Lovebirds are reasonably priced and colorful small parrots. Originally from Africa, nearly all lovebirds are captive bred. These birds, the Peach Faced, Agapornis roseicollis, in particular, are raised in a large number of color mutations. Easily bred, Lovebirds are a great choice for anyone who wishes to start in the hobby of raising birds.
Nutrition is no problem at all. Any fortified parakeet or Cockatiel seed mix satisfies these little fellows. A parrot mix will also be accepted. Pellets are very good and are designed to be complete diets. Spray millet, honey sticks, and fresh greens are all valuable as supplements. Corn, just like you eat yourself, and apple are also enjoyed. Health grit and cuttlebone must be before the birds at all times in order to supply calcium. A good vitamin mix tops off a balanced diet.
Lovebirds are very active, requiring a relatively large cage for their size. A minimum size for a pair would be twenty-four inches by eighteen inches square. When shopping for a cage, be sure that the birds cannot stick their heads between the bars. If Lovebirds become startled and pull their heads back in suddenly, choking and very likely death can be the result. Lovebirds use the regular wooden parakeet nest box. If you want your birds to start a family, make sure that the cage is big enough to put the nest box inside. Some cages have a special trap door so that the nest box can be installed
on the outside.
Lovebirds are one of the very few parrot type birds that build a nest. An elaborate basket will be woven inside the box. Provide corn husks, weeping willow branches, or palm fronds. Be sure that nothing has been sprayed with any toxic chemicals. Lovebirds carry material to the nest in their beaks or tucked between the tail feathers. Fresh vegetation is best, for the moisture provides a proper humid environment for the eggs.
Alas, it is very difficult to tell the male lovebird from the female. This seems to be a problem for the lovebirds as much as for the bird breeder! Any two lovebirds, when caged together, will build a nest, and, as much as possible under the circumstances, go through all the other motions involved with producing a family.
If a ‘pair’ has been together for months and no eggs are seen, strongly suspect that you have two males. The average nest size is four eggs. If you consistently have a larger number of eggs in the nest, two hens are the solution to the mystery. No matter how much patience the birds have, these eggs will never hatch. Hens can lay eggs without the benefit of a male, but the eggs are not fertile.
Lovebirds, despite their name, are not friendly birds. With the most productive pairs, the male is very often constantly harassed by the hen. Never put lovebirds in the same cage with any other kind of bird. If the bird is too large to be killed outright, they will attack the toes of the other birds. This results in painful and mutilating injuries. If you let your birds, large or small, out of the cage, be certain that they will not stand on top of the lovebirds’ cage. Surely, the lovebirds will try to chew off the toes of the trespasser. This tragedy is a possibility with any of the hookbills. For lovebirds, assault is a specialty.
In a small to medium-size cage, be careful when housing groups of lovebirds together. Caution must be observed with both groups of the same or mixed lovebird species. If the birds are placed in the cage at the same time and if they have elbow room, all will be well. Introducing a new bird can be a problem. The original birds might kill the newcomer. If breeding is a goal, only single species should be housed together.
The two most commonly seen species are the Masked (Agapornis personate) and the Peach Faced Lovebirds. The extremely beautiful Blue color variety of the Masked is as available now as the normal form.
The Peach Faced lovebird comes in many, many different colors. The color breeding and genetics of this bird is a specialized branch of aviculture. The Lutino and the Pied Peach Faced Lovebirds are two of the most frequently seen color variations. The Lutino is one of the most attractive birds in the world. Now inexpensive, they sold for over a thousand dollars each less than ten years ago. The pied birds have yellow splashes mixed in with the green. The Cinnamons are also very pleasing to the eye. The Blue mutation, though not attractive by itself, gives us the pretty Albino, when combined with the Lutino mutation.
The Masked Lovebird is classified as one of the eye ring species. This terminology refers to the prominent white skin around the eye. We encounter one other eye ring species, Fischer’s (Agapornis fischeri), from time to time. There are other species and mutations of lovebirds, some extremely rare.
Different species of lovebirds interbreed with no problem. Crosses between the species that have the eye ring and the Peach Faced are not fertile. The babies will be healthy and attractive but will not be able to produce young themselves. Crosses, hybrids, are a very bad idea in any case. All birds should only be bred as pure species. The haphazard production of hybrids must be condemned, for it degrades the pure species and confuses other breeders.
If hand-fed as infants, lovebirds make very good tame pets. Hand-rearing the baby bird establishes a bond between it and humans. If your lovebird is not tame when you buy it, don’t expect to be able to tame it. You can teach lovebirds to talk, but it is a very difficult task. A tame lovebird, with plenty of human company, can be kept by itself. Though these birds enjoy company, it is a superstition that they will die if kept alone.