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Black cheeked Lovebird
Fischer's Lovebird
Masked Lovebird
Nyasa Lovebird
Peach faced Lovebird

. lovebirds

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General  Information:
Lovebirds belong to the genus Agapornis. Lovebirds can be classified as aggressive birds to other birds as well as their own species.  The Madagascar lovebird was once held but has not been seen since about 1990.  The 5 species currently listed on the "Inventory of Exotic (non-native) Bird Species known to be in Australia, 2002" held in Australia are from Africa. Masked and Fischer's Lovebirds are members of the white eye-ringed group of lovebirds.

Agapornis = Agape + Ornis, the Greek words for Love + Bird = Lovebird.

Lovebirds were so named because of the way they snuggle together on a branch or perch often preening each other.

The Peachface is probable the most common of the Lovebirds.  The common species are good birds for the beginner breeder.  Can be good pets and generally not too noisy.  Hand raised birds can make good pets or companion birds.  They do not make good talkers.  They range in size between about 140 to 150mm (5.5 - 6 inches).  Lovebirds are monomorphic i.e. accurate sexing is almost impossible.  DNA or surgical sexing may be required.
Some of the more common species come in colours such as Lutino, blue, olive, cobalt, cinnamon, pied and the list is increasing each year.  The proliferation of colour mutations has resulted in the genetically pure "normal" colour birds becoming very hard to obtain.

In the wild in their native country their numbers vary from some species being classified as endangered while other species are treated as "pests" in other areas.  The "pest" birds are often destroyed to minimize local bird damage.

Lovebirds will mate for life and their "home" is their nestbox.  They may roost in their nest box all year round.

If 2 birds are actively building a nest, and the eggs are infertile/clear, it could be 2 hens making the nest and acting as a "pair".  Have the birds "re-sexed".

They can be bred in a colony in a suitable size aviary or as an individual pair in a cage.  Many are bred as a single pair per cage to produce a particular colour.  Will breed year round if conditions are suitable and can have 3 clutches per year.  Each clutch is about 4 - 6 eggs.  Some may lay up to 8 eggs per clutch.  Incubation is carried out by the hen and incubation is about 23 days.  Fledge at about 6 - 7 weeks and independent about 2 - 3 weeks later.  Young are generally removed to another aviary as soon as they are fully independent.  Young bred in a cage must be removed from the parent birds to another cage or aviary.  This will minimize the risk of aggression from a parent bird.  After 3 clutches the pair should be given a rest from breeding.  Young can be leg rung at 2 - 3 weeks of age.  Most breeding birds will tolerate nest inspections.  As Lovebirds are monomorphic, DNA or surgical sexing are the most accurate methods of determining the true sex of each bird.

Most adult pairs are prolific breeders and are good parents.  Birds best breeding years are till about 7 years of age but may be successful for several more years.  Achieving 8 - 10 years of age is common with 15 year lifespan being possible.

If a colony of lovebirds is established, the addition of a new bird or birds may result in the death of one or all of the introduced birds.  Once a "colony" is established it can be very risky to change the dynamics of that colony.  If one bird dies, the only safe option may be to just remove that bird's mate and leave the remaining birds as the new "colony".  A colony of breeding birds may result in the more dominant pairs being the most prolific breeders.  Some of the less dominant pairs may have poor or no breeding success.  An individual pairs in a cage maximizes the number of young bred per season. 

When purchasing a bird from the breeder, try and obtain the genetic (colour mutations) pedigree of the bird so you can get some idea of the possible colour outcome of any future breeding with that bird.

Lovebirds will use a variety of shapes and designs of nest boxes.  Designs vary from vertical boxes, horizontal boxes to inverted L shaped boxes as shown below.  The vertical and horizontal nest boxes should have a landing perch placed just below the entrance hole.  The landing perch should be about 15 - 20 mm diameter and can be about 200 mm long.  The perch can be a natural branch such as eucalypt or gum tree.

