The Budgerigar is arguably Australia’s best-known bird, yet many of us aren’t aware that it is natively Australian. Or that today’s super-sized, show budgie is as different from the free-living original.
Dr Penny Olsen's new book, Flight of the Budgerigar, explores fascinating photographic history of the iconic Australian bird.
Since 1840, when ornithologist John Gould took living specimens to London, this little parrot has been on a remarkable journey as Australia’s first mass export; its story includes British queens, spies and nobles, Japanese princes, Hollywood stars and world leaders. Far from the cosy domestic lives budgies live today, the native budgerigar survived in boom-bust cycles in the arid inland of Australia. Life was often short; if they were not fodder for predators, they starved or had to struggle their way to districts closer to the coast. For the Warlpiri and their Arrernte neighbours around Alice Springs, the Budgerigar (in its ancestral form) was also a totem animal, featuring in art, ceremonies, song lines and legends.
Packed full of illustrations, including works of art and contemporary colour photographs, Flight of the Budgerigar is a fascinating visual history of one of Australia’s most iconic parrots.
About the Author
Dr Penny Olsen is an Honorary Professor in the Division of Ecology, Evolution and Genetics at The Australian National University. After a career as a field biologist and ecological consultant, she is now mostly occupied writing books about Australian natural history and its recorders, both artistic and scientific. She has written more than 25 books, including Australian Predators of the Sky (2015) and Australia’s First Naturalists: Indigenous Peoples’ Contribution to Early Zoology (2019).