We are getting into that season again, and Christmas is a time where the hearts of people tend to warm towards the lovebird. Lovebirds have quite a bit of myths surrounding them, anywhere between “they don’t make good pets because they are aggressive”, to the most played “they can only be bought in pairs.”
In this blog post we will be discussing lovebirds, what they are like pets, what they are like in the wild, animal husbandry for these animals and dispelling some of the more common myths that surround these little birds.
First thing’s first, what is a lovebird?
A lovebird (“Agapornis”) is a small African bird, with the traditional African built (stocky body, small tail feathers and larger beaks). Eight out of nine of these species of lovebirds are on the market, but only three of these eights will be the easiest to find; the peach faced, masked and the fischer’s lovebird.
In this article, however, we will only be exploring the peach faced lovebird, this is because they are the most commonly kept species of lovebird, and this is generally because they are much easier to tame, handle and they come in a variety of different mutations that appeal to the wider audience. However, this information provided can easily be adapted to the other species of lovebird because they all share a similar diet and have similar needs.
Lovebirds are small birds, just a little bigger than a budgie, but unlike some of the other small birds you find on the market, they are a species of parrot, as such they are highly intelligent and sociable creatures. They are a lot of personality jammed pack into such a small body. Many parrot owners recommend a lovebird for first time parrot owner, because these birds are very similar to some of the larger parrot species, just in a smaller body. Therefore, the new time owner will be able to have some experience as to what it is like to own a larger bird specie without the fear of those large beaks.
Lovebirds are loud, or at least they can be, and although calling shouldn’t be completely eliminated, very few owners aren’t prepared for the high pitched call that a lovebird can make. The first week is always the worse, but by proper training you will be able to minimize this annoying sound, and those annoying sounds will turn into pleasant little chirps.
Lovebirds are not known to talk, although a few have been known to learn a few words, but they more than make up for it in their clownish personalities and their abilities to learn a variety of tricks.
Like any parrot, you need a good size cage, that way you are able to put in a lot of toys (birds need something to keep their minds occupied and they are chewers!), but not only that, lovebirds are unique for a parrot species in that they much prefer to sleep in a wheel, a nesting box or a plush triangle, and that requires room to set one up. Your cage should be big enough to be able to fit the bed comfortable, and have at least three toys.
Despite the common belief, lovebirds do NOT need to be paired off, especially if you will become its flock mate of sorts. The common myth that they need to be paired off was probably from some pet store long ago wanting to make some extra cash, and was easily able to sell it because you will be able to understand why they are called lovebirds when you look at them. In groups, they tend to pair off and snuggle close together.
This behaviour, of snuggling close, means in general lovebirds are wonderful cuddly birds, who enjoy nothing more than receiving scritches (petted), or snuggling up to your neck. They are little cuddle monsters they can be.
However, because of this behaviour, most people who own a lovebird have found that they can develop aggressive tendencies towards other members of the family. This happens because the bird was not properly socialized with other members of the family, this includes your dogs, cats and yes even sometimes your fish. Lovebirds by nature bond with one thing (and I say thing because sometimes they bond with their favourite toy) rather strongly, however, just because they bond strongly towards one member, does not mean they won’t make a good pet in a large family household.
On contrary, lovebirds make excellent pets in larger households because even in the wild they are found in small flocks, they just have that “favourite” person and that generally means more responsibility on that person’s part. A lovebird that has bonded to one person but is in a large household is less likely to be aggressive because of the socialization, this often means less biting–however, the person it has bonded to is often the receiver of these bites because lovebirds can get jealous easily when their mated pair is interacting with everything else but itself, they are more likely to bite their partner then the other person!
A proper socialized lovebird, means a well behaved and loveable lovebird.
Diet is another factor, lovebirds get fat very fast on seed base diets. They require a good balanced diet (who doesn’t?) of pellets and seeds (seeds are important because of the fats), but you also need to be feeding your lovebird a good chunk of fruits and veggies. Make sure you do your research on which foods are appropriate for birds, there are many that is poisonous to birds (did you know avocado is poisonous to birds?). Lovebirds can be considered messy birds, not that they throw food around (although they can; they can be a little dramatic) they enjoy making soup by adding their food to their water, hence soup. This perfectly natural and should be encouraged, the water changed after you wake up and before you go bed, to prevent any dangerous bacteria growth that may occur.
These birds, because of their large brains and their sociable natures, should be played with outside of their cages at LEAST an hour a day, where they will have time to interact with the family and reaffirm their connections with their one-and-only.
When choosing a lovebird the best case scenerio is to get a young (the beak should have some black on it, but not all mutations have this!), hand reared and hand tamed bird. You should look for signs of illness, and lastly it should be a bird that takes an interest in you–this will make it much easier for the bird to adapt to their new surroundings. You should already have a cage set up in your home, with the toys and feed ready.
The best part about these birds is that because they are highly energetic birds, they are able to put in quarters where there may be a lot of movement and loud noises, some of the smaller and larger species can easily be spooked and are rather sensitive to these movements and sounds. Not lovebirds, after all they’ve been known to take on dogs. Make sure the cage is at a good elevation, and not placed on the floor, this will promote a sense of confidence in the bird and will also reduce some of the screaming that a lovebird may create.
Lovebirds make amazing pets, for the right people. If you are looking into getting into larger parrot species, but are afraid of them, the lovebird will give you a run for your money. If you are looking for a loving, cuddly bird but can also take care of themselves independent, than this bird is for you! If you are looking for an overall intelligent, loyal, and affectionate bird the lovebird is right for you.