herald

Thursday 21 September 2017

Who's an ugly boy then?

Visiting Georgia shares tales of australian budgies and her fond memories of fugly

Owner: Georgia Williams from Brisbane, Australia

Animal: Cosmic the budgie

Background: Georgia enjoyed meeting an Irish budgie

This is the summer holiday season for people in the southern hemisphere. Georgia is away from home in Australia for six weeks, touring Europe. While visiting friends in Ireland, Georgia was delighted to discover that they kept budgies as pets. One bird, named Cosmic, caught her attention in particular. He's a good-looking, sociable male budgie, who enjoyed coming out of his cage and sitting on her head.

In Queensland, budgies live in the wild. Georgia lives in a leafy suburban part of Brisbane, and often sees wild budgies in her garden. They're also common on the university campus. Flocks of 100 birds or more fly around,.

They're colourful birds -- bright blue, yellow or green -- just like pet budgies, and they add a cheerful, bright tone to life in Brisbane.



captivity

People in Queensland keep budgies as pets as well, but only birds that have been bred in captivity, although there's always some two-way traffic between wild budgies and pets. Pet birds in Queensland sometimes escape, returning to join their wild cousins. On one occasion, Georgia's mother bought a beautiful white budgie. He used to be allowed out of his cage to fly around and, on one occasion, someone left a window open . . . that was the last they saw of him.

In Ireland, a budgie wouldn't last for long in the wild: it's too cold, and the right type of natural food isn't available.

Wild budgies are not normally kept as pets, but they sometimes need to be looked after by humans. Georgia once witnessed a budgie being chased by three large butcher birds -- Australian birds similar to magpies, that work in small flocks to chase and catch prey. They mostly eat insects and get their name from their habit of impaling captured insects on thorns or in crevices. This "larder" is used to store the prey.

Butcher birds also eat small animals and, on this occasion, they had the budgie in their sights. They'd managed to knock the budgie to the ground and were closing in on it. Georgia rushed out with a broom, and chased the larger birds away.

The budgie was stunned, so Georgia took it home to nurse it. It turned out to be tame, and she suspected that it was an escaped pet. She called the bird Yuki, and she ended up keeping him.

Georgia's family kept a series of budgies when she was younger. They usually named them after writers -- there was Banjo (after Banjo Paterson, the Australian Bush Poet), Henry (after Henry Lawson, another Australian author) and DH (after DH Lawrence).

The bird that Georgia remembers most fondly was an exception to this naming rule: his good looks were spoiled by a growth on the side of his face that made him look ugly: he was called Fugly. He outlived all of the birds with the fancier names.

Georgia fell in love with Cosmic, an Irish cousin of her native budgies. She's heading home soon, and although she can't take him back, she'll be bringing plenty of good memories of Ireland home with her.

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