Commercially made lovebird breeding boxes can be purchased cheaply form most bird dealers, pet shops and bird clubs.  Boxes are usually timber and the lower part is about 200 - 250 mm long, 150 - 200 mm wide, and about 200 - 250 mm high.  A top part is about half that length with an entrance hole of 40 - 60 mm diameter located towards one end of the box.  The nest box requires a top above the nest that is either removable or hinged so the nest can be inspected and cleaned.  The birds make a chamber at one end of the box.

photo of nest box Inverted "L" or "Inverted Boot" shaped nestbox can be used for a variety of parrots, including Lovebirds.
Inspection hole on left hand side of the nestbox.  Dimensions vary according to the size of the species.
Climbing structure attached inside the box in the lower section on the front wall.  This will allow access to the upper internal platform.

Unlike other parrots, it is best practice to have all the boxes the same size and design and all positioned at the same height.  More nest boxes should be in the aviary than there is pairs.  Dirty or damaged boxes can be replaced as required with minimal disturbance.

The nest boxes can be placed high up in the aviary and preferably in the darker part of the sheltered portion, but not too close to the roof to cause heat problems in the hotter months.

More details on parrot nestboxes/logs and a selection of parrot nestbox/log photos can be found on the "nests", "parrot nests" and "parrot nestbox photos" web pages.  Click on "Up" then "Nests" then "parrot nests" and "parrot nestbox photos" in the navigation bars.

Unlike most other parrots, lovebirds carry nesting material into the nest box.  Sufficient suitable nest material must be available at all times during the breeding season.  The preferred nest material is green fronds of the Christmas Island date palm.  The shredded green pieces of the date palm will aid the hatching by maintaining an adequate level of humidity in the nest.  Other nest materials include pieces of long grasses, fresh leaves, pieces of bark, bamboo leaves, rootlets and other plant materials the hen likes.  Plants, shrubs, bamboos and grasses growing in pots can be a good source of fresh nest material for an aviary with a concrete floor.  The pots of plants can be rotated to maintain optimal plant growth.  Always check to ensure no birds or nests are in the pot or plants before removing them from an aviary !!
The nest building is done almost exclusively by the hen.  The hen carries the nest materials by tucking them into the feathers on the rump area of her body.  The hen likes to cut the nest material into strips so long pieces should be offered to the birds and allow her to cut the strips to the length she prefers.  If 2 birds are actively building a nest, it could be 2 hens making the nest.

The lovebird species will interbreed so care has to be taken to only house one species per aviary or cage.
Lovebirds can breed prior to reaching 6 months of age but this should be delayed till they reach the age of about 10 - 12 months.  Delaying the breeding age of the hen till about 10 - 12 months of age will allow the hen to be fully sexually and physically mature and may result in better breeding results both in her first attempt as well as in future years.  Lovebirds are monomorphic and not easily visually sexed.

Birds that are bred to have a particular visual colour or a specific genetic combination are leg rung with numbered, coloured, closed metal leg rings so each bird can be individually identified.  Suitable rings can be purchased from most bird dealers, pet shops & bird clubs and how they are put on the baby birds can be learnt from an experienced breeder or avian veterinarian.  Specialist Lovebird clubs/societies are established in many large cities.

Birds enter through the top opening into a upper or roosting nest and proceed down a tunnel to the nest which is used to lay, incubate and raise the babies.  In a birdroom, the nest box can be attached externally to the cage.

A thin layer of  grass can be placed in the nest box to stimulate the birds to commence nest building duties.

If you are purchasing new young birds, try to find out what style and size nest box those birds were bred in.  This is impossible when purchasing bird/s from a retail outlet but is often available when purchasing young birds from a private breeder.  Some birds will be eager to nest in a design and size as similar as possible to the one in which it was bred.

Feeding / Diet:

Refer to " Feeding Birds " web page for additional general details on the feeding of Parrots.

