What to Know About Parakeets

Medically Reviewed by Amy Flowers, DVM on December 10, 2022
5 min read

Parakeets are one of the most popular choices for pets. While the term "parakeet" encompasses over a hundred species of small parrots, for most people, it’s synonymous with one specific species: the common parakeet. These are the type most people have as pets, as they’re small, inexpensive, and lively.

Parakeet is a term used to refer to multiple small, slender species of parrots. There are about 115 species of parrots in the Psittacidae subfamily, one of the parrot subfamilies.

In the U.S., the most popular type of parakeet is the common parakeet (Melopsittacus undulatus). They were first recorded in 1805 in Australia. Today, they’re the third-most popular pet in the world behind cats and dogs.

All parakeets are small, slender, and have long, tapered tails. Parakeets can come in many vibrant colors.

Common parakeets can be found in shades of green and yellow with black scalloped markings on their back, nape, and wings. In captivity, common parakeets have been bred with coloring in shades of blue, gray, white, and yellow. In the wild, most common parakeets have a yellow forehead and throat, yellow and black stripes on the head, and purple and black markings on the cheeks. The feathers on their wings are often black and outlined with green and yellow, while the feathers on their tail are bluish-green.

They’re a small species, usually measuring 7 to 7.8 inches (18 to 20 centimeters) and weighing .08 ounces to 1.1 ounces (22 to 32 grams). The bill of the common parakeet is pointed, and the tip of the upper mandible extends over the lower mandible. In breeding females, the cere, which is the skin at the base of their beak, is a light brown or beige color. In males, it’s blue.

Parakeet habitat. Parakeets are popular pets, but they’re found in the wild, too. Parakeet species can be found in tropical and subtropical regions all over the world.

Common parakeets are native to Australia. They prefer to stay away from the coastline, in arid, semi-arid, and sub-humid climates. They can most often be found in farmland and riverine woodland, often in plants like dry mallee, mulga scrub, and spinifex.

Wild common parrots have been introduced to Florida and have a population of about 3,000 there.

Parakeet diet. In the wild, parakeets are ground feeders, eating seeds from the ground. Common parakeets often eat seeds from spinifex and tall tussock grass, removing the hulls and swallowing the seeds whole or broken. These seeds offer them a lot of protein, and they often don’t need other kinds of food. They also drink a lot of water, about 5.5% of their body weight each day.

Parakeet lifespan and breeding. Parakeets average a lifespan of 10 to 15 years, but some may live longer. 

Common parakeets are monogamous. They don’t have a specific breeding season but often breed when seeds are abundant. They’ll make their nests in pre-existing holes in trees, logs, and fence posts, building them out of materials like droppings, decayed wood, and other soft material.

The female parakeet will lay her eggs a day or two after mating. She typically lays an egg every other day, and in total will have between four and nine eggs per clutch. The eggs hatch in 18 to 20 days, and the female parakeet will stay with them the entire time while the male forages for food.

Parakeets are extremely social. They gather in large groups, often nesting near each other. Female parakeets tend to be more aggressive than male parakeets. 

Common parakeets are most active at dawn and dusk, breaking during the hottest part of the day. They’ll often sing during these times and spend time flying and looking for food. After sunset, they return to their roosting site for the night.

Parakeets are a fun species to own and are one of the most common types of pets. You may even be able to train your parakeet to talk to you, although not all of them have this ability. If you decide to keep a parakeet as a pet, there are a few things to be aware of.

Enclosure. Parakeets aren’t huge birds, so the length is more important than the height. Generally speaking, their cage should be 14 inches long, 17 inches wide, and 16 inches high.

All birds need at least one perch for their enclosure. Make sure the perch is the right size because if it's too large, your parakeet will not be able to grip it properly. Try to place the perch so that your parakeet’s droppings won’t land in its food or water. Other toys, like bells, climbing ladders, and ropes, can help keep your parakeet stimulated.

Parakeets enjoy baths and will usually bathe at least two or three times a week. Some like to soak in a shallow bowl of water, while others are content with being misted with a spray bottle. Parakeets also like to roll around in wet grass, so placing wet greens in their enclosure will allow them to replicate this behavior.

Diet. While parakeets primarily eat seeds in the wild, they often need a larger variety of food when they live in captivity. They should be given seed or pellets daily, as going without food for over 24 hours can make them ill. You can also offer them options like chopped greens, fruits, grated cheese, and hard-cooked eggs. Supplemental powdered vitamins can be sprinkled on their food to boost nutrition. 

Parakeets always need access to fresh water. Wash their dish every day to avoid bacterial growth. 

Socialization. Parakeets are very social birds. If someone will be home often to give your parakeet attention and handling, your parakeet can bond to them. But if you expect to be gone a lot, your parakeet should have some other parakeets for company. A lack of companionship can lead to depression and other mental health issues.

Parakeets can be trained to be hand tame, but it’s best to start working on this when they’re young. It may be more difficult to hand-tame parakeets when they live in a group. Start slow, offering treats, and soon your parakeet will learn to trust you.