Red-headed Lovebird (Agapornis pullarius)
Agapornis or lovebirds, is a genus of parrots in the Psittaculidae family. They are a social and affectionate small parrot. Eight species are native to the African continent, and the grey-headed lovebird is native to Madagascar. Their name comes from the parrots' strong, monogamous pair bonding and the long periods which paired birds spend sitting together. Lovebirds live in small flocks and eat fruit, vegetables, grasses and seed. Black-winged lovebirds also eat insects and figs, and the black-collared lovebirds have a special dietary requirement for native figs, making them problematic to keep in captivity.
Lovebirds are 13 to 17 centimeters in length and 40 to 60 grams in weight. They are among the smallest parrots, characterized by a stocky build, a short blunt tail, and a relatively large, sharp beak. Wildtype lovebirds are mostly green with a variety of colors on their upper body, depending on the species. The Fischer's lovebird, black-cheeked lovebird, and the masked lovebird have a prominent white ring around their eyes. Many color mutant varieties have been produced by selective breeding of the species that are popular in aviculture.
Depending on the species of lovebird, the female will carry nesting material into the nest in various ways. The peach-faced lovebird tucks nesting material in the feathers of its rump, while the masked lovebird carries nesting material back in its beak. Once the lovebirds start constructing their nest, mating will follow. During this time, the lovebirds will mate repeatedly. Eggs follow 3–5 days later. The female will spend hours inside her nesting box before eggs are laid. Once the first egg is laid, a new egg will follow every other day until the clutch is complete, typically at four to six eggs. Even without a nest or a male, lovebirds sometimes produce eggs.
- See also: Hybrid lovebird
Feral populations of Fischer's lovebirds and masked lovebirds live in cities of East Africa. Also present there are interspecific hybrids between these two species. The hybrid has reddish-brown on head and has orange on upper chest, but otherwise resemble the masked lovebird.
Feral lovebirds are also present in Phoenix, Arizona, US as well as Austin, TX, US and several species are found as feral populations in San Diego, California, US.
With their inclination to bond, they can form long-term relationships with people in tandem with their intra-species companions. Aggression is easily aroused in lovebirds, however, and biting may occur unless a bond is established with gentle handling. Provided with adequate space, a stimulating environment, and appropriate nutrition, a lovebird can become a cherished companion parrot. They love to snuggle and often preen their favorite people.
It is preferable to obtain birds bred in captivity, rather than birds caught from the wild. Wild birds may be harboring a disease, such as avian polyomavirus. Captured wild lovebirds also may mourn the loss of association with a mate or a flock. Their age is likely to be unknown, and they may have an unsuitable personality for domestication. Currently, lovebirds are no longer imported from the wild. Lovebirds are not necessarily best kept in pairs, as their name suggests, although relationships with humans are then less likely to be as intense when paired. Birds socialised from a very early age, while being brought up by parents, make very good pets. The common practice of hand-feeding of psittacines, including lovebirds, without medical emergency is now outlawed in the Netherlands since 1 July 2014 and lovebird chicks should stay with their parents until they can eat independently, with a minimum of 55 days after hatching. However, single birds require frequent attention to stay happy, and if the owner has limited time to spend daily with a single lovebird, it is preferable to give the lovebird a companion of the same species, or a companion of another parrot species known to get along well with lovebirds. It is important to use caging that is suitable for smaller birds as wider-speed bars can cause damage to these small hook bills. Lovebirds can become very interactive with humans, and when comfortable, will willingly perch on a finger or shoulders. Some lovebirds talk, but many will not: there is a chance they may learn to mimic human sounds if taught to do so at a young age. Lovebirds are noisy, with calls ranging from cheerily pleasant to highly irritating; in the wild, parrots must call to each other over long distances to keep flocks together, and it is through such signals that most of their communication is made. It is best to spend frequent, short periods of time with a lovebird, rather than having just one or two interactions every day.
Sexual Characteristics and Behavior
Determining lovebird sex is difficult. At maturity of one year, it may show signs of whether it is male or female, such as ripping up paper and stuffing it into its feathers (female behavior) or regurgitating for its owners (male behavior: the male feeds the nesting female). This behavior is not a reliable indicator. The only sure method is DNA testing, however, some experts can sex them by feeling beneath the body.
Housing and Environment
Lovebirds require an appropriately sized cage or aviary. Minimum recommended space per bird is 1m×1m×1m. Lovebird's beaks are made of keratin, which grows continuously. Chewing and destroying wood toys and perches helps to keep beaks trim. Cuttlebones help provide beak-trimming and a source of calcium and other necessary minerals. Natural perches and special rough surfaced perches of varying diameters placed at different levels in the cage will allow greater climbing mobility and gives them a choice to select the most comfortable spot to roost. They also require plenty of toys, such as willow branches, swings, tunnels, boxes and safe things to chew on and play with.
Lack of toys, keeping the birdcage covered too many hours, and lack of companionship or social stimulation may lead to boredom, stress and psychological or behavioral problems (nervousness, aggression, feather-plucking, screaming, depression, immuno-suppression). Lovebirds are extremely social birds and will enjoy several hours of interaction a day. Without this interaction, daily exercise, a roomy cage/aviary, and many toys to play with, they may resort to feather-plucking, or screaming, and both behaviors can be difficult to cure. It is suggested that if the owner leaves the house that they leave a radio or TV set playing, to provide sound. Lovebirds are intelligent, and if a relationship is to form they need a human who will dedicate lots of time with them. Lovebirds enjoy baths and like to sun themselves daily.
Grey-headed Lovebird (Gmelin, 1788) (Agapornis canus) Agapornis canus ablectaneus, (Bangs, 1918) Agapornis canus canus, (Gmelin, 1788) Fischer's Lovebird (Reichenow, 1887) (Agapornis fischeri) Lilian's Lovebird (Shelley, 1894) (Agapornis lilianae) Black-cheeked Lovebird (Sclater,WL, 1906) (Agapornis nigrigenis) Yellow-collared Lovebird (Reichenow, 1887) (Agapornis personatus) Red-headed Lovebird (Linnaeus, 1758) (Agapornis pullarius) Agapornis pullarius pullarius (Linnaeus, 1758) Agapornis pullarius ugandae (Neumann, 1908) Rosy-faced Lovebird (Vieillot, 1818) (Agapornis roseicollis) Agapornis roseicollis catumbella (B.P. Hall, 1952) Agapornis roseicollis roseicollis (Vieillot 1818) Black-collared Lovebird (Kuhl, 1820) (Agapornis swindernianus) Agapornis swindernianus emini (Neumann, 1908) Agapornis swindernianus swindernianus (Kuhl, 1820) Agapornis swindernianus zenkeri (Reichenow, 1895) Black-winged Lovebird (Stanley, 1814) (Agapornis taranta)