Thinking about getting a parakeet? These small, lively, affectionate birds can be delightful pets as long as you know the basics of budgie care.

Parakeets, aka budgies, are very sociable and flock-oriented, so having a companion budgie, a good-sized cage and some toys will go a long way toward making your pet feel at home. So will the kind of seed they love. Look for a fortified mix of millet, canary seed, pellets and oats in the parakeet section of your local pet store.

“Good brand names of parakeet or budgie seed should be fine,” says Alissa Hoklotubbe, a licensed veterinary technician with Stahl Exotic Animal Veterinary Services in Fairfax, Virginia.

Here are a few common mistakes to watch out for, courtesy of the Hoklotubbe, the Association of Avian Veterinarians and If you avoid these errors, you and your budgies should have a lot of happy times together for years to come.

Related: How to Choose a Reliable Pet Sitter

Mistake #1: Walking outside with the bird on your head

This may sound like the beginning of a Dr. Seuss book, but it’s surprisingly easy to forget you have a parakeet on your head. That is, until you see a flash of blue-green wings and your budgie is in a nearby tree out of reach. That may be the last you see of him, so look in the mirror before heading out. (If your budgie is lost, contact the or

Mistake #2: Not changing the seed dish daily

Budgies generally unhusk their seeds, so the seed bowl may look deceptively full even though only seed husks are left. Don’t accidentally starve your little guys — empty the dish and refill it every day. (Don’t forget to change the water daily, too.)

Mistake #3: Feeding your parakeet only seed

To thrive, budgies also require fresh fruits and veggies, which can help them live up to 10 percent longer than a seed-only diet, according to the Association of Avian Veterinarians. Freshly rinsed lettuce is a budgie favorite, as are strawberries, corn and apples (peel and cut the apple into bite-sized pieces). The AAV recommends feeding your budgie organic fruits and vegetables. Budgies also enjoy a cuttlebone for sharpening their beak and getting calcium.

As for food no-no’s: Never give a budgie chocolate, sugar, salt, alcohol, caffeine, soda or any carbonated drink. Don’t feed them avocado, mushrooms or onion, either.

Mistake #4: Exposing it to temperature swings

Budgies are native to Australia, which experiences both warm and cold temperatures, but these changes occur slowly, over time. Protect your budgie from rapid temperature changes of 10 degrees of more, which can lead to illness and infection. “If the temperature changes slowly, they can adjust,” says Hoklotubbe. Don’t hang their cage outside in the direct sun on a hot day, though, since budgies can get heatstroke just like people.

A cold draft can also make your budgies sick, so avoid placing the bird’s cage near an open window or a door to the outside. “You want to keep the temperature moderate and regular,” says Hoklotubbe.

Mistake #5: Exposing them to fumes from air fresheners, cleaners and scented candles

Budgies have delicate respiratory systems and can quickly become ill if exposed to the fumes of some scented candles, air fresheners, bug spray, perfume, tobacco smoke and cleaning products such as bleach and ammonia. Also, keep the cage far away from the kitchen. Non-stick pots and pans coated with Teflon can give off fumes toxic to budgies when heated.

Related: Should You Buy Health Insurance for Your Pet?

Mistake #6: Overlooking budgie hazards when they’re out of the cage

Many parakeet experts advise taking budgies out of their cage for at least a short period every day so they can fly inside the house and get exercise. But since parakeets love to nibble, move household plants (which could be poisonous to them) to another room and make sure they don’t chew on the paint peelings, which could contain lead. Watch out for rocking or fold-out arm chairs, which could hurt your small pet. Cover the toilet bowl and empty or move any cups and bowls filled with liquid, since a curious budgie could drown in them.

Mistake #7: Forgetting about your other pets

Your dog or cat may see your budgie as a threat (or lunch). At best, your other pet may try to play with the bird, perhaps hurting it by mistake, says Hoklotubbe. Put your other pet in another room or let him outside for some fresh air when your budgies are flying or playing outside their cage.

Related: Why You Need an Emergency Plan for Your Pet

Steve Evans, MA, is an award-winning journalist with more than 20 years experience in daily news, investigative, health and business journalism. Among other jobs, he has served as managing editor of the Central Virginia Newspaper Group, as a senior writer for SNL Financial and as a staff writer for The Progress Index and the Richmond Times-Dispatch.