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lovebird amoreLovebirds: Amore, Aviculture Style

by Marjorie Dorfman

Do lovebirds really love or is it all an avicultural illusion? Where did they come from and what lessons can lovers all over the world learn from them? (The answer is probably nothing, but read on anyway.)

So called because of their fondness for sitting in pairs while pruning each other’s feathers, lovebirds have an unusual history. Known by the genus, Agapornis, some of the species have been known to man for over four centuries while others were not even discovered until a few years ago. Some are very common and others very rare and elusive (like some lovers in the species, human).

lovebirdsThese stout, small parrots with rounded tails originate from the African continent and its adjacent islands. Three of the nine species are dimorphic. For those among us who don’t speak Morph, this means that the male of the species is very different in color than the female. The Madagascar, the Red-Faced and the Abysinnian species fall into this category.

The Madagascar Lovebird also known as the Grayhead, has been freely imported for well over a hundred years. The male has a gray neck and breast and a green body while the hen is all green. This species has become increasingly rare both because of strict export regulations and the fact that these birds are not prolific breeders.

The Red-faced Lovebird is never embarrassed, and is considered to be the first of the species ever to be imported into Europe. In England, the Duke of Bedford recorded that these birds were used in portraits (of royals posing with birds, not birds with royals) as early as the 16th century. The cocks are bright green in color with an orangey red face and crown, and the hen has a saffron face as well, but not quite as bright as the cock’s, with green under its wings. This species has the longest geographic expanse of any other, and they can be found anywhere from the coastal regions of central Africa all the way to western Ethiopia.

lovebirdsThe Abyssinian Lovebird also known as the Blackwinged Lovebird is a high altitude dweller from Ethiopia. Little known until the early 1900s, the cock is green with a carmine red ring of feathers around the eye and black underwing coverts while the hens have no red around the eye area and the underwing coverts are generally green.

According once again to the language of Morph, monomorphic lovebirds include those species in which the sexes appear visually alike. There are two categories; those with a ring around the eye and those without a ring. (Rings around collars and bathtubs do not apply in the land of birds.)

Fischer’s Lovebirds do not play chess, sing or attempt to kill other peoples’ wives. They are merely green creatures, darker on the wings and back and lighter on the underparts. Red and violet dominate the forehead and rump and upper tail respectively. These birds breed freely in captivity and in the wild are found on the inland plateaus of Tanzania.

The Nyasa Lovebird is also known as Lillian’s Lovebird. The body is varying shades of green while the head is bright salmon to orange. The core and ring around the eye are actually bare white skin. This bird is relatively new to the world of Aviculture. It was discovered and named after Lillian Sclater in the late 1890s. (She didn't add them to her business card printing.) It wasn’t until some twenty years later, however, that this species was imported. They are the rarest species with eye-rings in captivity.

lovebirdsThe Black-cheeked Lovebird is a dark green in color with lighter green on the rump and underparts. The head is brownish black, the throat salmon and the back of the head a yellowish-olive. The bill is bright red and the feet are gray. (Hard to find a matching outfit.) These birds are basically located in two river valleys, one in southwest Zambia and the other in the Victoria Falls area of Zimbabwe. This species was not discovered until around 1900 and importation began around that time. They breed well in colonies.

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Don't miss this excellent book:

A New Owner's Guide to Lovebirds

by Nikki Moustaki

A New Owner's Guide to Lovebirds

This book contains all the information needed for one who wants to own and care for lovebirds. It is one of the best I've found. The text is clear, the advice is easy to put into practice and the photographs are lovely.

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