With their sweet faces and their friendly, chatty nature, it’s no wonder common parakeets are some of the most popular pets in the United States. We’re quite accustomed to seeing the little lime-green birds in pet shops and cages, but elsewhere in the world, parakeets (also known as budgies) live life on their own terms. 

For the last 5 million years, colonies of wild budgies have dotted the Australian Outback. Their talent for surviving the country’s dry, punishing conditions can be traced back to their nomadic existence and their incredible ability to procreate. Where there’s water and food, the birds can breed. If parakeets were choosy about their mating conditions, they likely wouldn’t have made it this far. 

There’s one more secret to their success: teamwork. Combing the grass and scrublands for seeds or water is a big task, but many wings make light work. It begins when a small group of budgies takes flight. As they zip over the terrain, they are joined by more and more birds until their ranks number in the millions. The newly formed super-swarm has millions of eyes and wings, but a single purpose.

In this video from the BBC, narrator David Tennant explains how the budgie superorganism helps its members survive. 

Banner image via Jim Bendon, Wikimedia Commons // SD-BY-CC 2.0.