There are nine species of lovebirds, all in the genus Agapornis. They all originate from Africa; the most common in Africa, is the Red Faced Lovebird, which is very rare in captivity. The most common in captivity is the Peach Faced, Agapornis roseicollis, which is also the largest.
Looks, Size, and Colors:
The average Peach Faced Lovebird is about 7" long and approx. 50 grams in weight, although Peach Faces can range from 40 to 60. The "wild" or normally colored green lovebird is mainly bright emerald green, with a bright peach-colored face, forehead, and throat, and a bright turquoise blue rump. The beak color is a sort of orangey horn color, and the feet and nails are gray. The eyes are dark.
Some common colors in Peach Faces include:
Dutch blue - Probably the most common mutation, this is a mainly blue or greenish-blue bird, with a faded pink face, and a bright turquoise rump. Some birds are more blue, or more greenish than others, depending on genetics. There is no "true" blue Peach Faced (with no green or peach coloring), at least not yet! Whitefaced blue is a slightly bluer version of Dutch blue. Seagreen is a cross between a Dutch blue and a Whitefaced blue, and is a green-blue color, sometimes confused with normal green or with Dutch blue, but really quite distinctive!
Pied - Pied birds have varying amounts of yellow feathers interspersed in the normal feathering. Some have only a few yellow feathers; others, called "clear pieds", are all yellow (they can be told apart from Lutinos because of their blue, rather than white, rumps). Pied can be combined with any other color.
Lutino & Cremino - Or collectively, "Ino". Lutino birds are a very bright yellow, with a very bright peach face, and a white rump, with dark reddish eyes. Cremino is a cross between a Lutino and a Dutch blue; they are a more faded out yellow, sometimes nearing white, with a lighter pinkish face, and the white rump.
Dark Factors - Dark factors include Jades, Olives, Cobalts, and Slates. Jade is a single factor dark green, or "medium" green, and is just slightly darker than normal green; hard to tell apart unless you can compare! The rump is a sort of royal blue, rather than turquoise. Olive is a dark... well, Olive color, and is the double factor dark green. The rump is a gray-blue color. Cobalt is the Dutch blue form of Jade, or "medium blue", and a shade darker than a normal Dutch blue, with a royal blue rump. Slate (aka Mauve) is a very distinctive color - gray! A dark slate gray, with a gray-blue rump.
There are many more colors as well, including American Cinnamons, Australian Cinnamons, American Yellows, Silvers, Violets, Orangefaces and more!
Boys From Girls, Young Birds From Old
Telling a boy lovebird from a girl lovebird is not easy; unlike birds like cockatiels, for instance, there are no easy color giveaways. Boys usually appear slimmer, with smaller heads, and usually sit more upright on the perch; but this is not always the case, and unless you have a known boy and a known girl to compare, it can be hard to tell!
Baby Peach Faced lovebirds are much less colorful than their older relatives. The peach face is not yet developed; it's generally restricted to a sort of peach wash over the face, without the contrast between the peach and the green. Really young lovebirds - younger than about 8 to 10 weeks old - also have a blackish coloring on the beak. While real young, this coloring covers a large part of the upper beak; as they get older it recedes towards the nostrils.
Peach Faces have wonderful personalities! They're very much "big birds in little bird bodies"; they just have a LOT of personality stuffed in a small body! They can be described as active, scrappy, spunky birds. They do love to cuddle when they're not too busy keeping an eye on what you're doing or hanging upsidedown from a toy; lovebirds usually enjoy cuddling under your collar, or even up your sleeve or in a pocket. Many, though not all, love head-scritches (having the feathers on the head gently rubbed back and forth) and will cuddle in your hand looking for attention.
One or Two Birds?:
The idea that "lovebirds need to be kept in pairs" is only slightly true; lovebirds need a FRIEND - for a tame lovebird, that friend can be YOU, it needn't be another lovebird. On the other hand, if you have little or no time to spend with a bird, than it's going to need another friend; another bird. BUT, two lovebirds rarely stay tame. Sometimes they will - usually when it's two males - but in general, if you want a tame bird and have the time to spend with one, get only one! On the other hand, DON'T buy a single lovebird unless you have lots of time to spend with it - they get lonely easily!
Lovebirds can be pretty noisy, at least for their size. They're not realy high-volume (about the same as a male cockatiels), but the noises they make tend to be pretty annoying, and high-pitched, compared with similar sized birds! Lovebirds LIKE to make noise; they make lots of it for the fun of it, when they are excited! Some people find it obnoxious, but for others, watching them have that much fun is worth it!
