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Lovebirds -- A General Look

Written by Pam, ducky

Out of Africa

The Agapornis are such affectionate birds, they have officially earned the title of lovebirds, (Greek agape = love, and ornis = birds). Africa is homeland to the nine species of lovebirds. They are a very diverse group of birds, each specie occupying its own niche from damp woodlands to severe desert. The peachfaced, masked, and Fischer's lovebirds are the species commonly kept as pets.

One of the most striking things about lovebirds is their vibrant color. Peachfaced lovebirds in the wild have a bright green body, a vibrant red-orange face and throat, and a blue rump. Breeding this specie has resulted in so many natural color mutations it may have the most variable color of any bird. The Fischer's lovebird in the wild has a green body, deep orange face and throat, a yellow bib, and a deep red beak. The Fischer's color mutations are blue, and dilute, which is an overall dilution of body color. The masked lovebird in the wild has a green body, black head and crown, yellow bib, and red beak. The color mutations include a striking blue body with the same black mask, and a dilute coloring mutation.

Peachfaced, Fischer's, and masked lovebirds are not sexually dimorphic, meaning you cannot tell the gender of the birds by looking at them. While both male and female birds can typically show behaviors that indicate the sex, it is not reliable. DNA sexing is the only way to tell the gender of these birds.

Lovebirds do not have a song like some other parrots. They communicate with a series of chirps, chatters, and high-pitched squeaks. A few lovebirds will learn to mimic human voice but many will easily mimic kiss and click sounds.

Why We Love Them

Lovebirds are big parrots in a small package. They are very curious, intelligent, and playful. Comedians of the bird world, they love their toys and have endless energy. They typically love swings and hanging upside down. I can see my lovebird, Tinker, "spinning" on his perch most any time of day. He entertains himself by going from upright, to upside down, and back to upright in a spinning motion.

Tinker snuggled into pocket. Picture credit: ducky.

They often make up games and I have seen more than one lovebird train a human to repeatedly pick up a dropped item from the floor. They also love exploring cubbies and small places. Lovebird owners often give their birds Kleenex boxes to play in. Lovebirds enjoy exploring their human's clothing, becoming very comfortable snuggled inside shirts and pockets.

It is a common misconception that lovebirds need to be kept in pairs. Lovebirds do form a very strong and lifelong bond with their mate, giving them their name and reputation. However, a single tame and socialized lovebird will bond equally as strong with its human, making for a loyal and affectionate companion pet.

Given the intelligent and curious creatures that lovebirds are, they are notorious for figuring out how to open cage doors to grant themselves freedom. I first learned this at a bird pet store. The lovebird cages there had locks on all the doors. When I asked why, the reply was "because they open their doors and get out, we need locks because some of them can undo clips". Some lovebird owners have learned this the hard way by loosing a loved companion.

Another characteristic lovebird behavior is paper shredding. Lovebirds think they are born with a mission to shred and take every opportunity to do so. The females will often tuck strips of shredded paper in their rump feathers. Males will also tuck but they are not near as good at it as the females. This behavior developed to carry more nesting material back to the nest.

The Challenges

One day you pick up your sweet affectionate lovebird it bites you for no apparent reason. I think about every lovebird owner has experienced his or her sweet little cuddle bun turned Dracula. Lovebirds are known to bite. Not all lovebirds bite and not all biting is a problem, but they are notorious nippers. In many cases the biting is hormonal and temporary.

Lutino lovebird Sheila shredding and tucking paper. Picture credit: Shaun Phelps.

Broody hens are especially known for hormonal nippiness. Hens will fiercely defend anything they perceive to be an appropriate (or inappropriate) nest. Even cleaning a broody hen's cage can be an act of courage. This behavior soon passes and they become your lovable pet once again. You can avoid this behavior (if you don't intend to breed your female), by removing anything from the cage that might be taken as nesting material (such as access to paper in the bottom of cage or toys that can be shred), or any kind of small, concealed place (huts and cubbies, even large dishes).

A well-socialized lovebird with their strong bonds can be a pure joy as a companion. On the other hand they are sometimes desperate for all of your attention all of the time. Sometimes they decide there is only one human for them and become one-person birds. While this is fine for the one human, the other family members can become victims of jealous lovebird aggression.

All birds come with their own temperament and personality. The points in this article are only generalities from what I have learned from researching lovebirds, owning one, talking with other lovebird owners, and participating in forum discussions. There are exceptions to all of these topics but one thing for sure is that lovebirds are beautiful little creatures that can brighten your day with their antics and unconditional love.

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