A budgie’s cere is the piece of flesh that covers the top of the beak. Think of it as a nose for budgies that contains the nostrils.
However, the cere doesn’t allow budgies to smell because it can’t detect odor particles. Instead, it’s one of the best markers for determining a budgie’s sex, maturity, and overall health.
Usually, a budgie’s cere changing color signifies maturity or the start of the mating season. For both sexes, brown ceres signify a vitamin A deficiency, scaly face mites, or even arsenic poisoning.
Brown ceres in males sometimes signify testicular tumors, while white and red ceres are likely stress-related.
A blue cere usually means you have a male budgie, but it 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. However, some budgies with mutations can start life with other colors, such as light blue or white.
Ceres will change color about a year into a budgerigar’s life, but there isn’t a set time for this color change. So, it’ll be earlier for some budgies and later for others.
A cere will naturally change as your budgie ages. Usually, a cere color change is one of the most reliable signs that your budgie is transitioning from a 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 color; it’ll remain a pale pink or turn a bright violet, which happens with these mutations:
- Recessive pied budgie
- Lutino budgie
- Albino budgie
- Dark-eyed clearing budgie
- Lacewing budgie
- Fallow budgie
The color of your budgie’s cere will change to a marker of its gender.
According to the International Animal Science Conference, cere color can determine the sex of budgies with the least errors. Before this change, it was hard to determine gender 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 perfectly normal.
Why Do Female Budgies Have A Blue Cere?
Note that ceres turn blue before changing to pink, so you’ll need to wait until the change is final before determining a budgie’s sex.
A female budgie could have a blue cere for the following reasons:
The mutations 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.
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 concluded that the tested females never reached the same blue shade as males.
Additionally, healthy female budgies with blue ceres tended to have white on the edges of their ceres. 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. However, brown can signify illness in males.
Female Budgie Cere Is Brown And Crusty
A female budgie’s cere can turn brown (if not already brown) and become crustier than usual.
If it turns a deeper shade of brown and becomes crustier than usual, 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, it’s also normal.
However, a more crusty cere than usual can be a symptom of illness, which is likely if your budgie displays other physical symptoms:
Hyperkeratosis is when the outer layer of skin becomes thicker than usual, which happens when the amount of keratin is greater.
Hyperkeratosis can sometimes refer to how a female’s cere naturally becomes brown and crusty during the breeding season.
However, it can be caused by poor health. For example, hyperkeratosis can occur due to a lack of vitamin A when a budgie is fed a seed-based or unbalanced diet.
Aside from a vitamin deficiency, it can also be due to arsenic poisoning, which can be ingested from the ground, water, and certain foods.
Hyperkeratosis requires a vet visit when it’s a disease symptom, especially if the growth covers your budgie’s nostrils and makes breathing harder.
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 or calcium supplements.
Hyperkeratosis is rarely a life-threatening condition. 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 tiny parasites that live on a budgie’s skin that isn’t covered by feathers.
For this reason, the face is often the first affected area, hence their name. They’re common in budgerigars, even though they can affect all birds.
When left untreated, scaly face mites (scientific name knemidokoptes) can affect the entire body. However, the problem 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.
If unresolved, 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; multiple treatments are 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.
Tumors are usually treated with Lupron, which is a prescribed medication that’s administered through injections. Also, your vet may 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 living environment.
In females, pale colors are natural. So, some white specks on a blue cere in females are healthy.
As mentioned, a female’s cere may become crusty and brown during the breeding season. In crusted ceres, part of the buildup can slough off and reveal a white cere underneath.
Budgie’s Cere Turning Red
Check for other symptoms if you’re certain that the cere is red, not an off-brown color. A red cere usually indicates that the budgie is stressed, so you’ll need to make adjustments.
Why Is My Budgie’s Cere Peeling?
If your budgie is female, and her brown cere is peeling, she’s likely exiting the breeding season. Eventually, the peeling should cease, revealing her usual cere color.
A peeling cere can mean that a male or female budgie is molting. Also, you may notice flakiness in other parts of its body, such as the beak and claws/nails.
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. So, some owners use a humidifier.
You can use aloe vera or coconut oil to soothe dry, itchy, and flaky skin.
A budgie’s cere changing color is usually indicative of growth and maturation. However, check for color changes, as this can tell you about your budgie’s state of health.