They’re sweet little parrots native to Australia and well known throughout the world as popular pet birds. They even go by many names – shell parrot, canary parrot, parakeet, warbling grass parakeet, zebra parrot, Melopsittacus undulatus – but how do you say their real name, budgerigar?
First, there is some small debate as to whether this bird’s name is comprised of three or four syllables. In both instances, however, the first syllable – budg – is the same. It uses the short “uh” (as in fun, ton, run, come, stun, and sun) followed by a “jh” sound. Together, these letters rhyme with fudge, nudge, judge, smudge, and sludge. Easy enough.
The second syllable is the one debated as to its very existence. It’s a simple enough sound – “eee” – but isn’t heard in every pronunciation variation of the full bird name. But when it is heard, it is invariably the long vowel, rhyming with bee, sea, tea, lee, me, key, flea, and ski.
The third syllable is also debated, though in its pronunciation rather than its existence. The “ri” syllable is always pronounced, but may be vocalized in two different ways – “rih” with the short vowel to rhyme with hit, bit, sit, mitt, fit, lit, and tit – or “reye” with the long vowel to rhyme with bye, shy, my, lye, try, sky, and fly.
That leaves just one syllable remaining, the final “gar” letters. Neither the existence of the syllable nor its pronunciation varies, and it uses a shortened sound to rhyme with car, mar, par, far, star, scar, and bar.
Of course, when you put four syllables – two of them debated – together, you can have quite a variety of possible pronunciations.
But these four variants aren’t the only consideration for proper pronunciation of this bird’s name. The emphasis on different syllables can also vary, giving even more options to consider. In general, however, the first syllable is typically emphasized while the second is not (helpful when that second syllable may not exist in every pronunciation). The third and fourth may or may not be emphasized in tandem, but while both may be unemphasized, they aren’t typically stressed together. That gives us a few more options for full pronunciation…
Ultimately, there isn’t much audible difference in the emphasis pronunciations, unless the word is purposefully slowed and exaggerated. Because the first two syllables are the same in every four-syllable pronunciation – BUDG-eee – that is often a common nickname for these perky parakeets, and they’re referred to simply as “budgies” – no need for fussing with all four syllables, however they may be stressed or pronounced.
Personally, this is one of those names I find more confusing, and I’m most likely to stick with the simple “budgie” if necessary. When pressed to use the full name, my preference is a three-syllable, single-emphasis “BUDG-rih-gar” without further embellishment or confusion.
Ultimately, pronouncing budgerigar in any way is correct, provided you’re referring to the proper parrot – budgies are members of the Psittacidae bird family, along with more than 380 other species of parrots, parakeets, macaws, parrotlets, amazons, lories, lorikeets, and other colorful, quirky birds. The only time you must be firmly certain of the pronunciation is when your particular budgie may be a pet and familiar with its own name – after all, you likely aren’t thrilled when your name is grossly mispronounced, and it’s only courtesy to give the same respect to a bird that can talk back.