Budgies are usually docile, friendly birds that rarely resort to aggression. That’s an accurate depiction for the most part, but when budgies’ territory is at stake, they can become feisty, especially female budgies.
Even bonded budgies can squabble over territorial rights. Unfortunately, the relationship between two budgies can be damaged if one budgie crosses a red line.
Budgies battling over territory can look like play at first glance, but there are differences. Pecking at the head or feet or pushing on the head with the foot are signs of fighting.
A tendency toward territoriality can turn one of your budgies into a bully. A desire to protect territory could see a budgie refuse to let a cagemate eat from a food bowl, drink water, or play with toys.
A budgie’s territorial streak can extend to its owner. Your budgie may not take kindly to you cleaning its cage or changing toys, so it’ll become more adversarial and confrontational.
Are Budgies Territorial?
Despite their small size, wild budgies won’t think twice about muscling into territory occupied by other birds. The Journal of Ethology explains how budgies quickly assert themselves as dominant feeders in public gardens.
This is partly due to the nomadic life of budgies, as they don’t build a nest from twigs or leaves. Instead, when a budgie needs to nest, it’ll find an abandoned space, usually a hollow tree or log.
Once the budgie has claimed a nest, the female will remain in place to lay eggs and raise her young. This is the budgie’s territory until the chicks are ready to fly the nest.
As you can imagine, this can make captive budgies very territorial. Unlike wild birds, a pet budgie won’t move to new terrain after laying eggs. You’ll need to manage a pet budgie’s tendencies to guard its cage and contents jealously.
Are Male Budgies Territorial?
Male budgies aren’t particularly territorial by nature. If two male budgies are fighting, they’re more likely to be clashing over dominance within a social hierarchy or battling for the attention of a potential mate during the breeding season.
One occasion that males show territoriality is after mating. Budgies show loyalty, so when a female has been fertilized and laid eggs, the male will provide for his partner and their young until the baby budgies leave the nest.
That involves bringing food, guarding the nest, and dealing with threats. While the male isn’t necessarily shielding the territory itself, it’ll do anything to protect its mate and young.
Are Female Budgies Territorial?
Although female budgies are a little smaller than their male counterparts, they’re considerably more territorial. If a female budgie feels that her territory is under threat, she’ll puff up her feathers and prepare for conflict.
As female budgies enter heat cycles and can produce eggs without a male partner, their bodies are regularly flooded with hormones. In captivity, a female budgie will consider an entire cage her nest and will protect it accordingly.
This isn’t because female budgies are more innately aggressive than males; they’re determined to protect resources for their young. Even if the budgie is destined to lay unfertilized eggs, she’ll still behave like she’s giving birth until after the event.
What is Territorial Behavior in Budgies?
If it appears that one budgie is bullying another budgie, this is likely to be an act of territoriality.
Usually, this will be unwarranted aggression between the two birds and the jealous guarding of life-critical resources.
Aggression and Fighting
Budgies fighting can look similar to play. There are three warnings to look out for that suggest the birds aren’t wrestling for recreation but struggling to co-exist in the same space:
- One budgie puts its foot on another budgie, which is a classic display of dominance.
- Aggressive pecking at the head. While bonded budgies gently groom each other’s head feathers, agitated movements are rarely a positive sign.
- Pecking at the feet. Budgies never do this playfully, so it’s always an act of aggression.
If a conflict has broken out between two budgies, they must be separated at once. Give both budgies time to cool off before they permanently damage their bond.
You can return both budgies to their cage and see if they can get along again. The risk of a territorial quarrel will remain, though.
Guarding and Hoarding
If one budgie becomes territorial, it may prevent another from eating, drinking, or playing with toys within the cage. This isn’t a sustainable way of life and must be prevented.
Aside from the obvious health risks that arise from not eating or hydrating, such bullying will cause stress and anxiety in the budgie on the receiving end. The territorial budgie may also grow aggressive and distressed if you try to remove uneaten food from a cage.
Initially, you’ll need to manage this by feeding your budgies in separate cages. You’ll eventually need a more permanent solution to this refusal to share communal supplies.
How To Stop Territorial Behavior in Budgies
In theory, it’s easy to stop budgies fighting over territory – permanently house them in different cages. This might not be necessary, and it would be a shame to do so if the budgies are bonded.
You need to adjust their living arrangements to minimize territorial squabbling.
Bigger Cage or Multiple Cages
A larger cage creates more space, and two budgies are less likely to fight over territory. You should always pick up the most extensive habitat for your budgies.
Some owners also provide budgies with two cages; one for the day and one to sleep. This mirrors the lifestyle of wild budgies, who spend their days in the open, foraging and socializing with a flock, and find a quiet, secluded spot to roost upon nightfall.
Place your budgies in a large cage during the day, treating this as a playpen. You can move the budgies to a smaller enclosure at night, which can be covered with a sheet to encourage sleep.
Another way to reduce territoriality is to break the belief that a cage is the beginning and end of a budgie’s existence. The more time your budgie spends outside the cage, the less protective it’ll feel about its cage, toys, and accessories.
Budgies can’t be left to roam free all day, as this is dangerous for the bird and will likely not be what it wants anyway. Budgies’ energy burns brightly but briefly, and it will wish to return to its cage for a nap between free-flying bouts of exercise.
Consider letting your budgie out of the cage to fly around several times daily. If your budgie usually has 3 hours of free time, provide 3 x 60-minute sessions instead of just one long session.
Clarify to your budgie that resources aren’t scarce outside the cage. Offer a snack and water while your budgie is exercising. The budgie will realize that its needs will always be met, wherever it may be.
Separate Toys, Food, and Water
Even if you’ve managed to get your budgie’s territoriality under control, there’s nothing to lose by taking some extra precautions. If two budgies share a cage, provide two separate food sources, water bottles, and unique toys.
According to The American Naturalist, avian vision distinguishes color better than any other vertebrae. So, you shouldn’t find it hard to train budgies into using their food and water supplies. For example, one can use red bowls while another uses yellow.
The same applies to toys and recreation, as not all budgies will be interested in the same entertainment. By providing diversions in a cage, both budgies will likely be kept happy and have no reason to clash.
If a previously loving and docile budgie is suddenly aggressive, it’s likely experiencing a spontaneous burst of territoriality. Temper these territorial tendencies for the sake of harmony in a shared cage.