Budgies don’t get wrinkles and their feathers do not go gray. Also, despite their impressive vocal abilities, they are unlikely to answer the question “How old are you?” with anything particularly useful. Determining the age of one involves Nancy Drew-style detective work.
Examine his head. In a young budgie, one of less than 3 or 4 months, he’ll normally have a completely stripey head. As he gets older, the stripes on his face and forehead are replaced with plain patches of color or pure white.
Peer into his eyes. The pupil will be black but the surrounding iris changes color. In budgies under 4 months old, the entire eye will be black. Between 4 and 8 or 9 months, the iris will be a little paler. Very pale irises usually indicate a bird who has reached the grand old age of at least 8 months.
Look at his legs. Reputable breeders always band their budgies and this band has a code that tells you the breeder and the age. If the breeder belonged to the American Budgie Society, the color will tell you the year of hatching -- for example an orange band means the bird hatched (birds aren’t born) in 2010.
Contact a local parakeet or parrot society for a list of local breeders and/or their band codes, because not all breeders are members of the ABS and each one uses a different set of codes. If the numbers and letters on your budgie’s band don’t match any on the list, extend your research to nearby states and finally nationwide.
Observe your budgie’s behavior if he had no band or not one that could be deciphered. Older budgies, those over about 6 or 7 years old, tend to slow down, becoming less active and eating less. It is not possible to determine the exact age from his behavior, but a mildly lethargic bird may be either elderly or ill. In either case, take him to a vet who specializes in birds as soon as possible.
- If you have acquired a budgie of unknown age as a rescue, arrange a veterinary appointment as soon as possible. Older budgies may need a special diet and often suffer from health problems. To find a vet who specializes in birds, ask local pet bird rescue charities, breeders and zoos for recommendations. Phone a few clinics and make an appointment with the vet who has the most experience with parakeets or the best recommendations.
Judith Willson has been writing since 2009, specializing in environmental and scientific topics. She has written content for school websites and worked for a Glasgow newspaper. Willson has a Master of Arts in English from the University of Aberdeen, Scotland.