As I’m writing this, that song by Bloodhound Gang is going through my head – you know the one, about doing it like they do on the Discovery Channel! Mating is as natural to the biology of budgies as it is to any other animal on the planet, but how exactly do they do it? We’ve all seen how it works with cats and dogs (maybe even been the object of humping affection for a dog or two!) but how does it work with birds? Read on to find out!
Age is NOT Just a Number
Before a budgie is ready to mate, they must reach maturity. A budgie will usually come to maturity at around one year of age. An easy way to tell if a female budgie has reached maturity is by looking at her cere (the hard little area right above the beak). If the cere is brown and a bit crusty looking, then the budgie has probably reached maturity and is ready to mate.
Once a budgie reaches maturity, their breeding hormones may start to kick in. You may notice your feathered friend begin to act different or unusual, but there’s no need to worry. These changes are all normal hormonal budgie behavior, which can manifest either physically or behaviorally, or both. These changes can also display differently in males versus females, and it’s been observed that females actually seem to become a bit more hormonal than their male counterparts (imagine that!)
Some typical signs of hormonal budgie behavior are:
Your budgie may begin to nip or bite at your where before it didn’t, or refuse to step up onto your hand.
Your budgie may actually regurgitate its food as a sign of affection, not only for another budgie, but for its owner as well. This is a normal, natural instinct as the male budgie regurgitates food quite often to its mate and to its young, proving regurgitation isn’t just about love, but about parenting too.
When a female budgie is ready to mate, she may begin creating a nest by gathering and shredding materials to cushion her potential eggs.
Rubbing of Private Parts
A hormonal sign in both males and females may include the rubbing of it’s private parts against the perch, or the cage bars, or even against its human. If you catch your budgie doing this, it’s a good sign they are just about ready to start mating.
Courting a Mate
Once a budgie has reached maturity and has begun to display hormonal behavior, it’s time to get a partner on board. If you know anything about animals, you know that birds have some of the most interesting forms of mating courtship, and budgies are no exception.
When male budgies are ready to impress a mate and get them in the mood, they will do a little dance that consists of jumping from perch to perch, bobbing his head, tapping his beak against his potential partner’s, and chirping excitedly. He may also preen her feathers.
If the female accepts the male’s advances, she will give him the go ahead sign by remaining very still while arching her back and raising her tail in the air to expose her bottom.
Here’s a short video of a male budgie showing his mating excitement to a female.
Doing the Deed
So, a budgie has reached maturity, exhibited hormonal behavior, and has successfully courted a mate. It’s time to do the deed… but how exactly is that done?
First of all, it’s important to know that budgies don’t have the kind of external reproductive parts that humans do or even most other animals. Male budgies don’t have penises and female budgies don’t have vaginas. Instead, budgies have what is called a ‘cloaca’. This small opening on their bottom serves as the only path in or out, meaning a budgie’s urine, feces, sperm, and eggs all exit this same opening. The actual opening to the cloaca is called the ‘vent’.
When a budgie is ready to mate, it’s cloaca will begin to swell and slightly protrude, and on the male, sperm will begin to accumulate there. To do the actual deed, a male hops onto the female’s back where they rub their cloacas together (sometimes referred to as the ‘cloacal kiss’) transferring the sperm from the male into the female. The entire act lasts only a few seconds, and voila! Mating complete.
Practice Makes Perfect
Because the entire mating act lasts only a few seconds, the result of producing fertilized eggs isn’t always guaranteed. So, to try and make that guarantee a little more solid, budgies will mate several times a day during a mating period to increase their chances of successful breeding.
The male budgie’s sperm stays alive a period of time ranging from several days to several weeks. This sperm is stored inside the female’s cloaca in preparation for the fertilization of eggs that she will soon begin producing.
Mommy, Daddy & Baby Make Three (or Four, or Five, or Six, or…)
After the mating period is over, the female budgie will begin to spend most of her time holed up in the nest, and the male budgie will feed her by regurgitating food, just like when feeding their babies.
The female budgie will usually lay her first egg within a week or two of mating, and she will lay as many as 4-8 eggs over a period of about two weeks. Between each egg, there may be a gap of 1-2 days before she lays the next one. Mama Bird may not begin to sit on her eggs to incubate them until she’s had at least three, so don’t worry if it seems she’s neglecting the first two. She will get to them soon enough 🙂
The babies will usually hatch after 18-21 days of incubation. You may notice small cracks along the shells, but you shouldn’t try to help in any way, they will completely hatch and emerge when they’re ready, something that can take several hours.
And that’s it! The basic ins and outs of budgie mating. If you want to try your hand at budgie breeding, there are quite a few more things you’ll want to know and prepare for, so watch out for my near-future post on Budgie Breeding. Once I get that posted, I’ll link to it here, so please check back soon!
Take care! And as always, here’s to finding your Budgie Bliss! 🙂