The Peach-faced Lovebirds (Agapornis roseicollis) or Rosy-faced Lovebirds are very popular in aviculture – besides being easy to keep and breed, there is a lot of excitement about the multitude of color mutations that have occurred in captivity – with variations of the mutations possibly numbering over 100,000.
No other parrot – other than the budgie – comes in a wider array of colors. With new mutations popping up all the time, the possibilities appear to be limitless.
These lovebirds are frequently named by their color mutation – such as lutino (yellow) lovebirds, pied lovebirds, violet lovebirds, white-face or orange-face lovebirds.
The experts will “mix and match” pairs to produce either the perfect specimen or possibly to develop a new mutation.
For hobby breeders who are not really that interested in the rather complex issue of lovebird genetics and prefer the element of surprise – every clutch raises the possibility of a new mutation.
New colors / mutations are in demand and fetch much higher prices.
Lovebirds can start breeding when they are as young as ten months of age and may continue until they are five to six years. They are very prolific and may produce several egg clutches within a single year.
Due to this, they are usually readily available on the pet market.
During breeding season the behavior between partners will change: the male displays a more aggressive behavior, while the female begins preparing the nest.
There are specific nesting boxes for lovebird-size birds, but if not available a cockatiel nesting box will do just fine. Samples of available nest boxes.
The nests are almost entirely made by the females and the three to six eggs are incubated for about twenty-three days.
The hatchlings will be cared for by the female until they leave the nest at about six weeks of age. The father then takes over the feeding of the young birds for another two weeks or so until they are weaned.
Having some understanding of the genetics involved when breeding lovebirds will be helpful when choosing pairings to produce offspring that carry certain desirable traits, as well as when anticipating what the characteristics of the young will be that a pair produces.
However, even though this seems straight-forward, genetics can be very complex if it involves birds that carry multiple examples of mutational traits (either split or visually).
All Peach-faced Lovebird belong to one of two base colors:
- Green-series (also known as Wild Green) – a dominant trait
- Blue-series – a recessive trait – has two recognized variants:
- Dutch Blue / Seagreen (also known as Aqua)
- White-faced Blue (also known as Turquoise)
Beyond the base-coloring, other distinct types of mutations exist, which are:
Simple Recessive Genes
Both parents must carry the gene / trait for their offspring to visually carry this characteristic.
Pairings in which only one parent carries a recessive gene, the young will be “split” for that trait, which means that even though a particular trait (such as blue-series base color) cannot be seen visually, they can produce for example blue-series – provided that they are paired up either with another split or a visual blue-series parent.
- Blue, White-faced Blue, Dutch Blue / Aqua, and Seagreen
- Orange-faced – mostly considered a simple recessive trait; however since “splits” can be identified by those familiar with this mutation, it should be considered a Partial or Incomplete Dominant trait
- Fallow – often confused with the Australian Cinnamon. However, the Australian Cinnamons have plum (dark) eyes, while the Fallow has red eyes. It has a blue rump. The rump is blue unlike the rump of a Lutino bird.
- American Yellow / Cherryhead (Dilute) – Dilute basically means a dilution of color. A yellow dilute, for example is somewhere between yellow and white; and a blue dilute’s coloration is between blue and white.
- Japanese Yellow (Imperial Golden Cherry)
- Australian Recessive Pied (dark-eyed clear)
A mutation that is sex-linked is written on the X chromosome. The male has an “XX” pairing, while the female has “XY” (which is opposite to mammals).
Since the female only has one “X” – she has to show the mutation. She also determines the gender of the offspring, since she passes either an “X” or “Y” gene to her young.
The male only contributes the “X” gene to the young, while she will contribute either the “X” or the “Y” gene to the offspring – thus determining the gender of their young.
- Lutino, American Cinnamon, Australian Cinnamon (Pallid) – Yellow (bright or pale yellow plumage – depending on mutation)
- Lacewing – Lacewings actually don’t have any lacing or edging on the feathers. They have red eyes, cinnamon flights, cinnamon stripes across the tail feathers, and a light blue rump. Lacewings are very rare. For it to be produced the male must either visually carry or be split to American Cinnamon and Lutino or Australian Cinnamon.
- Opaline – Instead of the normal “peach” or “red” colored face, the Opaline color mutation, entire head is reds, except some pale grey to violet ear patches in some birds. Compared to wild colored (green) peach-face, the Opaline’s body plumage is a lighter shade of green and its rump is green, while the normal peach-face lovebird has a blue rump.
Partial Dominants / Incomplete or Co-Dominant
Only one parent bird needs to carry the gene to produce young that visually carry that trait (referred to as Single Factor).
However, if both parents carry this trait, it will create a stronger, more easily seen example of that mutation, known as “Double Factor” for Dark or Violet, and simply called “Orange-faced” for a double factor Orange-faced lovebird.
- Dark Factor (jade, olive, cobalt, slate)
- Violet / Danish Violet
Only one parent needs to carry a genetic characteristic, for all offspring to visually display this characteristic / mutation. The dominant gene basically will trump any other that may be involved.
For example, the “wild green” is a dominant base color. If a pure (non-split) wild green is paired up with say a recessive mutation, such as blue, all young will be visually green.
- American Pied – plumage is yellow with variegated greens and greenish blues
- Green (Normal or Wild Green)
Color Changes that are not Genetically Inherited
Red Suffusion, sometimes referred to as “red pied”, is not likely to be a true color mutation, since no one has been able to consistently produce offspring carrying this characteristic through a series of generations.
Red suffusion is usually seen in either old birds or young birds (usually females) before their first mold (the red suffusion typically grows out which each molt).
The causes of red suffusion are not well understood, but could be an indicator of liver or kidney disease, an improper diet, or other unknown disease / metabolic causes.