Stalking the Feral Budgie

My team and I stumbled into the mosquito labs 5 am yesterday to pick up the equipment we needed for the days work: mosquito traps, dry ice, mist nets, bleeding materials. We trap mosquitoes and live birds to monitor West Nile, and this year we’re emphasizing horse farms and House Sparrows. To catch the birds, we use both drop-in traps and mist nets. Once we catch the birds, we band them, take a drop of blood using a lancet and filter paper, and let them go. We’ll track both seroprevalence of the birds and the field infection rates of the mosquitoes to see if we have a surveillance tool with the live birds. Traps are at racetracks, and luckily, I can mistnet right here at work because Cook College, Rutgers is a workiing farm.

We were mistnetting at Cook about 6 weeks ago when a brilliant ball of neon green flashed by. What the…?? Now there aren’t that many brilliant green birds here in New Jersey, especially ones that apparently like to hang around with the horses, cows, pigs, and goats of the farm. But bounding about with the House Sparrows was this green bird, and we realized it was a budgie. A Budgerigar, probably from the dorms.

Yesterday, he flew into a mist net.

Meet George.
I put him in my old kakariki cage and bought him some budgie food and millet sprays. He’s enjoying the food. He gives an occasional House Sparrow call. But I suspect taming him will take some real work and patience. He bit the holy hell out of me while I was handling him.

I’d love to hear some tips from budgie (or other) owners!

Ours tried to bite me when I had to handle him, but he just sort of chewed without breaking the skin.
Anyone know how to cut their claws? We bought some sanded perches today, but it’s gone beyond that.

I was often (truthfully) accused of bringing my work home when I worked in feral cat rescue, so all I can say is “Congratulations!” He’s beautiful.

And please don’t bring home any mosquitoes.

Are you sure he’s not just a normal House Sparrow that got irradiated with gamma rays?

At first glance, I took “budgie” as short for “budget” and my brain did some sort of split review process where I saw both “feral” and “federal.” I am very thankful that this thread is about a bird.

Oooh, he looks less than pleased by the circumstances. I’m sure he had no idea yummy seeds were soon to appear. Do you s’pose he’s been eating bugs?
Clearly, I am clueless about birds. George is a pretty boy, tho.

He’s beautiful! My MIL caught a feral Cockatiel in her backyard. She kept it for 2 years, but it was never really tamed. That thing was pure evil.

Thanks, I think he’s gorgeous. Has a real smart-ass look about him.

I may need a federal budget after my spree at the bird store. I forgot how expensive bird things are. I bought him a couple of extra small ceramic bowls for dried greens and fruits, a cuttlebone, extra perch and a few hanging toys. It felt good to be in the store again.

Every few hours, I stick my hand in his cage, and talk softly to him. Step up…step up. I’m hoping whoever had him before taught him that. But right now he probably only sees that big scary thing that grabbed him, bled him and stuck him in a cage. At least he’s perking up and exploring the new stuff in his cage. I do want to let him out to fly around, but I don’t want to have to catch him to put him back in. Once he does step-ups, then I think I can let him free-fly.
carnivorousplant, when I had Brat, the kakariki, I’d wrap him in a hand towel, uncover his feet and use nail clippers made for small birds. It was a chore because he despised being held. Fortunately the gravel paper lining his cage and sand perches helped once I got his nails clipped.

We’re going to watch “War of the Worlds,” the Asylum version, now.

Brach-How short did you cut them?

I thought this thread might be about flocks of wild exotics. We have a flock of wild love birds in one of the local parks. they’ve been there for years. Many generations.

What part of New Jersey are you in? Because if you’re near McAfee, he might have been pining for the Gorge.

carnivorousplant, I didn’t trim Brat’s nails very short. I only took about a millimeter off at a time, and the nails had plenty of curve left to them. But I was a nervous wreck the first time I did it.

The bird store I go to does trimming for free, and there was a customer with a parrotlet getting a toe job done today. It looked effortless and I wish I had someone demonstrate it for me when I first got Brat. Perhaps there a bird store near you that offers the same services? I think I’ll do that for George.
picunurse, you touch upon a topic that I’ve thought about since I first saw him. Should I take George out of the wild? If he was part of an established flock, the decision would have been much more difficult. Competition with native species and potential host of certain avian diseases are real concerns. On the other hand, the sight of an exotic flock zooming through the air is a glorious sight. Fortunately, the choice was easier with George. Budgies, as far as I know, have only established themselves in parts of Florida. Frostbite is a true danger here. With that in mind, I decided that if I caught him, I would bring him in from the eventual cold.

Little Nemo, he’s pouting, not pining. He may even wish to register a complaint.

There are wild parrots in Brooklyn. Not sure about budgies in Jersey…

There’s a great book about the issues of alien/invasive species called *A Plague of Rats and Rubbervines * by Yvonne Baskin. I admit the parrots, budgies and cockatiels are sweet and fun to watch, but they also compete w/ native species for food and shelter in what may already be a compromised area like the Brooklyn page describes.
I’m such a buzzkill, I know.

Boy budgies are the best talkers. They also swear up a mean streak if taught correctly :smiley:

The blue cere over the beak means the bird is male. Brown or white means female. The receding stripes over his head show he’s probably two years old at least. The older the bird, the fewer stripes over the head.

carnivorousplant, be careful cutting the nails. The blood supply runs down the centre, and birds have bled to death after being clipped. If you can, take the bird to an aviary vet for a checkup and to see how the clipping is done, but if an aviary vet is out of the question, a small-animal vet is fine. Clipping the blood supply causes extreme pain, and the bird will have to stand on only one foot for a day or three, depending on the injury, and it will be difficult for it to move to the food and water dishes. If you cut blood vessels in both feet, the bird is screwed. But if you try it, have a styptic pencil nearby to stop the bleeding.

IMHO, sanded perches should be banned; they are like forcing a person to stand and walk on gravel in bare feet 24/7, and would be pure torture if a blood vessel is cut. If you use them, though, give the bird a choice; have a couple of perches in the cage that aren’t sanded.

Here’s a link to a page with yet more links to bird sites.

brachyrhynchos, I forgot to mention that you are right; the bird would have died when summer ends. This suggests it escaped recently, perhaps from a home not far from where you captured him. Maybe you could check with the local humane society for reports of a lost budgie. Some child may be heartbroken.

That’s very interesting about the head stripes. I read somewhere that the pale eye ring is an adult characteristics, so I figured that he was an after-hatch year bird, but that was as far as I could go.

I have checked around for missing budgie notices (both online and locally) but nothing has surfaced yet. The timing of his appearance and the location of the dorms (plus the distance from non-collegiate residences) lead me to think that he came from the dorms. I’d hate to think that someone let him go purposely, but unfortunately, some people think that animals are disposable. I hope that’s not the case.

At any rate, I should mention that George is named after George H. Cook, the first director of the land grant college that became Cook College. He was the only faculty member to survive the massive firings of 1859 by Rutgers President Frelinghuysen. Rutgers can be tough row to hoe.

Thanks for the links, and Portia, that looks like a good book to check out!

Where did you get a kakariki from?

(I used to work for the NZ Wildlife Service, and that was one of the species I used to census on my transects).

Very cool, man. You’ve worked in some neat places!

I got my kak as a Christmas present from a dear friend. Normally I don’t think pets as gifts are a good idea, but he knew exactly what to get me, and the personality of the kak fit me just right. There aren’t too many kak breeders here in the states, which is a shame as they are such charming, if somewhat aloof, birds. Very messy eaters, flinging food everywhere. Terrific flyers. I’d love to see them in the wild.