Parakeets are intelligent, low-maintenance birds with bold and beautiful colors to boot – it’s little wonder they make such popular pets.
But did you know that the typical pet store parakeets are merely a fraction of the color possibilities available?
If you’re after a more show-stopping variety, a “fancy” parakeet might interest you.
What is a fancy parakeet? A fancy parakeet is any type that strays from the standard appearance of the small Australian budgerigar, which has green and yellow plumage with black barring on the head and wings. Fancy parakeets simply display different color mutations and markings from the norm, which increases their value.
It goes without saying that you should never buy a parakeet on the basis of attractive feather coloring.
Parakeets labeled “fancy” require much the same healthcare, housing, and companionship needs as any other.
In the following, you’ll learn all there is to know about fancy parakeets.
What Exactly Is a Fancy Parakeet?
Fancy parakeets are no different from the commonplace parakeet or budgerigar but are termed “fancy” due to their exotic colors.
This wide array of color in fancy parakeets is due to color mutations caused by more than a century of captive breeding.
Less reputable breeders and pet store owners jump on this distinction to sell them for a higher price, despite no obvious differences in their temperament, talking ability, or care.
What Is the Difference Between a Parakeet and a Fancy Parakeet?
The “normal” parakeets observe the dominant green and yellow colors, while fancy parakeets are an exploration of every shade in between, including white-based parakeet mutations that exhibit varying degrees of grays, pinks, and purples.
From then on, there are several sub-varieties of color mutation that either highlight or mute the normal parakeet markings covering their head, neck, and wings.
The normal parakeet markings include the black stripes found on their head, wings, tail feathers, and occasional dark patches on their cheek.
This results in hundreds of possible “fancy” varieties from at least 32 primary mutations of the original Australian parakeet.
Are Fancy Parakeets Good Pets?
Fancy parakeets make wonderfully affectionate pets since they are mostly docile with a playful streak.
They cherish social interaction, and their love of singing and talking makes them entertaining, lovable companions.
Due to their small size (7 inches average) they are relatively affordable and easy to care for.
Is a Fancy Parakeet a Good First Bird?
Absolutely. Fancy parakeets and their normal counterparts often rank near the top of best beginner birds due to low maintenance, small appetites, and relatively minimal noise compared with larger parrot species – making them ideal for apartment living.
Their diminutive size not only means a more affordable cage and accessories, but parakeets also create less mess in their environment.
As long as you can set aside two hours a day minimum to socialize with them, your fancy parakeet will thrive!
I recently consulted Becca, an avian specialist in Iowa, in regards to having a parakeet in a home with young children. Her recommendations are as follows:
All interactions should of course be supervised, and make sure that the children do not bang on or stick their fingers inside the cage or scream and shout when near the bird.
It’s typically best to locate the cage well out of reach of little ones so that you won’t need to worry about them knocking the cage over, being nipped, or sharing dangerous food, like M&Ms, with the bird.
Eventually, the parakeet will realize that the children are a part of its life and will grow accustomed to the household routine and noises.
Can Fancy Parakeets Talk?
Parakeets are skilled mimics and can learn to absorb certain words and phrases if you are committed to teaching them from a young age.
A male sky-blue parakeet named Puck set a world record in 1995 for possessing the largest vocabulary of any bird at 1,728 words!
You will find that male fancy parakeets tend to be chattier and easier to train in speech and vocalizations than females due to their need to attract a mate in the wild.
Fancy Parakeet Lifespan
Like the majority of parakeets, fancy varieties are expected to live between 7 and 10 years on average, though with tremendous care parakeets have been known to enjoy a lifespan of up to 20 years.
The main factors influencing their short lifespan are a poor diet (mostly seed-based) and their proclivity for common diseases.
Be sure to check out our article “Do Parakeets Die Easily” to learn more about common causes of early death and how to keep your bird as healthy as possible.
How Much Does a Fancy Parakeet Cost? Average Prices
The cost of a fancy parakeet can vary depending on the seller.
Popular retailers such as PetSmart sell fancy parakeets at the same rate as the normal green and yellow varieties – around $24 each, while Petco sells at a similar cost of around $22.