Commercial Lovebird seed mixes are available.  A basic mix consists of canary, millet, Panicum and sunflower seed.  Like most other parrots, they will consume seeding grasses, soaked or sprouted seeds, and some fruits and vegetables such as corn-on-the-cob, apple, orange, broccoli and grapes.  Milk thistle, chickweed and green leafy vegetables such as silverbeet, cos lettuce, endive will be consumed.  Multi grain or wholemeal bread can be offered in small quantities as a treat.

Source of grit and calcium should always be available. Cuttlefish bone is ideal as a source of calcium.

With a good balanced diet, mineral & vitamin supplements should not be necessary.  Keep in mind with supplements the correct dose rate should give good results, but, if more than the prescribed dose is administered it could be toxic or even fatal to the birds and / or the babies.  Seek advice from an avian veterinarian before adding a "mineral  & vitamin" supplement to a bird's diet.
The toxicity level for an adult bird could be very different to the toxic dose for a baby or fledgling bird.  What may be safe for an adult may be toxic for a baby or fledgling bird.
Exercise can help in the absorption of calcium, minerals and vitamins.


Refer to " Housing Birds " web page for additional general details on the housing of Parrots.

Lovebirds are inexpensive, easy to breed, easy to feed.  One pair can be housed indoors in a "Budgie" breeder type cage of about 900mm long, 500mm wide and 500mm high (36 x 20 x 20 inches).  Larger numbers can be housed in an outside aviary.  Suspended cages can be used and be the same size as stated for the cages.  The common species are good birds for the beginner breeder.  The 5 species in Australia can be bred in a colony in a suitably large aviary or individual pairs in a cage/ cabinet.  Many are bred as a single pair per cage to produce a particular colour.

Rosemary Low in her article ABK Vol 14 Issue 11. Oct-Nov  2001  Page 622-625 states that the minimum size aviary for 5 pairs in one aviary should be at least 4.5 metres long and 2.7 metres wide (14 ft x 9 ft approx).  Colony breeding needs a lot of aviary space to be done successfully and without aggression.

Fully enclosed or partly open aviaries are acceptable.  Lovebirds will bathe in the water bowl.

They chew timber including nest boxes.  Metal framed aviaries are required.  An aviary with a concrete floor is preferable.

Lovebirds will chew up plants and perches.

Non-toxic leafy branches can be placed in the aviary for the birds to chew up. This will entertain the birds, help minimize boredom and give the birds some beak exercise. Natural branches of various diameters, and placed at various angles, can be used for perches. These natural perches may be chewed by the birds and may need to be replaced regularly. The birds may chew any flowers and fruiting bodies on the branches.

Lovebirds will use the nestbox for roosting year round.

Double wiring between aviaries is advisable to prevent injuries by neighbouring birds.

Government Regulations & By-Laws:  Refer to "Government Laws" web page.

General References:  Refer to references listed on " Book References " web page.

Top of - lovebirds - Page

Specific References:

