Lovebirds: The social and affectionate small parrots
Lovebirds are small African parrots that are named after the affectionate, strong, monogamous pair bonds they form with their chosen mate. However, the general perception is that lovebirds bond for life; however, “divorces” can and do happen in cases of established incompatibility.
Nonetheless, bonded pairs spend extended periods throughout the day and night snuggled up together, preening and feeding each other.
Distribution / Range
Eight of the nine species come from Africa, the remaining one from Madagascar.
The most common species in the United States (and maybe worldwide) is the charming Peach-faced Lovebird – which have been bred in an array of beautiful color mutations. The striking-looking black-maskeds are also widely available.
Numerous feral populations exist in the United States (California, Arizona, Florida, etc.)
Lovebirds as Pets
These small parrots (sometimes also referred to as “Pocket Parrot”) have the intelligence and abilities of many of the larger parrots. They can also get quite bossy with other pets and even family members.
Their voice apparatus allows a wide range of articulations, including the imitation of the human voice. Although they are not known to be great talkers; and most never learn to talk at all.
If bonded to a human, they will make a very special pet indeed; ever loving as is true to its name. However, they do need a mate that spends significant time throughout the day with them – and in the absence of a bird mate – the bird owner has to fill this strong need for affection. A pet lovebird that is given little attention is probably one of the saddest sights I can think of. On the other hand, poorly socialized or even abused lovebirds are typically very aggressive – and gaining their trust and love is very time consuming. Not everybody is able to give this special bird the time commitment it needs.
They make lively and energetic pet birds. They are available in a variety of colors and are playful and often boisterous birds. They require an owner who is willing to provide the care and attention this animated bird adores. Birds that do not receive this attention become prone to behavioral problems, including feather picking.
Their lifespan is 10 to 15 years.
They are small, stocky versions of parrots, with a short, blunt tail, and a large hooked upper beak.
Those found in the wild are typically green with a variety of colors on their upper body, depending on the species. Some species, like the Black-masked, Fischer’s, Black-cheeked, and the yellow-collared lovebirds, have a white ring around the eye, although many color mutations have been developed in captivity.
They measure about 5 – 7.5 inches (13 – 19 cm) in length; and average 1.5 to 2.5 oz ( 40 – 70 grams) in weight, which puts them among the smallest parrots in the world. The Peach-faced is the largest lovebird species, weighing in at from 50-60 grams. Even though Abyssinian may be slightly longer than Peach-faces, they tend to be quite slender, and Peach-faces are typically heavier.
Gender Identification: In most lovebird species, males and females look alike and the only sure method of identifying their gender may be DNA sexing (or surgical sexing). Once they have reached maturity (when they are about one year old), there may be behavioral indicators, such as shredding paper and stuffing the paper strips into its feathers (mostly female behavior – although some males also do it) or regurgitating for its owners (male behavior as the male typically feeds the nesting female) … More on lovebird sexing.
Aggressive Behavior with Other Birds and Animals
As loving and affectionate as these birds tend to be with their chosen mate (whether it’s another bird or a human), as aggressive they can get with those they deem to be intruders or competitors for their mate’s affection. Their dominant and territorial nature can be a big issue with other pets — such as birds in the household, but even cats, dogs will be ferociously attacked. Because of this, their interactions with other pets should be supervised.
Even though they have been kept without too many problems in large communal settings, in cages they will fiercelessly compete for the space and are known to bite off the toes of other birds. In general, they should not be kept with smaller birds or even the docile cockatiels.
To minimize risk of injury or even death, lovebirds should be housed only with their own species with plenty of room for all.
The best breeding results is typically achieved when kept in a colony system (for some of the rarer species, this may not apply – please read up on the respective species pages).
A group of five or six pairs requires an aviary a minimum of three meters long (~10 feet) and one meter (~3 – 4 feet) wide. They may also be bred successfully using the cabinet system, where cabinets no less than 80 x 50 x 50 cm are (30 x 20 x 20 inches) recommended.
Hens build substantial nests and will spend a lot of time gathering twigs and other nest building materials from their surrounds. For more information on breeding these birds, please visit this webpage.
Diet / Feeding
Their natural diet includes various fruits, vegetables, plant material, grasses and seed. Black-winged Lovebirds (also known as Abyssinians) also feed on insects and figs.
Black-collared Lovebirds have a special dietary requirement for native figs, making them problematic to keep in captivity.
Lovebird Diet: Proper nutrition for good health and longevity. (Please also refer back to the respective species pages for specific requirements, particularly when it relates to the rare species (listed above), which have some significant differences in nutritional requirements …
Relevant Web Resources:
- General Info (scroll down) … Species
- Pet Qualities … Diet: Feeding your bird for good health
- Breeding / Chicks (photos of handfeeding lovebird chicks) … Peach-faced Genetics
- Diseases (Diseases and Health Problems They are Susceptible to)
- Photo Gallery (Species Photos and Links)… Also of interest may be:
Class: Aves … Order: Psittaciformes … Family: Psittacidae … Subfamily: Psittacinae … Genus: Scientific: Agapornis … Dutch: Onafscheidelijken … German: Unzertrennliche … French: Inséparables … CITES II – Endangered Species
Species Research by Sibylle Johnson
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