Private parakeet breeders, meanwhile, may charge anywhere from $50 to several hundred, usually by passing off common color mutations as exceptionally rare subvarieties.
Are Fancy Parakeets Mixed Breeds?
Fancy parakeets are not mixed breeds. They are subvarieties that descend from the same original breed of small Australian parakeets.
Early captive breeding of British and European varieties produced larger English or “show” parakeets which may have prompted confusion as to whether these were completely different breeds.
Fancy Parakeet Colors
Fancy parakeets fall under two major color groups: yellow-based and white-based varieties, and these varieties are found in the primary (common) and secondary (sub-mutation) colors.
Light Green/Olive – mutations of the original wild parakeet now come in lighter or darker olive shades of green plumage, with varying intensities of black and blue striping on their head and wings.
Blue – as a recessive mutation, blues are harder to breed compared to most colors. Blue parakeets range from deep cobalt to lighter sky blue and subtle purple tones.
Gray – this white-based variety has an all-gray plumage with hints of mauve, dark tails, and blue cheek spots.
Dominant & Recessive Pied – depending on which color genes win out during breeding, pied (variegated) parakeets display random patches of either pure-white or yellow colors on their body, head, wings, and around one or both eyes.
Yellowface – varying depths of yellow pigment in the face either create bold contrasts to the chest plumage or are diluted so that it bleeds into the chest color, creating sea-foam greens and turquoise shades.
Clearwing – caused by a dilution gene, this results in little to no pigment in the wing color, which results in subtle markings and beautiful highlights against the main body coloring.
Rainbow – a combination of blue base coloring with clearwing influence creates a stunning bird of delicate pastel shades that run the gamut from green and yellow to blue and purple, almost giving the effect of a light watercolor painting.
Fancy Parakeet Gender – How To Tell
You can usually determine the sex of fancy parakeets in the same way you can with the normal varieties – by noting the color of their cere.
The cere (the fleshy band located above their beak) is typically darker in males and lighter in females.
Considering the vast rainbow of color mutations, male ceres could be any variation of blue, pink, or purple, while the females’ could appear white, yellow, or tan in color.
When in doubt, the male’s more vocal, outgoing nature could be the gender giveaway you need.
Is a Fancy Parakeet a Budgie?
Yes, parakeets and budgies are one and the same.
The name parakeet is actually a misnomer coined by America when the Australian-imported budgerigar was gaining popularity in the pet trade in the 1950s.
Deciding that the term “budgerigar” sounded too odd, the U.S. named them parakeets, derived from the French word perroquet, meaning to perch.
Because the broader parakeet group of birds consists of dozens of breeds including the ring-necked, monk, and conure types, budgie is used worldwide as the correct denomination for this species to avoid all confusion.
Are Fancy Parakeets Loud?
Fancy parakeets or fancy budgies are not especially loud compared to larger parrots.
They can chirp and chatter constantly throughout the day in communication with you and to signal general contentment, but they are not known to screech or scream unless they feel threatened, bored, or they are in pain.
Do Fancy Parakeets Like To Be Held?
They do not like to be held or cradled in the same way as you would a pet dog or cat because being handled in this way is unnatural for them and may cause them to bite out of fear.
Instead, petting and showing affection for your fancy parakeet means gaining their trust to the point that they feel comfortable perching on your finger.
With time and training, your parakeet will become receptive to gentle head and beak scratches too.
How Big Do Fancy Parakeets Get?
Most variations grow no larger than 7 inches and weigh around 1-1.4 ounces, though the British fancy parakeet variety known as the English budgie can measure 10 inches tall and weigh up to 2.2 ounces – making it almost double the weight of a wild Australian budgerigar.
What Do Fancy Parakeets Need?
Like the common color varieties, fancy parakeets need the following for a good quality of life:
- A large enough cage for exercise (as big as you can reasonably fit in your home).
- A stimulating environment of puzzle toys, beak chews, and regular socialization.
- A well-balanced diet of formulated pellets, fresh fruit and veggies, and clean water.