Lovebirds are not big talkers; in fact, it's pretty rare to find a talking lovebird. There are a very few that will learn a word or two, though; these are usually the ones that like to listen to odd noises, and mimic other noises (such as "tch, tch" noises, kissing noises, other bird noises etc.). However, even talking lovebirds aren't too clear in their words. In general, if you're looking for a talking bird, lovebirds aren't the best choice!
The cage for a single lovebird should be at least 12" x 16" square; more is better! If a bird is going to be left in the cage for much of the day (6 + hours), than the cage should be larger; if the bird is only going to be in the cage at night, for sleeping, than it can be smaller. For a breeding pair of lovebirds that are out of the cage rarely if at all, my personal minimum size is 18" by 24" x 24", though I've known people who've used smaller.
Besides size, other things to look for in a cage include sturdiness, ease of cleaning, a large door that you can easily fit your hand, the bird, and toys, dishes, and perches in and out of, and bar spacings not more than 3/4" wide. Cages with horizontal bars are easier to climb in, but hard to find, and lovebirds easily adjust to vertical bars.
Dishes & Perches:
Dishes should be large, sturdy, and easy to clean; many cages come with small flimsy dishes that break easily, so you will probably have to buy seperate ones. Stainless steel dishes are expensive and sometimes hard to find, but will last forever. Plastic dishes are a second-best, but even the best of them will have to be replaced eventually. Ceramic dishes are easy to clean, but way too easy to chip and crack - be careful!
Lovebirds are BIG on toys! Don't just buy little budgie toys; these can be used as well, but one of a lovebird's favorite things to do is CLIMB on toys, which is hard to do on little ones. If your cage is large enough, conure or even small Amazon toys make great lovebird toys! They also like chewing on small parts, untying things, and in general being pretty destructive! In general, the more toys and the more the variety of toys, the better! Rotate toys every once in a while, taking out old ones, and putting in new ones, and repeating the process (some people do it every couple days, others every couple weeks or even months - find out which keeps your lovebird most amused!).
Lovebirds should NOT be fed seed, or at least not large amounts of it. Seed is very high in fat and seriously lacking in some pretty important vitamins; it just isn't a complete diet, though it can be a valuable PART of it. Birds fed on all-seed or mostly-seed diets are often overweight, with overgrown nails and/or beak, and sometimes have oily feathers or problems with feather picking caused by diet. It can also cause certain diseases like Fatty Liver Disease.
The basis of a lovebird's diet should be pellets; these are little granules of what the manufactorer's claim is a "100% complete" diet; while this may not be QUITE true, it's pretty close. Some popular brands include Kaytee's Exact, Pretty Bird, Roudybush, Tropican, Zupreem, and Harrison's. They vary somewhat in quality and each person you ask will probably have a different opinion on what is best and why the others are worse; personally I recommend Roudybush, Kaytee's Exact, and Hagen's Tropican. There's also nothing wrong with mixing pellet brands, or offering whatever you happen to have at the time.
But that should not be all you feed! What else? Well, ALMOST anything and everything. Veggies, fruits, pasta, breads, rice, beans... Most of what is healthy for you, is great for your bird. The more variety, the better, really. You can buy specially made dried fruit and nut mixes (lovebirds may not be able to eat the larger nuts), or pasta, bean, and veggie mixes that are bought dried and then cooked (or not) (Crazy Corn and Pretty Bird's Birdy Banquet are two), or you make up your own mixes, or you can just offer some of whatever you're eating - or all of the above!
What NOT to feed the birds? Well, anything NOT good for you, is also not good for birds; anything high sugar, high in salt, or high in fat (except for thin birds of course!). These are things that can be given every once in while, but should not be more than the very smallest percentage of the diet. The same goes for dairy products; birds are pretty much universally lactose intolerant, some birds moreso than others. Low-lactose dairy foods, like skim milk, yogurt, most cheeses, can be fed more commonly (and are a good source of calcium), especially to birds that seem not to be overly sensitive to lactose (too much lactose and birds get diarrhea, so watch those droppings carefully).
