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File:Agapornis roseicollis -eating grass seeds-8.png
A feral Rosy-faced Lovebird eating seeds in Chicago, USA
Scientific classification e
Kingdom: Animalia
Phylum: Chordata
Class: Aves
Clade: Inopinaves
Order: Psittaciformes
Superfamily: Psittacoidea
Family: Psittaculidae
Subfamily: Psittaculinae
Tribe: Agapornithini
Genus: Agapornis
Selby, 1836

A Lovebird is one of nine species of the genus Agapornis (Greek: αγάπη agape 'love'; όρνις ornis 'bird'). They are a social and affectionate small parrot. Eight species are native to the African continent, while the Grey-headed Lovebird is native to Madagascar. Their name stems from the parrots' strong, monogamous pair bonding and the long periods which paired birds spend sitting together. Lovebirds live in small flocks and eat fruit, vegetables, grasses and seed. Black-winged Lovebirds also eat insects and figs, and the Black-collared Lovebirds have a special dietary requirement for native figs, making them problematic to keep in captivity.

Some species are kept as pets, and several color mutations were selectively bred in aviculture. Their average lifespan is 10 to 15 years.[1]


Lovebirds are 13 to 17 centimeters in length and 40 to 60 grams in weight. They are among the smallest parrots, characterized by a stocky build, a short blunt tail, and a relatively large, sharp beak. Wildtype lovebirds are mostly green with a variety of colors on their upper body, depending on the species. The Fischer's Lovebird, Black-cheeked Lovebird, and the Masked Lovebird have a prominent white ring around their eyes. The Abyssinian Lovebird, the Madagascar Lovebird, and the Red-faced Lovebird are sexually dimorphic. Many colour mutant varieties have been produced by selective breeding of the species that are popular in aviculture.[2]


File:Agapornis phylogeny.svg

Phylogeny of the genus Agapornis based on molecular evidence.[3] The species with the red line is currently unplaced in the phylogeny, but does belong to this genus.

The lovebird genus comprises nine species of which five are monotypic and four are divided into subspecies.[2] Eight of them are native in the mainland of Africa and the Madagascar Lovebird is native to Madagascar. In the wild the different species are separated geographically.

Traditionally, lovebirds are divided in 3 groups:

  • 1. the sexually dimorphic species: Madagascar, Abyssinian, and Red-headed Lovebird
  • 2. the intermediate species: Peach-faced Lovebird
  • 3. the white-eye-ringed species: Masked, Fischer's, Lilian's, and Black-cheeked Lovebirds

However, this division is not fully supported by phylogenetic studies, as the species of the dimorphic group are not grouped together in a single clade.

Species and subspecies:[4]

  • Rosy-faced Lovebird, Agapornis roseicollis, (Vieillot, 1818) — or Peach-faced Lovebird
    • Agapornis roseicollis catumbella, B.P. Hall, 1952
    • Agapornis roseicollis roseicollis, (Vieillot 1818)
  • Yellow-collared Lovebird, Agapornis personatus, Reichenow, 1887 — or Masked Lovebird
  • Fischer's Lovebird, Agapornis fischeri, Reichenow, 1887
  • Lilian's Lovebird, Agapornis lilianae, Shelley, 1894 — or Nyasa Lovebird
  • Black-cheeked Lovebird, Agapornis nigrigenis, W.L. Sclater, 1906
  • Grey-headed Lovebird, Agapornis canus, (Gmelin, 1788) — or Madagascar Lovebird
    • Agapornis canus ablectaneus, Bangs, 1918
    • Agapornis canus canus, (Gmelin, 1788)
  • Black-winged Lovebird, Agapornis taranta, (Stanley, 1814) — or Abyssinian Lovebird
  • Red-headed Lovebird, Agapornis pullarius, (Linnaeus, 1758) — or Red-faced Lovebird
    • Agapornis pullarius pullarius, (Linnaeus, 1758)
    • Agapornis pullarius ugandae, Neumann, 1908
  • Black-collared Lovebird, Agapornis swindernianus, (Kuhl, 1820) — or Swindern's Lovebird
    • Agapornis swindernianus emini, Neumann, 1908
    • Agapornis swindernianus swindernianus, (Kuhl, 1820)
    • Agapornis swindernianus zenkeri, Reichenow, 1895


