Book review: Budgerigar

Budgerigar - how a little Aussie bird captured the hearts of the world

Book Reviews
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Budgerigar, is a book by veteran journalists Don Baker and Sarah Harris.

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Of all the many things Australia has exported to the world, one in particular has captured the hearts and minds of people across the globe - the cheeky, chatty, colourful little bird, the budgerigar.

Beautiful, delighful, enchanting, wild or tamed budgies are Australia's gift to the bird world.

They sing, they dance, and yawn as contagiously as humans. They are masters of mimicry. They can grasp simple grammar, can count to six and have memories which belie their size.

They've been coveted by royals and been companions of the great and famous as well as grannies in suburban kitchens. They've been painted by masters and rendered in the finest procelain. Their images have been used to sell whisky, stamps and laundry detergent and everything in between.

Budgerigar, is a book by veteran journalists Don Baker and Sarah Harris.

The book is in part, a history of how this little native green bird which flies across the outback in flocks of tens of thousands came to be a much loved and cosseted companion, bred into colours nature never intended - the first blue budgie didn't appear in an aviary until 1878 - and able to chatter with astonishing mimicry.

It's also a delightful collection of anecdotes from around the world illustrating just what an impact this little bird has had on those both great and mighty and poor and humble.

As a child the Princess Elizabeth, now Queen Elizabeth II, used to delight in visiting the budgie aviary at the Royal Lodge at Windsor.

Sir Winston Churchill had a budgie called Toby which used to drop its own little bombs on top secret thermonuclear documents - a scene recalled by Defence Minister Harold Macmillan in his diary entry for January 26, 1955.

Budgerigar is a fun and fascinating book about this humble, social little Australian bird but in many ways it's also a sad reflection on how humans have bred this charming avian to be a larger, multi-coloured but probably sadder reflection of its wild, free cousins.

About the authors:

Very conveniently co-authors are also a couple. Both veteran journalists, they flirted briefly with being fruiterers before deciding to stick to their knitting. They live on South Australia's Fleurieu Peninsula with their flying dog Smudge.

Budgerigar, Allen and Unwin, $29.99 www.allenandunwin.com

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