What’s the difference between a budgie and a bush budgie?

Bush budgies, sometimes called “shell parakeets”, are budgerigars that are more closely related to the budgies found in the wild than those found in the pet trade.

They’re sometimes called “pure normal” or “wild type” budgies, because they are completely free of colour mutations or other physical and behavioural changes brought about by domestication.

Wild type budgie. Photo credit: David Cook

Differences between budgies and bush budgies

They’re smaller in size
When we breed birds in aviculture, we have a tendency to choose the largest and most colourful offspring to become future breeding pairs. This—repeated over many decades—has led to a captive budgie population that’s substantially larger than those found in the wild. We’ve even produced different varieties of selectively bred budgie, such as the English budgie, that are up to three times bigger than a bush budgie.

They don’t have colour mutations
Breeders have selectively bred budgies to produce birds in a huge range of different colours. You can get budgies in blue, white, yellow, grey, violet and many other colours.

Bush budgies only come in green & yellow. If you have a bush budgie that produces offspring in any other colour, it’s quite likely that you don’t have genetically pure wild-type birds.

They’re much less aggressive
The exact reason for this isn’t fully understood, but it’s widely understood that domesticated budgies have become far more aggressive than their wild counterparts. Bush budgies, when housed in a sufficiently large aviary, are placid enough to cohabitate with other small parrots, doves, and sometimes even finches.

Domesticated budgies in various colours.

Where do bush budgies come from?

Trapping of most native Australian birds for the pet trade has been banned for decades. The bush budgies available come from two main sources: Private breeders, who have carefully excluded domesticated budgies from their collections; and zoos, which sometimes offload surplus offspring into private hands.

Do you keep bush budgies in your collection? We’d love to hear your thoughts and experiences in the comments section below.

1 thought on “What’s the difference between a budgie and a bush budgie?”

  1. Quite a few of the birds that are advertised as bush budgies are not. They are backyard budgies – small but in all different colours. So there are actually a wider range of types. True bush budgies, backyard budgies, and show budgies. This is not surprising, as people have been breeding them for many many years now. As with cats and dogs, if you domesticate creatures for long enough you will get a wider range of sizes as well as colours and markings. Even Zebra finches are showing some sign of going this way.