- Two to four hours of outside cage time and weekly cage cleans to prevent illness.
Do Fancy Parakeets Get Cold? Ideal Temperature
Fancy parakeets can die from the cold if the temperature in your home is set at 40℉ or below for long periods.
All parakeets are native to the warmer regions of the planet and so require an ideal temperature range of 60-70℉ to live comfortably.
Fitting your parakeet’s cage with a heavy comforter or a bird warmer (like this one from Amazon) can make all the difference during the winter months or for those living in cooler climates.
What Can Fancy Parakeets Eat?
Parakeets should be mostly fed on a formulated pellet diet (Lafeber’s is highly recommended)to meet their nutritional needs, making up at least 75% of their daily feed.
The remainder can include offerings of small fresh fruit and vegetable pieces (amounting to no more than ¾ cup per day) and occasional seeds and chopped nuts as a treat.
Serve them foods rich in essential A, C, and K vitamins such as:
- Kale & romaine lettuce
- Cooked beans
What Is Toxic to Fancy Parakeets?
As tempting as it may be to share certain snacks or leftovers with your bird, certain human foods can be toxic for your fancy parakeet’s digestive system, leading to respiratory illness and complications of the heart and kidneys that could prove fatal.
Avoid the following foods at all costs:
- Raw beans
- Fruit pits and seeds
- High-sugar or seasoned, high-sodium foods
- Comfrey plant
Can Fancy Parakeets Be Trained?
Fancy parakeets can be trained successfully to perform tricks, sing, talk, or to perch on your finger if you train your bird from a relatively young age (ideally 3-4 months) and interact with them every single day.
Socializing them among strangers at the earliest opportunity helps them acclimatize to unfamiliar stimuli, encouraging a tamer, more receptive bird.
You can learn all about a parakeet’s talking ability and find training tips in our article “Can Parakeets Talk?”
Do Fancy Parakeets Do Better in Pairs?
All parakeets are social flock animals and will flourish when they are kept in pairs.
This isn’t to say that lone fancy parakeets do not value human interaction, but as their owner can only provide limited attention, introducing a second parakeet will provide constant companionship and a possible mate.
Fancy Parakeet Toys
Every parakeet needs toys that provide a mix of physical and mental stimulation.
Stock their cage with pine cones, rawhide, and faux-leather chews to ensure healthy and busy beaks. Add ladders, swings, hoops, and perches to encourage acrobatic exercise.
Don’t forget hanging playgrounds (check out this 8-pack toy bundle) that incorporate everything from bells and bright colors to foraging material.
What Size Cage for a Fancy Parakeet?
As fancy parakeets range between 7-10 inches, a cage size fit for a pair should be no smaller than 18 inches deep by 18 inches wide by 20 inches tall (or 14 x 18 x 22 for a single parakeet).
Because they are horizontal fliers, try to opt for a cage with a wider, boxier shape than a tall tower cage.
How Often Should a Fancy Parakeet Go to the Vet?
A check-up every 6 months is recommended for all parakeets. New York-based avian specialist Dr. Laurie Hess stresses that:
Parakeets tend to mask illness out of a strong will to show survival of the fittest.
So early detection is key in preventing certain cancers and infections. Annual fecal analysis and bloodwork can further help in detecting underlying health issues.
Best Place To Buy a Fancy Parakeet
Purchasing via trusted breeders or adopting from rescue centers is the best way to go. Jacqueline Johnson of the Best Friends Animal Society in Utah notes that:
Each state rescue center normally houses birds that have been medically tested and cleared for common illnesses and will be examined for abnormalities by a vet.
Finding a reputable private breeder will be the more expensive option, but in return you will have the opportunity to ask about your bird’s health history, breeding info, and more.
You will also be more likely to get your fancy parakeet from a young age, which will make training much easier.
To summarize, a fancy parakeet is a term applied to the many color varieties that have been bred from the classic Australian budgerigar since the 19th century.
No matter how rare or common their coloring, fancy parakeets need basic pillars of care to thrive – a nutritious diet, a challenging and fun environment, and a dedicated owner (or cage fellow) for companionship.