'Beautiful plague' of budgies descends on Outback

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Many people believe the budgerigar's natural habitat is a pet shop. In fact, the bird is a native of the Australian outback, and locals there are saying they have rarely seen flocks of the size that are descending on Queensland this year. Some are calling it a "beautiful plague".

The far west of the state received drenching rains earlier this year, which created perfect breeding conditions for the budgies, and abundant quantities of food. Now flocks of up to 3,000 birds are congregating to feed on grass and wheat seeds, and the dramatic spectacle is attracting twitchers from near and far.

The budgies – which in the wild are vivid green and yellow, with none of the colour variations of bred captive birds – have been seen in and around the remote town of Boulia. Mayor Rick Britton said there were five or six of the mammoth flocks in the area.

"When you look out on the horizon, you'd think that it was smoke coming off a fire," he said. "The horizon will just be moving with this black mass of birds." Mr Britton's wife, Ann, told ABC radio: "From a distance they just look like a huge black wave rolling up on the beach." She recalled quite large flocks sighted in 1997 – but nothing as impressive as this.

Kate and Brian McGlinchey, who offer farm-stay holidays, have found visitors are coming just to see the budgies and hear them chirping. "It's probably something that they don't see every day in the city," said Mrs McGlinchey.

She is gripped herself. "I've never seen anything like it... They just glide along the skyline. It's quite beautiful."

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