Interested in other Arizona birds? See the Gila Woodpecker
Lovebirds are 13 to 17 cm (5 to 7 in) in length, up to 24 cm in wingspan with 9 cm for a single wing and 40 to 60 g (1 1⁄2 to 2 oz) in weight. They are among the smallest parrots, characterised by a stocky build, a short blunt tail, and a relatively large, sharp beak. Wildtype lovebirds are mostly green with a variety of colours on their upper body, depending on the species. The Fischer’s lovebird and the masked lovebird have a prominent white ring around their eyes. Many colour mutant varieties have been produced by selective breeding of the species that are popular in aviculture.
The genus Agapornis was introduced by the English naturalist Prideaux John Selby in 1836. The name combines the Ancient Greek αγάπη agape meaning “love” and όρνις ornis meaning “bird”. The type species is the black-collared lovebird (Agapornis swindernianus). The genus contains nine species of which five are monotypic and four are divided into subspecies. They are native to mainland Africa and the island of Madagascar. In the wild, the different species are separated geographically.
Depending on the species, 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 they start constructing their nest, mating will follow. During this time, they 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, they sometimes produce eggs.
Feral populations of Fischer’s lovebirds and masked lovebirds live in cities of East Africa. There are interspecific hybrids that exist between these two species. The hybrid has a reddish-brown head and orange on upper chest, but otherwise resembles the masked lovebird.
Around Melbourne, Victoria, Australia, a version an aggressive breeding nature. In an aviary with smaller birds, it is common to find other smaller species decapitated overnight. The surviving partner also succumbs within 3 weeks.
There are two feral colonies present in the Pretoria region (Silver Lakes and Centurion) in South Africa. They probably originated from birds that escaped from aviaries. They consist mostly of masked, black cheeked, Fischer and hybrid birds and vary in colours. White (not albino) and yellow as well as blue occur in many cases. The white ringed eyes are very prominent.
With their inclination to bond, lovebirds can form long-term relationships with people as well as other lovebirds. Aggression is easily aroused in lovebirds, however, and they may bite unless humans establish a bond with gentle handling. Provided with adequate space, a stimulating environment, and appropriate nutrition, lovebirds can become cherished companion parrots. They love to snuggle and will often preen their favorite people.
It is preferable to obtain birds bred in captivity, rather than birds caught in the wild. Wild birds may harbor diseases 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 in the United States. Birds socialised from a very early age, while being brought up by parents, make very good pets. The practice of hand-feeding young psittacines, including lovebirds, outside of a medical emergency has been outlawed in the Netherlands since 1 July 2014 and lovebird chicks should stay with their parents until they can eat independently, at minimum 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 wide cages as large as possible.
Few 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 they make most of their communication. It is best to spend frequent, short periods of time with a lovebird, rather than having just one or two interactions every day.