Lovebird parrots

Lovebird parrots got their romantic name due to tenderness and extreme devotion to each other. In the wild, these birds remain faithful to their partner until death. The birds are famous for their bright colors, affectionate nature, and strong monogamous pairs. There are nine species of these birds. Eight of them are native to mainland Africa and one — for Madagascar. Some species are bred in captivity and kept as pets.

Origin of the species and description

Photo: Lovebirds

Photo: Lovebirds

One of the most contentious issues among scientists studying the evolution of birds is the precise definition of when modern birds (neornithes) first appeared. This is due to conflicts between fossil registration techniques and molecular dating. The scarcity of parrots in fossil sources, however, creates difficulties, and there are now large numbers of fossils from the northern hemisphere in the early Cenozoic.

Fun fact: Molecular studies show that parrots evolved approximately 59 million years ago (range 66–51) in Gondwana. The three main groups of Neotropical parrots evolved around 50 Ma (range 57–41 Ma).

One 15 mm fragment found in sediments at Niobrara was thought to be the oldest fossil ancestor of parrots. However, other studies suggest that this fossil is not from a bird. It is generally accepted that Psittaciformes were present during the Paleogene. They were probably arboreal birds and did not have the specialized crushing beaks that modern species have.

Video: Lovebirds

Genomic analysis provides strong evidence that parrots are a related group with passerines. The first undisputed fossils of the parrot date from the tropical Eocene. The first ancestor was found in an early Eocene formation in Denmark and dated to 54 million years ago. It has been named Psittaciformes. Several fairly complete parrot-like skeletons have been found in England and Germany. These are probably not transitional fossils between ancestral and modern parrots, but rather lineages that evolved parallel to parrots and cockatoos.

Appearance and features

Photo: Lovebirds in nature

Photo: Lovebirds in nature

Lovebirds — brightly colored and relatively small birds. Females and males are identical in appearance. The length of individuals varies from 12.7 to 17 cm, the wingspan reaches 24 cm, and one wing is 9 cm long, weight is from 42 to 58 g. They are among the smallest parrots, which are characterized by a squat physique, a short blunt tail and relatively large sharp beak. The eyes of some species are surrounded by a white ring that makes them stand out against a bright background.

The iris is dark brown and the beak is dark orange-red ending in a white stripe near the nostrils. The face is orange, becoming olive green and brown at the back of the head. The cheeks are dark orange, becoming lighter on the throat and yellow on the belly. The rest of the body — bright green. The wings are a darker shade of green compared to the body. The tail is wedge-shaped and predominantly green, with the exception of some blue feathers. The legs are light grey.

Interesting fact: Many varieties of colored plumage have been obtained through selective breeding of species popular in the poultry industry.

Immature lovebirds have the same color pattern as adults, but their feathers are not as bright colors, young birds have a gray and duller plumage compared to adults. Chicks also have black pigment at the base of their mandibles. As they age, the colors of their plumage intensify, and the color on the lower jaw gradually fades until it disappears completely.

Where do lovebirds live?

Photo: Lovebirds in Africa

Photo: Lovebirds in Africa

The lovebird is found in the wild mainly in tropical Africa and Madagascar. However, they are mostly absent from the arid regions of the Sahel and Kalahari, as well as from most of South Africa.

There are nine species of this bird:

  • collared lovebird, scientifically named A. swindernianus, widespread in equatorial Africa;
  • A personatus masked lovebird species is native to Tanzania;
  • Liliana’s lovebird (Agapornis lilianae) is endemic to Eastern Africa;
  • pink-cheeked lovebird (A. roseicollis) are located in southwestern Africa. They inhabit the northwestern corner of South Africa, across the western half of Namibia and in the southwestern corner of Angola. The area around Lake Ngami is rapidly colonized by A. roseicollis due to natural range expansion;
  • Fisher’s lovebird (A. fischeri) lives at altitudes from 1100 to 2000 m. It is found in Tanzania, in central East Africa. They are also known in Rwanda and Burundi. Most often they can be seen in the northern regions of Tanzania — Nzege and Singide, Serengeti, Arusha National Park, on the southern edge of Lake Victoria and the Ukerewe Islands in Lake Victoria; western Zambia;
  • The red-faced lovebird (A. pullarius) is native to a wide range of African countries including Angola, Congo, Cameroon, Chad, Guinea, Togo, Gabon, Ghana, Guinea, Mali, Niger, Kenya, Nigeria, Rwanda, Sudan, Tanzania, Ethiopia and Uganda. In addition, it is an introduced species in Liberia;
  • black-winged lovebird (A. taranta). The natural habitat extends from southern Eritrea to southwestern Ethiopia and they usually live in either high plains or mountainous areas;
  • The grey-headed lovebird (A. canus) is native to the island of Madagascar and also known as lovebird of Madagascar.

They inhabit shrouds and arid forests dominated by trees such as Commiphora, acacias, baobabs and balanites. In addition, lovebirds can live in arid areas, but near permanent stagnant waters. The habitats of some species include the fringes of deserts and woodlands, as well as poorly wooded areas, if only a few trees are near water. Preferred regions range from sea level to altitudes over 1500m.

What do lovebirds eat?

Photo: Lovebirds

Photo: Lovebirds

They prefer to search for food on the ground. They eat a wide variety of foods, foraging mainly seeds, but also eating fruits such as small figs. They do not migrate but travel long distances to find food and water when they are in trouble. At harvest time, lovebirds flock to agricultural areas to eat millet and corn. Birds need water daily. With abnormally high temperatures, they can be found near ponds or any water source where birds can get liquid several times a day.

