Book review: 'The Budgerigar' by Dr Rob Marshall

Dr Rob Marshall’s The Budgerigar is by far the most impressive avicultural book I’ve had the pleasure of reviewing in my time at Cage & Aviary Birds
Coming in at a hefty 415 pages, with more than 2,000 colour photographs and illustrations, this isn’t so much a book as an encyclopedia. Indeed, the author himself describes it as a “definitive work” – and he’s not wrong.
This book is divided into 31 detailed chapters and includes everything a budgerigar fancier could possibly need to know about all aspects of keeping, breeding and exhibiting these ever-popular birds.
Dr Marshall, an Australian vet, has undertaken extensive field studies of wild budgerigars, specifically their natural breeding cycles, in order to “apply this knowledge for controlling the diseases of exhibition budgerigars and to improve their breeding performance”. As World Budgerigar Organisation President Gerd Bleicher writes in his foreword, “It’s the first book that looks at this little bird as a creature interacting with its harsh environment.”
The Budgerigar opens with a detailed look at the wild budgerigar and its relationship with its natural environment, including communication behaviour, moult cycle and wild diet. Dr Marshall explains how aborigines have long used their understanding of wild budgies’ breeding and feeding habits to help predict the weather and the whereabouts of fresh seeding grasses.
The next nine chapters are devoted to exhibition budgerigars, including the evolution of the ideal model, the birds’ anatomy (internal, external and feathering), the genetics of colours and varieties, and, crucially, how to produce winners.
There are other chapters on illness and disease (detection, response and management) as well as an in-depth look at stress, French moult, psittacosis, coccidiosis and megabacteria. To ensure these problems don’t get a foothold in your stud, Dr Marshall also devotes a chapter to “seasonal health programmes” jam-packed with practical information about cleaning flights, looking after your birds’ health needs during the breeding season and nutritional needs when weaning.
And if that’s not enough, you’ll find even more chapters about overcoming breeding problems (infertility, nestling deaths) and how to wean chicks safely.
If there is any quibble to be had, it may be Dr Marshall’s tendency to plug his own health and nutritional products in the latter chapters but, in the grand scheme of things, this is only a minor irritation.
Of course a book of this size and exceptional standard doesn’t come cheap. Many may balk at the price tag – around £75 (including postage) – but you’d probably not need to buy another budgerigar book ever again, because this one covers it all.
And if you’re worried that it might have a Southern Hemisphere slant, you’ll be pleased to know Dr Marshall did consult budgerigar breeders from around the world, including some of Britain’s leading exhibitors.
This is, without a doubt, the must-have reference book for any budgerigar fancier. • The Budgerigar by Dr Rob Marshall is printed in hardcover by Rob Marshall. ISBN: 9780646506686. Price: $AU114, plus $35 shipping charge. Bulk orders are cheaper. To order direct from the publisher, visit this website or tel: 0061 2 9871 7113 (have your credit card details ready). Or enter our competition to win a copy. We have five to give away. See page 5 of this week's issue, dated September 10.