parakeet or parrakeet, common name for a widespread group of small parrots, native to the Indo-Malayan region and popular as cage birds. Parakeets have long, pointed tails, unlike the chunky lovebirds with which they are sometimes confused. The budgerigar, also called the shell, zebra, or grass, parakeet (Melopsittacus undulatus), is the best known of the true parakeets. The wild budgerigar of Australia is usually green or blue with black-and-yellow markings; as a cage bird, however, it has been bred in white and yellow. The hanging parakeet sleeps upside down like a bat.

The extinct Carolina parakeet was the only parrot native to the United States. It was 12 in. (30 cm) long with a yellow-green body and orange-red head. It was sought as a cage bird and for its plumage, and was killed as a destroyer of fruit and grain crops. The budgerigar and other released or escaped nonnative parrots may be found in the United States, mainly in California, Texas, and Florida, but the monk parakeet (Myiopsitta monachus), also known as the monk parrot or Quaker parrot, a green and yellow bird with a pale gray forehead and breast and dark blue wing feathers, has well-established colonies in several northern and southern states. it is the only parrot that builds nests, often communal, of sticks.

Parakeets are classified in the phylum Chordata, subphylum Vertebrata, class Aves, order Psittaciformes, family Psittacidae.

The Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia, 6th ed. Copyright © 2024, Columbia University Press. All rights reserved.

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