from streams, ponds, lakes and rivers.
A budgie taking a drink of water
In the wild, budgies eat a range of seeds, grasses, grains, weeds and other vegetation, depending on what is seasonally available. They occasionally eat worms, spiders, beetles, and other insects.
Wild budgies forage for seeds from plants that grow on or near the ground. Grasses and other low-growing vegetation are their most common food source.
A wild budgie, perched on a branch
In the wild, budgies may occasionally eat insects, which strictly speaking makes them omnivorous. However, their beaks are particularly adapted for grain and insects and bugs are not a major or necessary element of their diet. Budgie owners do not need to supplement their diet with insects, mealworms or other invertebrates.
In moderation, it is safe for budgies to eat raw carrots. Offering grated or sliced carrot is safer than giving a whole carrot, due to the risk of choking.
Budgies can eat all parts of a banana, including the outer peel and leaves. They can eat dried bananas as well as fresh ones.
Cucumber can be served to budgies as an occasional treat. The high water content of cucumbers offers the additional benefit of keeping a budgie hydrated. Cucumber seeds should be removed as they contain the toxic compound amygdalin, which can be dangerous to smaller birds.
It is safe for budgies to eat only a limited amount of tomatoes. Excessive consumption can cause health problems due to the fruit’s acidity. Tomatoes offered to budgies should always be raw; under no circumstances should tomatoes cooked in oil be given.
Cucumber is ok to give to budgies for an occasional treat
Strawberries can be offered to budgies as an occasional treat. In moderation they are safe, but as they contain fructose, they should not be given too often due to the potential to cause digestive problems.
Lettuce provides a source of hydration to budgies due to its high water content, but too much may cause diarrhoea. Iceberg lettuce is of no nutritional value to budgies; Romaine lettuce does, however, offer some health benefits, providing vitamins C and K and folate.
Grapes are safe for budgies to eat occasionally, and contain potassium, manganese and vitamins A and C. Due to their fructose content, too many grapes may cause an upset stomach, but in moderation juicy grapes are fine for budgies – and often devoured as a welcome treat.
Budgies can safely eat both the leaves and stem of spinach as an occasional treat. As is the case with many leafy greens, spinach contains oxalic acid, which is ok for birds to eat in moderation but in excess.
Brighten up your inbox with our exclusive newsletter, enjoyed by thousands of people from around the world.