  • Australian Aviculture
  • A/A Vol 60 No. 4 Apr 2006 Page 69-71 (Advantages & disadvantages of Bird keeping in hot climates)
  • A/A Vol 59 No. 11 Nov 2005 Page 252-253 (Use of crop needles)
  • A/A Vol 59 No. 10 Oct 2005 Page 233-235 (The case for feeding Green foods - by Dr D. Madill).
  • A/A Vol 51 No. 11 Nov 1997 Page 243-250 (S. Gelis - Nutrition)
  • A/A Vol 50 No. 3 Mar 1996 Page 75 (Black cheeked lovebirds)
  • A/A Vol 48 No. 2 Feb 1994 Page 38-39 (For beginners)
  • A/A Vol 47 No. 6 Jun 1993 Page 149 (Sexing)
  • A/A Vol 37 No. 12 Dec 1983 Page 284-286 (Feather plucking in Agapornis).
  • A/A Vol 37 No. 11 Nov 1983 Page 263-266 (Madagascar Lovebirds)
  • A/A Vol 37 No. 2 Feb 1983 Page 33-41
  • A/A Vol 36 No. 4 Apr 1982 Page 72-74
  • A/A Vol 35 No. 4 Apr 1981 Page 71-72 (Nest box designs)
  • A/A Vol 33 No. 12  Dec 1979 Page 211-212
  • A/A Vol 30 No. 10 Oct 1976 Page 162-163 (Breeding box)
  • A/A Vol 28 No. 1 Jan 1974 Page 7-8
  • A/A Vol 25 No. 4 Apr 1971 Page 45-51.
  • A/A Vol 20 No 10 Oct 1966 Page 136-137.
  • A/A Vol 19 No 2 Feb 1965 Page 18-22.
  • A/A Vol 19 No 1 Jan 1965 Page 1-6.
  • A/A Vol 17 No 5 May 1963 Page 68-69.
  • A/A Vol 15 No. 7 Jul 1961 Page 96.
  • A/A Vol 14 No. 11 Nov 1960 Page 153-156.
  • A/A Vol 14 No 4 Apr 1960 Page 60.
  • A/A Vol  5 No 4 Apr 1951 Page 50-51.
  • A/A Vol  4 No 2 Feb 1950 Page 26-27 (West African Lovebird).
  • A/A Vol  2 No 3 Mar 1948 Page 24-25 (Birds of yesteryear,  Still valid in 2005).
  • The Bulletin No 28, Feb 1945 Page 3 - 5 (Lovebird family - Part 2).
  • The Bulletin No 27, Jan 1945 Page 3 - 7 (Lovebird family - Part 1).
  • The Bulletin No 20, Jun 1944 Page 2 - 3 (Cultivation of the abnormally coloured).
  • Australian Birdkeeper
  • ABK Vol 18 Issue 12. Dec-Jan 2006 Page 741-745 (The social lives of wild parrots)
  • ABK Vol 18 Issue 12. Dec-Jan 2006 Page 733-737 (Enrichment for juvenile parrots)
  • ABK Vol 18 Issue 11. Oct-Nov 2005 Page 665-668 (Beaks for every purpose - R. Low)
  • ABK Vol 18 Issue 10. Aug-Sept 2005 Page 608-611 (Cracking the chemical code behind the red colours of parrots).
  • ABK Vol 15 Issue 3. Jun-Jul 2002 Page 143-145 (in Thailand).
  • ABK Vol 14 Issue 12. Dec-Jan 2002  Page 678-682 (Genetics).
  • ABK Vol 14 Issue 11. Oct-Nov 2001 Page 622-625 (R. Low).
  • ABK Vol 13 Issue 5. Oct-Nov 2000 Page 290-291 (Lovebirds).
  • ABK Vol 13 Issue 1. Feb-Mar 2000 Page 30-34 (Lovebirds)
  • ABK Vol 12 Issue 12. Dec-Jan 2000 Page 587-591 (Lovebirds)
  • ABK Vol 11 Issue 5. Oct-Nov 1998 Page 238-239 (Lovebirds)
  • ABK Vol 11 Issue 3. Jun-July 1998 Page 121-124 (Lovebirds)
  • ABK Vol 11 Issue 1. Feb-Mar 1998 Page 10-12 (Lovebirds)
  • ABK Vol 10 Issue 7. Feb-Mar 1997 Page 346-347 (Lovebirds)
  • ABK Vol  5  Issue 6. Dec-Jan 1993 Page 290-296 (As pets)
  • ABK Vol  4  Issue 10. Aug-Sept 1991 Page 472-473
  • ABK Vol  2  Issue 12. 1990 Page 478-483 (Suspended Cages)
  • ABK Vol  2  Issue 11. 1989 Page 445-448 (Suspended cages)
  • ABK Vol  1  Issue 6. 1989 Page 208-209
  • ABK Vol  1  Issue 4. 1988 Page 120-121 (Parrot Nutrition)
  • ABK Vol  1  Issue 4. 1988 Page 124-126 (Aviary Management)
  • ABK Vol  1  Issue 1. 1987 Page 7-10
  • ABK Vol  1  Issue 1. 1987 Page 22 & 23

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