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Peachfaced lovebirds - Green and blu form
Lovebird is the common name for nine species of parrot, all belonging to the genus Agapornis. The genus name also means lovebird; it is derived from the Greek words agape (love) and ornis (bird). The name lovebird probably stems from their strong, monogamous pair bonding. A pair will spend extended periods of time sitting close to each other each day. The German name for these birds is die Unzertrennlichen and the French les inseparables, both meaning “the inseparables”.
Since lovebirds are highly sociable and affectionate and do not grow very big they have become popular pets and several colour mutations have been selectively bred for the pet trade.
All species are native to Africa; eight species live on continental Africa while one, the Grey-headed Lovebird, inhabits Madagascar off the African east-coast.
Species and subspecies of lovebird
- Agapornis roseicollis (Peach-faced Lovebird or Rosy-faced Lovebird)
- Agapornis roseicollis catumbella,
- Agapornis roseicollis roseicollis
- Agapornis personatus (Masked Lovebird or Yellow-collared Lovebird)
- Agapornis fischeri (Fischer's Lovebird)
- Agapornis lilianae (Lilian's Lovebird or Nyasa Lovebird)
- Agapornis nigrigenis (Black-cheeked Lovebird)
- Agapornis canus (Madagascar Lovebird or Grey-headed Lovebird)
- Agapornis canus ablectaneus,
- Agapornis canus canus
- Agapornis taranta (Abyssinian Lovebird or Black-winged Lovebird)
- Agapornis pullarius (Red-faced Lovebird Red-headed Lovebird)
- Agapornis pullarius pullarius
- Agapornis pullarius ugandae
- Agapornis swindernianus (Black-collared Lovebird or Swindern's Lovebird)
- Agapornis swindernianus emini
- Agapornis swindernianus swindernianus
- Agapornis swindernianus zenkeri
Important information for prospective lovebird owners
Many parrots are endangered in the wild and protected by national and international legislation. Before getting a lovebird, always research current legislation to make sure you don’t break any rules or risk depleting wild populations of endangered species. Do not rely on old information since the situation can change rapidly.
Right now (2009), the Black-cheeked Lovebird (Agapornis nigrigenis) is listed as Vulnerable on the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species since this small parrot population is threatened by continuous habitat loss, especially the dehydration of water bodies. Fischer's Lovebird (Agapornis fischeri) and Lilian's Lovebird (Agapornis lilianae) are both listed as Near Threatened.
Lovebirds are usually kept in pairs or groups since forming a pair bond is such an essential part of their life. Keeping more than one lovebird will not prevent them from forming strong and affectionate bonds with their human keeper as well. In the wild, lovebirds live in small flocks and they are highly sociable animals. In captivity, they are known to preen their favourite humans.
Lovebirds have a fairly loud call and make high-pitches noises, especially during the first morning hours. It is therefore important to place the cage in a spot where they won’t bother neighbours. Lovebirds rarely talk, but they do have the capacity to mimic human sounds if taught at a young age.
Just like other parrots, lovebirds need a lot of mental and social stimulation to stay happy and healthy. You need to devote time to them and their cage or gym should ideally be placed in a room where you spend a lot of time each day, e.g. kitchen or family room.
The minimal recommended cage size for lovebirds is 1 cubic metre per bird. The cage should contain a lot of toys and things to explore, as well as suitable items for chewing. You can for instance include natural branches, swings and boxes in the set up. Regularly provide your birds with new things to investigate to prevent boredom.
Lovebirds love to bathe and sun themselves on a daily basis and will appreciate being let out of the cage and placed on a sunny platform.
Lovebirds can be quite aggressive towards other species, even those that are much larger than themselves and their interaction with other pets should therefore be supervised. Housing lovebirds together with birds from other genera is generally not recommended since the bossy lovebirds can start biting the toes of their cage mates.
Always research your particular species of lovebird to find out what it eats in the wild. Most species eat fruits and plant matter, and grasses and seeds may also be included in the diet. The Abyssinian lovebird feeds chiefly on figs and insects, and the Black-collared lovebird is difficult to keep outside its native range since it needs to eat a special type of local figs.
As mentioned above, it is important to learn about a lovebird’s wild feeding habits before you create a diet for it. Species that feed on fruit and plant matter in the wild are known to appreciate a long row of different fruits, berries, vegetables, sprouts, flowers and leaves in captivity. Lovebirds with a preference for seeds will like seeds, e.g. parrot seed-mixes, sunflowers seeds, rice, flax, nuts, beans, lentils, peas, barley etc.
