After more than two years of being closed due to the pandemic, the Budgie Buddies Aviary reopens to the public on May 7. Even better, there will be five new additions, baby chicks!
Hatched to parents Banshee and Snapdragon in February, the chicks are healthy and growing well, said keeper Ariel, who helps care for all 125 of the budgies. Chicks are born bald, and then over just a few weeks grow downy gray fluff before fledging colorful feathers.
At 4 weeks old, the chicks will be fully grown and able to enter the public area.
There are a few ways the guests can tell them apart, according to Ariel. “They have big black button eyes and will have an endearing clumsiness as they fly around and learn all the perches, branches and ropes.”
Traditionally, when budgies are born at the zoo, all the birds in a single clutch get whimsical names related to each other, like the Star Wars clutch or the pirate clutch. The keeper who sees the first bird hatch gets to choose the theme for the group.
“That keeper has chosen a Harry Potter creature theme this time,” said Ariel.
They are still deciding on the exact names. It can be quite the process since they need to be different from the dozens of other birds flying around. Plus, there are already budgies named after candy in the Harry Potter books – Fizzing Whizbee, Honeyduke and Bertie Bott. It’s all perfectly fitting – with the new magic-themed show opening at Wild Wonders Outdoor Theater the same day as the Budgie Buddies.
The process of budgies choosing their “perfect match” all comes down to the perfect pitch.
“A female will choose a male that can imitate her own calls or song,” said Ariel. “He listens to her song, goes to practice it and comes back to sing it to her.”
The male budgie that imitates the female’s call the most accurately becomes her chosen mate.
“They do base it off physical attraction as well,” explained Ariel. “The female seems to choose a male with nice feathers.”
When budgies are preparing to mate, they are often seen sitting together, preening each other’s feathers, regurgitating food for one another, and the male will do a mating dance.
“I am always watching for breeding pairs,” said Ariel. “A female’s nose turns very brown when she is ready to mate.”
Once Ariel notices a pair is ready to breed, she moves them to a private area with a nesting box. There, the parents wait together for their chicks to hatch (an incubation period of 18-21 days).
After a few weeks, keepers release the father first into the public area, and each chick follows. Both parents will help the chicks navigate and explore their new area and find food.
Feed the Budgies
Starting May 7, wander into the budgie habitat and feed the friendly, colorful birds with special seed sticks, on sale for $2 ($1.50 for Zoo members).