A budgie’s cere is the piece of flesh that covers the top of the beak. Think of it as a nose for budgies, as it contains the budgie’s nostrils.
However, the cere doesn’t allow budgies to smell, as it can’t detect odor particles. Instead, it’s one of the best markers for determining a budgie’s sex, maturity, and health.
Most commonly, a budgie’s cere changing color signifies maturity or the mating season. For both sexes, brown ceres signify a vitamin A deficiency, scaly face mites, or arsenic poisoning.
Brown ceres in males can mean testicular tumors. White and red ceres are usually stress-related.
A blue cere usually means that you have a male budgie, but there are exceptions.
A blue cere can occur due to a mutation (also a white cere), a hormone imbalance (white around the edges of the blue), or too much testosterone (lighter blue shades than found in male budgies).
What Age Do Budgies Cere Change Color?
All budgies, barring mutations, are born with a pink cere. Some budgies with mutations can start with other colors, such as light blue or white.
Ceres will change color about a year into a budgerigar’s life. However, there’s no set time when this color change will occur. It’ll be earlier for some budgies, and later for others.
A cere will naturally change as your budgie ages. In fact, a cere color change is one of the most reliable signs that your budgie is making the transition from juvenile to an adult budgie.
Male Budgie Cere Color Change
Males will have a blue cere or one with a purplish hue. In some varieties, males won’t change their cere’s color, and it’ll remain a pale pink or turn a bright violet.
This happens in budgies with the following mutations:
The color your budgie’s cere will change to is a marker of its sex.
According to the International Animal Science Conference, cere color can determine the sex of budgies with the least error. Before this change, it was hard to determine a budgie’s sex by physical markers alone.
Female Budgie Cere Color Change
The cere of a female budgie will change color to a brown or tan shade. Less commonly, a female’s cere can be white or light blue.
Notably, females will develop a flaky texture on the surface of their cere. This texture can build up to be a centimeter thick, but it’s normal and not a cause for concern.
Why Do Female Budgies Have A Blue Cere?
Note that ceres turn blue before changing to pink.
This is common, so you’ll need to wait until the change is final before determining a budgie’s sex. Your boy budgie could be a girl budgie.
This usually happens for the following reasons:
The mutations found in a budgie’s genes may affect how its cere changes.
In this way, a blue cere on a female budgie is natural. Some variants cause a juvenile female to start with the same light blue or white cere she’ll have for her entire life.
The color will not change as she matures.
Another theory is that blue-cere female budgies have high levels of testosterone.
This perspective is supported by PLOS One, where researchers noted that increasing testosterone in female budgies resulted in their ceres turning blue.
However, a female’s blue cere will always be a lighter shade than a male’s. Even in the above study, researchers noted that the tested females never reached the same blue shade as males.
Additionally, healthy female budgies with blue ceres tend to have white on the edges of their nostrils. Females with a deep blue cere, no white included, may have a hormonal imbalance.
Budgie’s Cere Turning Brown
A budgie’s cere can turn brown, which is normal in females but can signify illness in males.
Female Budgie Cere Is Brown And Crusty
A female budgie’s cere can turn brown (if it is not already brown) and can become crustier than usual.
This is to be expected. If it turns a deeper shade of brown and becomes crustier than usual, that means it’s the mating season. Once this time passes, the cere should return to its original color.
Some female budgies can prepare for the breeding season before they reach sexual maturity at one. When this happens, a budgie’s cere can turn brown before changing to a different color. Since a female budgie’s cere changes color as it matures, this is also normal.
However, a more crusty cere than usual can be a symptom of illness. This is even more true if your budgie has other symptoms, such as the following:
Hyperkeratosis is a condition wherein the outer layer of skin becomes thicker than usual. This happens when the amount of keratin is present in larger amounts.
Hyperkeratosis can sometimes refer to how a female’s cere naturally becomes brown and crusty during the breeding season. Nonetheless, it can be caused by poor health.
For example, hyperkeratosis can result from a lack of vitamin A. This often happens when a budgie is fed a seed-based diet or an otherwise unbalanced diet.
Aside from vitamin deficiency, it can also be caused by arsenic poisoning. Arsenic may be accidentally ingested from the ground, water, and certain foods.
Hyperkeratosis, when it’s a symptom of disease, may require a visit to the vet. This is especially true if the growth is covering your budgie’s nostrils, as this can make it harder for your budgie to breathe.
Here’s what a vet will do:
- Remove any excess keratin.
- Run tests to determine the cause of hyperkeratosis (excess vitamin A or arsenic poisoning).
- Determine if the budgie is getting enough vitamins and minerals through its diet. If not, a vet may recommend vitamin and calcium supplements.
Hyperkeratosis is rarely a life-threatening condition, and you may be able to treat it at home. You can remove excess keratin by soaking the keratin with mineral oil and removing the scales with a cotton swab.
Scaly Face Mites
Scaly face mites are small parasites that live on patches of a budgie’s skin that aren’t covered in feathers.
For this reason, the face is often the first area that’s affected, giving them their name. They’re common in budgerigars, even though they can affect all birds. In fact, they’re often called budgie mites.
With the scientific name of knemidokoptes, scaly face mites, when left untreated, can affect the entire body. However, this usually starts at the cere as a brown growth.
Scaly face mites can spread from one budgie to another when:
- Sharing a meal
- Parents are interacting with offspring
- Budgies preen each other
Juveniles may carry scaly face mites and only present symptoms in early adulthood. Scaly face mites aren’t considered a medical emergency. However, you’ll need to take your budgie to the vet.
Left untreated, scaly face mites will continue to affect your budgie’s entire body. In advanced cases, they can cause permanent lameness and secondary infections.
Scaly face mites are treated with ivermectin, an antiparasitic. Treatment is usually given once a week, and multiple treatments are usually necessary for 3-4 weeks.
Male Budgie’s Cere Is Brown And Crusty
Brown and crusty ceres are a cause for concern in males.
They can result from the conditions outlined above, with one caveat: a male’s cere turning brown can sometimes be a symptom of a testicular tumor.
If you suspect that your budgie has a testicular tumor, take it to a veterinarian for an examination.
Tumors are often treated with medication. The lupron is often prescribed, and it’s usually administered through injections. Your vet may also prescribe anti-inflammatory medication to ease any pain.
Why Is My Budgie’s Cere Turning White?
Male budgies that are stressed produce less testosterone, resulting in their cere turning white or pale. If you see this change, evaluate the budgie’s environment and calm it down.
In females, a pale color is natural. In fact, some white specks on a blue cere in females are healthy.
As mentioned, during the breeding season, a female’s cere may become crusty and brown. In very crusted ceres, part of the buildup can slough off and reveal a white cere underneath.
Budgie’s Cere Turning Red
If you’re certain that the cere is red, not an off-brown, check for other symptoms. A red cere usually indicates that the budgie is stressed, and changes to its environment and diet need to be made.
Why Is My Budgie’s Cere Peeling?
A peeling cere is rarely a cause for concern.
If your budgie is female, and her brown cere is peeling, she’s likely exiting the breeding season. Eventually, the peeling should stop to reveal her usual cere color.
In males and females, a peeling cere can mean that a budgie is molting. Also, you may notice flakiness in other parts of its body, such as the beak and claws.
Budgies require humidity of 60-70%, so dry skin is often due to a lack of humidity.
Dry skin will go away if the humidity is in the correct range. In the meantime, to soothe the flaky skin, you can use budgie-safe cream with aloe vera, vitamin E oil, or coconut oil.
A budgie’s cere changing color is usually a natural process that indicates your budgie is growing and maturing. However, check for color changes, as this can tell you about its state of health.