There are also a few things you should NEVER feed your bird. These include chocolate, alcohol, caffiene, and avacado. Chocolate is just something that many animals can't tolerate; birds are better than dogs, and every once in a while I'll heard of someone who accidentally or unknowingly fed their bird chocolate, with no harm, but it's not something I'd recommend testing! The same, basically, is true of alcohol, and to a lesser extent of caffiene, although with caffiene it's more something you shouldn't feed than something that will actually hurt the bird, except perhaps in very large amounts. Avacado is something you normally wouldn't think of, but probably also the most lethal on this list; even a small amount, especially of the avacado heart, can kill. Do not let your bird share those nachos and guacamole!
Training & Behavior:
All lovebirds should be taught "step up" and "step down"; this is quite easy to teach, just say "up" or "step up" when the bird steps onto your finger, and "down" or "step down" when it steps off. They're good commands, just because they establish some guidelines and hopefully let the bird know that he should listen to you!
Lovebirds have a reputation as biters, and it isn't completely undeserved. Females, in particular, tend to get nippy and aggressive once they mature. This is a natural instinct; in the wild, the females would be the ones to stake out a nest site, and defend it from other females, and predators. Some females never bite; most may bite a bit but can be trained away from it; a very few may always be biters, to varying degrees. To reduce the chances of a biting problem, always teach "step up" and "step down", always keep the wings clipped, and try to keep the cage below eye-leval (chest leval is usually about right). These are just a few things geared towards teaching the lovebird that she can't boss you around. Once a biting problem starts, it can be harder to cure. You want a "punishment" that is not harmful, and won't cause the bird to dislike you. You can shake your hand quickly, startling the bird and probably getting it to let go - this is not something recommended for overly shy or sensitive birds, but lovebirds are rarely shy or sensitive! I do NOT recommend dropping the bird for severe bites; rather, I pick the bird up quickly, set it on the ground, and walk away, all in one quick movement. Most lovebirds hate the sudden change of scene, and hate being left alone. Don't leave the bird there; you can pick her back up just as soon as she she realizes where she is!
Lovebirds have a few behaviors that may not always be recognized by inexperianced owners. Lovebirds sleep with their head tucked into their wing, and one foot drawn up into the feathers - baby birds may sleep with both feet on the perch. They preen by running their beak over their feathers, one at a time; most lovebirds spend quite a bit of their time doing this. It keepts the feathers "zipped" and in good condition; very important for animals, that, in the wild, depended on their feathers for everying from flying to food sources to escaping from predators! Lovebird LOVE to rip up paper, even moreso than most parrots. In the wild, lovebirds are some of the few parrots that make their own nests, inside the nesting hole. Much of their nesting material is bark stripped off trees - sorta similar to paper! Females will take strips of paper, and tuck them into the feathers of their rumps, as an easy way to carry them back to the nest! This is a behavior unique to Peach Faces. Almost always, it's the female that does this; only rarely will a male. So if you lovebird likes to tuck things in her rump feathers, she's probably a girl!
Wing & Nail Clipping:
Wing & Nail Clipping Supplies
- You may need a towel for both wing and nail clipping. This should
not be anything the bird could get a toenail caught on.
You also need something on hand, should you make a mistake and cause bleeding. A styptic powder like Quik-Stop or one of the similar brands can always be found at pet shops or through your vet. Just be very careful not to get this stuff in the eyes or mouth; it can cause serious problems. Plain old baking flour is less effective, but safer, and can be used in a pinch (pun not intended!).
Wing Clipping - Wing clipping is relatively simple, and should ALWAYS be done. Lovebirds are much too inquisitive, and are bound to get into trouble, or slip out an open door or window if left unclipped. Clipping should be done with a sharp pair of scissors, that won't leave raw edges. Some lovebirds can be clipped with bare hands; others will need you to towel them first, or else you'll get bit. If you're worried the bird will realize who's doing the clipping and sulk afterwards, cover their heads with the towel - that way they can't see who's doing these horrible things to them! The flight feathers are the long ones near the end; the first six to ten of these (I usually do seven or eight on lovebirds) should be clipped; about where they meet the coverts, which, if you look at the flights, are the ones that overlap them father up. It's best if you can watch someone else do it, or show you how; second-best is a picture. Don't worry about clipping bloodfeathers unless you're clipping below the coverts; bloodfeathers will only bleed when the part that is still growing is clipped, and this is very near the base. As long as the part you're clipping looks normal, it can be clipped; if it's covered in a bluish sheath, that part is still growing and will bleed if clipped.