Do not feed your lovebirds avocados since they are suspected of being toxic to parrots. Uncooked onions and potatoes are also recommended against. If you fear that your lovebird isn’t getting enough protein you can serve it occasional treats in the form of hard boiled egg whites. Young growing lovebirds, moulting birds, breeding birds, and birds recovering from injury or similar needs more protein than normally.
New additions to a lovebird’s diet should ideally be made gradually, while you still feed them the food they are accustomed to. It is important to give young lovebirds a lot of different things to eat; otherwise they may become really finicky about food as they grow older which may result in deficiencies. Lovebirds learn from each other, so if you get one bird to try a new food type the others are likely to follow. Some owners even use mirrors to coax their birds into trying new things. When a lovebird steps onto a mirror sprinkled with new food, he will see another bird who also looks interested in the food.
Lovebirds need to be provided with a nesting box if you want them to breed and are known to appreciate bark and pieces of straw inside the box. Lovebirds are typically found in hot and humid parts of Africa and require a certain humidity in the nest during incubation. If your home has dry air (as most modern homes in temperate regions have) it is advisable to place a 5 cm thick layer of damp peat or similar at the bottom of the nesting box.
When the couple has mated, the female bird will start spending more and more time in the box and eventually deposit the eggs inside. Make sure the birds have enough food to produce strong and healthy offspring. Some breeders feed the female lovebird cuttle fish bone and egg whites to increase her supply of calcium and protein.
A typical batch will be comprised of 4-6 eggs laid on alternate days. Incubation will normally not commence until the second or third egg has been laid. The eggs hatch after 20-25 days.
Lovebirds of different species can produce offspring, but the hybrids are sterile.
Many health issues observed in lovebirds are physical manifestations of mental problems, usually brought on by lack of exercise and mental stimulation. A bored lovebird kept in a monotonous environment, especially if not provided with enough social interaction, can develop all sorts of problems, including nervousness, aggression, and feather plucking. Boredom also weakens the immune system which makes the animal more susceptible to disease. A lovebird needs companionship, exercise, and a lot of things to explore to stay happy and healthy.
In addition to psychological illness, lovebirds can naturally also suffer from psychical health problems, e.g. infections. It can be hard to determine the exact illness since many disease show similar problems. If possible, ideally consult a veterinarian specializing in birds if your lovebird develops symptoms of poor health.
Visible signs of illness in lovebirds:
- unusual screaming / more screaming than normally
- discharge flowing from the nostrils
- slit eyes instead of round eyes
- the bird sleeps more than normally
- faeces look different
- loss of appetite
- the plumage looses its normal lustre
- the plumage looks ruffled and unkempt
- bare spots are visible in the plumage
- the lovebird starts plucking its feathers
Lovebird fact # 1
All lovebirds live on continental Africa except for the Grey-headed Lovebird (Agapornis canus). The Grey-headed Lovebird is endemic to the island of Madagascar off the African east coast and can be found nowhere else in the world. It is often referred to simply as Madagascar Lovebird, Madagascan Lovebird, or The Lovebird of Madagascar. Unlike the other lovebirds, the male bird of this species has a distinctive grey upper body, neck and head which contrasts sharply against the green.
Lovebird facts # 2
In several East African cities, you can today find feral populations of Fischer's Lovebird and Masked Lovebird who have adapted well to life near humans. Within the cities, these two species – who hail from different parts of Tanzania – mate with each other and give rise to hybrids who look similar to the Masked Lovebird but with an orange upper chest and a reddish-brown head. Fischer's Lovebird (Agapornis fischeri) normally lives south and southeast of Lake Victoria in northern Tanzania, while the Masked Lovebird (Agapornis personata) inhabits the northeastern parts of the country.
Lovebird fact # 3
Lovebirds are among the smallest parrots in the world, ranging in size from 13-17 cm in length and weighing around 40-60 grams.
Lovebird fact # 4
It is hard to determine the age of an adult lovebird. If a lovebird has a dark bar on its beak, you know it is younger than 3 months. After that, all lovebirds look pretty much the same regardless of age.
Lovebird fact # 5
Wildtype lovebirds are mostly green, except for the upper body which can be adorned with variety of other colors (depending on species). Many color varieties have now been produced for the pet trade and you can therefore purchase lovebirds sporting colorations not present in the wild.
The average lifespan of a lovebird is 10-15 year.