Young budgies may not look like their parents, leaving you wondering if your budgie will change color.
Likewise, you may be curious if a budgie is aging if it’s turning brown, developing black streaks, or if its colors have become less vibrant than they were in the past.
Budgies change color as they get older, but only when aging from chick to adult. At this time, budgies have their first molt and develop their full, adult coloring.
Once fully grown, budgies don’t change color again. Any color changes are due to illness, disease, stress, or molting complications.
Do Budgies Change Color?
Budgies only change color during the physical transformation from chick to adult. Once a budgie has reached maturity, its final color will be permanent, and it won’t change for the remainder of its life.
According to AFA Watchbird, a budgie chick’s final, mature color will depend on its genes. Only the green series budgie is naturally occurring in the wild, with all other colors resulting from genetic mutations and selective breeding.
Genetic mutations can increase how much extra color your budgie gets when it ages. Also, mutations can eliminate pigments and cause a budgie to remain its base color.
No matter their breed or mutation, all budgies start with one base color. For example, green series budgies have the base color of yellow, while blue series budgies have the base color of white.
As a chick grows, it’ll develop more color. If a budgie has a genetic mutation, it may blend the colors in unusual patterns or maintain its primary color.
Can Budgie Feathers Change Color?
Budgies can’t alter the pigment of their feathers like a chameleon, and adult budgies can’t change the colors of their feathers at all. Instead, baby or juvenile budgies experience a color change in their feathers due to growing up and undergoing puberty.
Just as humans may experience a change in their hair color when they reach puberty, your budgie will. That’s because its genetics dictate what its final adult form will be.
The most drastic change will be when your budgie turns 1 year old. At this point, its color genes will be defined. The budgie will molt, shed its baby feathers, and grow adult feathers of its final color.
Budgie Feathers Turning Brown
Brown feathers may need veterinary attention, but not always. Consider these explanations:
If there’s discoloration and signs of illness, reach out to your vet.
Troubling symptoms include:
- Sudden aggression
- Withdrawn behavior
- Loss of appetite
- Trouble breathing
This is especially true for feathers that are discolored around the cere, which can be a symptom of a respiratory illness.
Usually, brown feathers mean that a budgie’s dirty. A budgie can get messy due to food debris, poop, or an old/dirty cage. With older cages, rust can rub onto the budgie from the cage bars.
Wipe down the cage more regularly and remove perishable food, such as fruit and vegetables, 2 hours after being provided. To clean the budgie, provide a bowl of water and let it clean itself.
If a budgie has taken on a brown hue during its molt, the molting process has been stalled, creating black or brown tips on the new feathers. Also, the head and neck will have a thinner layer of feathers.
A lack of nutrients causes this discoloration. A molt is taxing on the body since it involves developing a new set of feathers.
Budgies need additional nutrients, vitamins, and minerals to facilitate the process. If a budgie isn’t eating properly, the new feathers will be malformed and unhealthy, appearing brown or black.
Why Is My Budgie’s Color Changing?
A budgie may change colors for the following reasons:
As young budgies develop, their plumage and cere will change color.
For example, a green series budgie may appear yellow as a chick, with tufts of white down. It may have black stripes on its wings but no obvious green coloring. Once it molts and matures, the green coloring will become more prominent than the yellow.
As your budgie grows, its cere will change color (the cere is the fleshy part of the nostril above the beak). Budgies start with a pale pink cere. In females, maturity will cause the cere to become tan, light blue, brown, or white, and males will have bright blue ceres unless they have a genetic mutation.
Broken or Bent Feathers
Feathers that are broken or bent near the shaft will become darker than the rest of the plumage.
An area of discoloration may mean that a group of feathers is damaged. This is usually due to running into a cage wall, getting tangled in a rope toy, or fighting with other budgies.
Damaged feathers can be due to improper handling. Allowing a child to play with a budgie, for example, may have caused an injury. Over-handling can stress a budgie and cause it to flail, harming its feathers.
Broken feathers aren’t an immediate concern because they’ll be replaced in future molts. However, the presence of blood means that your budgie has damaged a blood feather. A vet should remove blood feathers and the wound covered with cornstarch and gauze.
Fungal Growth And Parasites
According to the University Of Miami, birds can develop black streaks on their backs and wings due to fungus. While this infection doesn’t immediately affect a bird, it can cause other health issues.
For example, a budgie will be at greater risk for aspergillosis, a respiratory infection caused by mold. Fungal infections can be life-threatening to budgies.
Budgies are at greater risk of developing fungal infections when kept in small, unclean environments. So, regularly maintain the cage and allow the budgie to spend time outside it. Remove any food after 2 hours, wipe away spills, and disinfect the cage.
If a budgie has a fungal infection, a vet can prescribe antifungal medication. Your budgie’s current feathers won’t recover, but they’ll be replaced during the next molt.
Illness And Disease
Discoloration and other symptoms can mean your budgie is unwell.
Alternatively, stress and illness may wear down your budgie until it becomes nutrient deficient and can’t maintain its feathers and coloration.
Stress bars are a common sign that a budgie is discontented. These affect the pigmentation and strength of the feathers, leaving broad lines across their plumage.
Stress bars will be paired with other symptoms, including:
- Lack of appetite
- Abnormal feces
Budgie Before And After Molting
Budgies molt 1-3 times a year throughout their lifetime. Your budgie may look scraggly during this time, but it won’t change color once it’s an adult. The opposite is true for baby budgies (chicks).
A budgie’s first molt will have a profound effect on its color. Before this, baby budgies will have a striped pattern on their heads and dotted wings. Then, they’ll develop a more solid, uniform color as they grow new feathers.
Color changes outside of this first molt are a reason for concern. To tell the difference, remember that a molt will be even. For example, the budgie’s color will change on both sides of its head. If your budgie is only discolored in one specific area, this may be due to illness, injury, or uncleanliness.