Nail Clipping - Nail clipping is a bit more difficult than wing clipping, especially on lovebirds which have dark-colored nails. The trick is to NOT clip the quick, which is the vein within the nail - it will bleed! In general, just clip off the tiny sharp tip of the nail, unless the nail is severely overgrown. If it is, clip tiny bits off millimeter by millimeter, and watch carefully for any blood. Also, some birds may start strugging more as you get too close to the quick, so watch out for that. You can use plain old human nail clippers, or specially bought bird nail clippers.
Lovebirds usually love bathes! Start young; older lovebirds that have never had a bath are usually afraid at first, and may remain afraid.
Most lovebirds prefer "bath-tub" type baths; a shallow container large enough to allow the lovebird to spread out it's wings is what you're looking for. Fill this with about an inch of water; more or less depending on what your bird likes. Luke warm as a starting point; some birds prefer it warmer, some seem to like it really cold! Place this makeshift bath somewhere where the bird feels comfortable, such as the top of his cage, and get his attention by splashing your hand in the water. Most get quite interested and will investigate, eventually climbing in and shaking their wings, and ruffling their feathers. If yours seems uninterested, or more commonly, seems interested but just never gets in, don't press him. Leave the bath there for a few hours, and then take it away and try again in a few days. Some lovebirds prefer simply to bathe in their water dish; for these individuals, make sure they have a large water dish that they can really dunk in!
Other lovebirds prefer "shower" type baths, with a spray-bottle. Any spray-bottle will do, just so long as it has a setting that can spray a fine mist; you can buy them for about$2 in the hair care section of most department or grocery stores. DO NOT use bottles that used to contain cleaner products or the like; these may have residues that could harm your bird. Use warm or hot water; it will cool once it hits the air. Spray from above the bird, so it falls down like rain; if he seems to enjoy it, great, if not, don't press him and don't make him scared.
Baths should be given as often as the bird wants them; some birds will take them everyday or even more often, others as little as every few weeks. Most will want more in the summer, when it's hot and humid. The easiest way to tell when your bird wants a bath, is to ask it. Whenever you give him bath or are about to, say "wanna bath?" or something along those lines in an excited voice; eventually he'll learn what that means, and upon hearing it will appear visibly excited if he wants a bath!
Molting & Bloodfeathers:
A couple times a year (1-3), lovebirds molt their old feathers and grow news ones. This is a gradual process; you'll start finding a few feathers here and there, and then a few more, and you'll start seeing what are called "pinfeathers" or "bloodfeathers" mixed in with the fully grown ones. These are still-growing feathers; they first appear as little spikes near the skin. The base of the pinfeathers is a dark bluish sheath; this is the part that still has a blood supply, and they'll bleed if nicked. Just above that is a whitish, flaky sheath; this is the part no longer recieves blood. This part is preened away by the bird, exposing the newly-grown, fully formed feather; if it's on the head, where the bird can't reach, it may need some help. GENTLY pick at it with your fingernails, and don't get too close to the bluish part. If you hit it the wrong way, you may get nipped (usually quite gently!); this is the same thing the bird would do to another bird in the same situation, so don't be too offended.
If a large bloodfeather - normally the flight feathers and tail feathers - is hit the wrong way, it will bleed profusely. If you find a bleeding bloodfeather, it needs to be pulled, or it will keep bleeding. Locate the right feather, grab it near it's base, and pull with a quick jerk. This is fairly easy, and while I'm sure it gives the bird a start, it's no doubt less painful than the bleeding feather! This causes basically no damage (unless the same feather is pulled repeatedly, over and over, which may damage the follicle), and a new feather will grow.
Health & Lifespan:
Lovebirds are pretty hardy as pet birds go. They're not prone to any particular diseases or ailments. Lovebirds don't require annual shots like cats and dogs, but an annual check-up from your veterinarian is a good idea nevertheless; your vet may notice something you didn't and save your bird's life!
If a lovebird is sick, it often doesn't really show it until it's *really* sick... In the wild, a bird acting sick is quicker to get eaten and may be mistreated by the flock, so birds have evolved so that the symptoms of a disease don't show until the last moment. That doesn't mean you shouldn't keep an eye out for symptoms - that means you have to be that much more vigilant! If your bird seems to be acting out of the ordinary even a little, consider asking a vet about it. Sometimes owner hunches save a bird's life... other times, it was nothing, but maybe worth the time and money for the vet check just to find that out!
Lovebirds aren't as long lived as the bigger parrots, but they can live pretty long... easily as long as a cat or dog. The "average" lovebird lifespan is probably pretty low - maybe 5-7 years - but with improved diet (more than just seeds) and care, better than "average", a lovebird can live up to 10-15, or even 20 years.