In captivity, a typical basic lovebird diet is a fresh mix (with dry fruits and vegetables) of excellent quality, combining a variety of seeds, grains and nuts. Ideally, the base mix should contain or be supplemented with approximately 30% of any bio/organic (naturally colored and flavored and no preservatives) and/or any natural (naturally colored, flavored and preserved) granules.

The main products of the base mix should be:

  • cereals;
  • fruits;
  • greens;
  • weeds;
  • legumes;
  • vegetables.

The ratio of granules and fresh products should be regulated depending on the composition of the granules, which should include varieties of amaranth, barley, couscous, flax, oats, rice (basmati, brown rice, jasmine rice), wheat, corn. Edible flowers of carnation, spring onion, dandelion, flowers of fruit trees, hibiscus, honeysuckle, lilac, pansies, sunflowers, tulips, eucalyptus, violets.

Fruits with their seeds: all varieties of apples, bananas, all varieties of berries, all varieties of citrus fruits, kiwi, mango, melons, grapes, nectarines, papaya, peach, pears, plums, carom. Vegetables are also good for the health of lovebirds, including zucchini, their roasted seeds, beets, broccoli, carrots, cucumbers, all varieties of cabbage, beans, peas, parsnips, all varieties of peppers, all varieties of pumpkin, sweet potatoes, turnips, yams, zucchini .

Now you know how to keep lovebird parrots at home. Let’s see how they live in the wild.

Character and lifestyle features

Photo: Pair of lovebirds

Photo: Pair of lovebirds

Lovebirds have a swift and fast flight, and the sounds from their wings are heard during the flight. They are very active and prefer to live in packs. At night, lovebirds are placed on trees, settling on branches or clinging to small branches. Sometimes there are conflicts with other packs that try to take their places in the trees.

They are often bred as pets. Birds are considered charming and affectionate. They love spending time with their owners and require regular interaction. Like many parrots, lovebirds — smart and curious birds. In captivity, they love to explore the house and have been known to find ways to escape from their cages.

Birds have strong beaks and can chew on their owners’ “hair” and clothes, as well as swallow buttons, watches, and jewelry. Parrots, especially females, can chew paper and weave it into their tails to make nests. Females are supposed to be more aggressive than males.

Interesting fact: Lovebirds do not appear to be able to speak, although there are some female specimens that can learn a few words. This is a small parrot whose “voice” is high-pitched and hoarse, and it is difficult to understand their speech.

They are very loud birds, making loud high-pitched sounds that can cause inconvenience to neighbors. They make noise all day, but especially at certain times of the day. However, the Fischer species is not as loud as some other varieties of lovebirds, and although they often call, is not as loud as large parrots. Their noise level increases significantly when they participate in pre-courtship games.

Social Structure and Reproduction

Photo: Lovebird parrots

Photo: Lovebird parrots

Lovebirds pair up for life. The term lovebird originated from these close ties. They like to be in physical contact as much as possible. They affectionately embrace each other and bite with their beak. This action is similar to a kiss.

Interesting fact: In lovebirds, it is impossible to determine whether an individual is female or male. Both sexes of Agapornis look the same and are distinguished with certainty by DNA analysis and by their perching habits. As a rule, females sit with their legs apart than males, because the female pelvis is wider.

They nest in hollows, creating a coarse bedding. Females rarely build nests. The material is twigs, pieces of bark, blades of grass. Different species are engaged in transporting material in different ways: some in their beaks, others by inserting them into tail feathers, or by thrusting them into other parts of the body. As soon as the lovebirds begin to build their nest, mating begins. Females lay eggs in 3-5 days. Before the eggs appear, the female settles in her nest and sits there for several hours. It happens that even without a nest or a male, lovebirds produce eggs.

After the first egg is laid, a new egg will follow every other day until the clutch is complete. Usually in clutch there are from 4 to 8 eggs. The female is incubating. After 3 weeks, the chicks will hatch, and the flight from the nest occurs on days 42-56, however, the parents continue to patronize their offspring.

Natural enemies of lovebirds

Photo: Lovebirds in nature

Photo: Lovebirds in nature

Lovebirds deal with predators by mobbing, meaning they apply a form of psychological pressure when predators approach. Initially, the birds stand upright and yell loudly. If the predator moves closer, they start flapping their wings wildly, holding their bodies outstretched, and gradually increase their call, bringing it to a squeak. The lovebirds begin to move towards the attacker, simulating an attack.

If the predator does not retreat and continues to pursue them, the parrots attack in large groups. The main known predator is: the Mediterranean falcon (F. biarmicus) and other large birds living in the same area with them. Also, nests of lovebirds are often robbed by monkeys and snakes. They take both eggs and small chicks. Defensive behavior works great, but not the palm vultures G. angolensis.

Because of their dominant and territorial nature, lovebirds should be supervised when interacting with other species and genera (whether cats, dogs, small mammals, or other bird species). Birds can be aggressive towards other birds. Lovebirds of different species can mate and produce both sterile and fertile hybrid offspring. These children have the behavior of both parents. For this reason, it is recommended to place birds of the same species or the same sex together.

Population and species status

Photo: Lovebirds

Photo: Lovebirds

The global population size of lovebirds has not been quantified, but the species is reported to be locally distributed and quite abundant overall. Populations are generally stable and there is no evidence of what — or mitigation or significant threats. However, since the 1970s there has been a significant decline in the number of Fisher’s lovebirds, mainly due to widespread catching for the wildfowl trade. In addition, hybridization has a significant impact on the state of the species.

Lovebird parrots are not endangered. All its populations are stable. Rosy-cheeked lovebird population has been reduced in some areas. However, numbers are increasing in other areas due to the creation of new water sources and the construction of man-made structures that provide new nesting sites and are therefore classified as Least Concern by the International Union for Conservation of Nature. The collared species is listed as “Least Concern” by the IUCN. While Liliana’s lovebirds are endangered due to habitat loss.

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