The term Parakeet is often confusing to new and more experienced bird keepers alike. The confusion arises due to one species from Australia the Budgerigar also called the "Budgie" (Melopsittacus undulatus) commandeering the term as a common name especially in North America. However the term Parakeet literally means, "long tail" and while budgies are definitely parakeets not all parakeets are budgies.
This begs the question "What exactly is a parakeet?". Well while they all have long tapered tails there are a few other things that they tend to have in common and at least one that they may not, where they come from. Lets look at some similarities first.
Size and shape are the easiest differences to recognize. Along with their longer tapered tail they also have a more slender build and tend to weigh less than a bird of equal length than the South American and African parrots
All of the parakeets tend to be smaller or medium sized birds and their lifespan usually follows size with the smaller species typically living about 10 years ranging up to well more than 20 years for the largest parakeets.
The majority of parakeets also have a band of unfeathered skin called the cere surrounding their nostrils. The coloration of the cere can be used to sex some species like the popular budgie.
For the budgies young hens will have a white or cream colored cere with blue rings around the nostrils and the cere of young males will be a pinkish purple. As they mature the female's cere will turn more white and the male's more blue than purple. As they come into breeding condition a female's cere will gradually turn browner and the male's will turn a deep vibrant blue.
In the wild parakeets live in large flocks. This influences some of their other behaviors the most obvious being that they are generally more tolerant of and may actually enjoy cage mates in an ample sized cage. Be aware though that this usually weakens the bird/owner bond and may negatively affect talking. Living in a flock also makes more communication between birds more important so the parakeets normally have a larger range of more melodious call and songs than the other parrots.
The parakeets also tend to be more colorful than say the Amazon, African parrots and cockatoos.
Well those are some tools you can use to determine if a parrot is also a parakeet lets look at where they come from.
First there are the Australian parakeets from, well, Australia. These include the 2 most popular pet parakeets the Budgie and the Cockatiel. Yes the cockatiel with its familiar crest like its close relative the Cockatoo is technically a parrot and since it also has a long tapered tail it is also classified as a parakeet Altogether their are more than 30 species of parakeets from Australia.
There are more than a dozen species of parakeets from Asia. Many of the species found in asia also range into Africa and the Middle-east. Some of the more popular pets include the Ringneck, Alexandrine, Derbyan and the Plum-headed Parakeets. These are larger parakeets that are often considered to be more independent than the South American and Australian parakeets.
The most commonly kept parakeet from the new world is the Monk Parakeet also known as the Quaker Parrot but there are a number of species in the ciaques, conures and some other groups that are also considered parakeets.