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This information is provided by Provet for educational purposes only.

You should seek the advice of your veterinarian if your pet is ill as only he or she can correctly advise on the diagnosis and recommend the treatment that is most appropriate for your pet.

Budgerigars (Genus: Melopsittacus) are hardbilled birds that are mainly seed eaters (or, graminivores)

Small cage birds such as Budgerigars have a very high metabolic rate and it is important that a supply of food is available at all times. The beak of the Budgerigar has evolved to be an excellent tool to nibble and crush seeds to access the kernel, however all seeds do not have the same nutritional content and so it is essential to feed a mixture of seeds (usually at least 6 different types is recommended) that will provide the complete range of nutrients that a Budgerigar needs . Commercially available seed mixes usually contain the following ingredients :

  • Cereal seeds - including millet, wheat, oats and so-called Canary seed - which are high in carbohydrate content and relatively low in fat (oil) content
  • Oily seeds - hemp seed, linseed, rape seed, sunflower seeds - which have a high fat (oil) content and are relatively low in carbohydrate
  • Mineral supplements - eg calcium and iodine
  • Vitamin supplements - eg Vitamins A, D and K

Millet sprays can be bought from most pet supply stores and Budgerigars often prefer them to other seeds when they are suspended in the cage. Sometimes millet sprays are very dusty, and soaking in warm water may help to decrease the dust that they produce.

Oily seeds are high in energy content and excessive intake can cause obesity ...which is a major problem in pet Budgerigars, so the seed mix should contain a high proportion of cereal seeds rather than oily seeds.

Owners should select a seed mix which is guaranteed by the manufacturers to be a COMPLETE food for Budgerigars. In the USA and Europe the word COMPLETE on the pet food label is a statement that the food contains everything that the named species needs. To achieve this the manufacturers may add mineral supplements (eg iodine or calcium) to the mixture of natural seeds.

If owners try to compile their own mixture it is unlikely to be a balanced ration, and nutritional deficiencies are more likely to occur. Iodine deficiency causes enlargement of the thyroid which puts pressure on the respiratory airways leading to wheezing and panting. It used to be a common problem before owners started to provide complete foods.

Once crushed the husks of the seeds are often left in the seed bowl, and owners should remove these regularly and top up the container with fresh food. Feeding troughs should not be too deep, otherwise the Budgie may not be able to reach the bottom layers of seed. In nature seeds are usually taken off the ground and ground feeding is acceptable in cage birds and aviary birds.

In addition to seeds, Budgerigars like and benefit from occasional small amounts of green foods :

  • Chickweed
  • Dandelions
  • Groundsel
  • Lettuce
  • Parsley
  • Watercress

and fruit, including the following :

  • Apples
  • Blackberries
  • Grapes
  • Oranges
  • Peaches
  • Pears
  • Plums

All fruits and fresh greens should be free from pesticides and washed thoroughly before they are given. Too much fruit or greens can dilute the essential nutrients contained in prepared foods, and so should be avoided.

Some breeders advocate the feeding of hard-boiled egg (as an extra protein source) with biscuits during breeding and moulting periods, and some commercially available foods contain egg.

A healthy beak is essential for the budgerigar to be able to eat properly, and deformities or overgrowth of the beak may result in the bird being unable to eat sufficient food in which case it will lose weight and could even die, so abnormalities of the beak should be treated as soon as they are recognised. 

Some Budgerigars (but not all) will use a cuttlefish bone (an additional source of calcium) or a mineral block.- which helps to keep the beak trim.

Seed-eaters such as Budgerigars require small bits of grit. These are swallowed and kept in the gizzard where they help to breakdown the seeds.

Young budgies find seeds that have been softened with warm water easier to eat before they are fully weaned, and a supply should be made available regularly on the floor of the cage or aviary.

The amount of food that a Budgerigar requires depends on it's activity level. If a bird is kept in a relatively small cage there is limited opportunity for it to exercise, and so its energy requirement will be less than that of a bird kept in an aviary. Energy requirements also go up during moulting and egg laying, and in cold environmental conditions. It has been estimated that Psittacine birds require about 3,200 kcal of energy per kg body weight. 

Changing diets

Once a bird has an established feeding pattern any change in the type of food presented or even a change in feeder can put the bird off eating, so it is important to expose birds to different foods early in life, during the imprinting stage of development. If new foods have to be introduced later this should be done over a period of weeks by gradually increasing the amount of the new food mixed in with the original ration.


In nature if water is in short supply Budgerigars will retain water and produce very dry, hard faecal droppings. In fact, Budgerigars have adapted to living in the desert and they can survive in good health for up to 150 days on seed alone, without a water supply, However, when kept in captivity a fresh supply of clean, human quality drinking water should be available at all times. 

Budgerigars also like to bathe in water, so a shallow dish containing water should be supplied in addition to a drinking trough.

Some breeders advocate the feeding of milk, but the digestive system of the Budgerigar is not adapted to deal with the high concentrations of  lactose and other ingredients in cows milk or other dairy products, and so they should probably be avoided.


Updated October 2013