Species (wild-types)
Common and binomial names Photograph Description[2] Range
Yellow-collared Lovebird
or Masked Lovebird
(Agapornis personatus)
File:Masked Lovebird (Agapornis personata) pet on cage.png
14 cm (5.5 in) Large. Yellow and green. Has Blue tail feathers. Northeast Tanzania
Fischer's Lovebird
(Agapornis fischeri)
File:Pap Pfirsichköpfchen Agapornis fischeri 070608 1.jpg
14 cm (5.5 in) long. Mostly green, orange upper body and head, blue lower back and rump, red beak, white eyerings South and southeast of Lake Victoria in northern Tanzania
Lilian's Lovebird
or Nyasa Lovebird
(Agapornis lilianae)
File:Agapornis lilianae 2c.jpg
13 cm (5 in) long. Mostly green including green back and green rump, orange head, red beak, white eyerings Malawi
Black-cheeked Lovebird
(Agapornis nigrigenis)
File:Agapornis nigrigenis -Valls Zoo -Spain-4a-4c.jpg
14 cm (5.5 in) long. Mostly green, brownish-black cheeks and throat, reddish-brown forehead and forecrown, orange upper chest, red beak, white eyerings Zambia
Rosy-faced Lovebird
or Peach-faced Lovebird
(Agapornis roseicollis)
File:Agapornis roseicollis -Peach-faced Lovebird pet on perch.jpg
15 cm (6 in) long. Mostly green, orange face, blue lower back and rump, horn-coloured beak Namibia, South Africa, Angola
Black-winged Lovebird
or Abyssinian Lovebird
(Agapornis taranta)
File:Agapornis taranta (female and male).jpg
16.5 cm (6.5 in) long. Mostly green, red beak, some black wing feathers. Sexual dimorphism: only the male has red on forehead and crown, females plumage is all green southern Eritrea to southwestern Ethiopia
Red-headed Lovebird
or Red-faced Lovebird
(Agapornis pullarius)
File:Agapornis pullarius.jpg
15 cm (6 in) long. Mostly green with red on upper neck and face. Sexual dimorphism: the male has more extensive and a darker red on face and head, and the male has a darker red beak than the female Large part of central Africa
Grey-headed Lovebird
or Madagascar Lovebird
(Agapornis canus)
File:Grey-headed Lovebird.jpg
13 cm (5 in) long. Mostly green with darker green on back, pale grey beak. Sexual dimorphism: male has a grey upper body, neck and head. Madagascar
Black-collared Lovebird
or Swindern's Lovebird
(Agapornis swindernianus)
File:Stavenn Agapornis swindernianus 00.jpg
13.5 cm (5 in) long. Mostly green, brown collar which has a black upper margin at the back of the neck, dark grey/black beak Equatorial Africa


Depending on the species of lovebird, the female will carry nesting material into the nest in various ways. The Peach-faced Lovebird tucks nesting material in the feathers of its rump,[5] while the Masked Lovebird carries nesting material back in its beak. Once the lovebirds start constructing their nest, mating will follow. During this time, the lovebirds will mate repeatedly. Eggs follow 3–5 days later. The female will spend hours inside her nesting box before eggs are laid. Once the first egg is laid, a new egg will follow every other day until the clutch is complete, typically at four to six eggs. Even without a nest, lovebirds sometimes produce eggs.

Feral populations[]

File:Agapornis -probably a hybrid-5i.jpg

Hybrids (Fischer's Lovebird x Masked Lovebird) in Nairobi, Kenya.

Feral populations of Fischer's Lovebirds and Masked Lovebirds live in cities of East Africa. Also present there are interspecific hybrids between these two species. The hybrid has reddish-brown on head and has orange on upper chest, but otherwise resemble the Masked Lovebird.[6]

Feral lovebirds are also present in Phoenix, Arizona, USA.

Further reading[]

  • All About Breeding Lovebirds (Hardcover) by Mervin Roberts
  • Lovebirds: Everything About Housing, Care, Nutrition, Breeding, and Diseases With a Special Chapter, "Understanding Lovebirds" (A Complete Pet Owner's Manual) by Matthew M. Vriends


  1. ^ Alderton, David (2003). The Ultimate Encyclopedia of Caged and Aviary Birds. London, England: Hermes House. pp. 216–219. ISBN 184309164X. 
  2. ^ a b c Le Breton, Kenny. Lovebirds...getting started. USA: T.F.H. Publications. pp. 84–98. ISBN 0866224114. 
  3. ^ Eberhard, Jessica R. (1998): Evolution of nest-building behavior in Agapornis parrots. The Auk 115(2):455-464.
  4. ^ "Zoological Nomenclature Resource: Psittaciformes (Version 9.004)". 2008-07-05. 
  5. ^ Mclachlan, G. R.; Liversidge, R. (1978). "330 Rosy-faced Lovebird". Roberts Birds of South Africa. illustrated by Lighton, N. C. K.; Newman, K.; Adams, J.; Gronvöld, H. (4th ed.). The Trustees of the John Voelcker Bird Book Fund. p. 236. 
  6. ^ Forshaw (2006). plate 45.

Cited texts[]


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