Masked Lovebirds aka Black-masked Lovebirds or Yellow-collared Lovebirds (Agapornis personatus) are small, stocky African parrots that are native to the inland plateaus of northern and central Tanzania in light brushwood and trees. Some flocks can also be found in north-east Kenya and in the coastal areas of Tanzania.
The Masked Lovebird were discovered in the late 1800s - but were not imported until the 1920's. The blue mutation also occurred in the wild, and was imported soon after its introduction.
These lovebirds are social creatures that form small nesting colonies in the wild. In captivity, they do best in an aviary setting. They are not happy in solitary confinement situations. They either need plenty of human attention or a mate.
Black-masked lovebirds, and the many color variations that have been produced in captivity, are very popular in the pet trade and are now some of the most common pet birds in America and Europe.
The Masked Lovebirds are frequently named by their body color - rather than the mask color; such as green-masked lovebirds, blue-masked lovebirds, violet-masked lovebirds, etc.
Description (Normal Green Masked Lovebird):
Masked lovebirds average 6 inches or 14.5 cm in length. The naturally occurring masked lovebirds have a green body color. The head is mostly black and the color of its plumage is except for a few highlights green with a yellow collar. However, other mutations -- specifically blue and yellow -- have been bred in captivity.
Sexing / Gender Identification: Males and females look alike in appearance - although hens are usually larger in size, and may have a smaller, more rounded head.
The body, abdomen and under-tail coverts of the normal / naturally-occurring black-masked lovebirds are yellowish–green. The rump is greyish blue.
The under-wing coverts are grey-blue. The upperside of the wings is dark green, the underside is lighter. The flight feathers are black.
The forehead, lores (the regions between the eyes and bill on the side of a bird's head), cheeks and the part under the bill is brown-black. The back of head is a dirty olive.
The breast and one part of throat is yellow. On most of them orange-red feathers can be seen on the upper chest.
The tail is green and the outer tail feathers are edged with an orange-yellow band.
Eyes: White ring encircles both eyes. The irises are brown. Beak is redLegs and feet are grey
Hybrids between Fischer's Lovebirds and Masked Lovebirds are also quote common in captivity and have also occurred in feral populations. They are reddish-brown on the head and orange on the upper chest, but otherwise resemble the Masked Lovebird.
Besides the normal green coloration, there are several striking mutations:
blue-mutation (referred to as "Blue Masked Lovebirds - blue describing the body color, rather than the mask color. The mask is black - as it is in the normal green color)
The Masked Lovebirds, also referred to as the "Eye-rings" by many breeders, are simply visually spectacular and fun aviary occupants. They are just as curious and clowny as the other lovebird species that I know of. Masked Lovebirds breed freely in colonies.
A colony of lovebirds can be noisy though. This needs to be taken into consideration when deciding on populating your aviary -- especially when your neighbors are close-by. If noise is an issue, it may be better to stick with finches, grass keets and canaries.
They are easy to care for and breed and, therefore, are readily available and several very attractive color mutations have been produced in captivity
The black-masked lovebirds are quite popular as companion birds. They are friendly and sociable - but need the companionship of a mate or partner. Couples can be seen grooming and feeding each other. It's very endearing and fun to watch.
Younger parrots are easier to tame, although given time and attention, the vast majority of older birds will eventually gain trust and overcome their fear of humans.
In a cage of medium size, the birds can be put together in pairs or on their own. Taming is easier if the birds are kept alone. There have to be enough rungs in a cage so the birds can move around freely and keep themselves amused. One may occasionally offer them willow twigs to amuse themselves while nibbling. In nature they live in habitats surrounded with water, so it is necessary to provide them with more bathing facilities than for other parrots
If kept alone, they require a lot of attention from the owner to make up for the lack of a cage mate. Unless you have a lot of time to give, this is not recommended. If ignored, they are likely to turn aggressive and neurotic, as many parrots will.
Lovebirds, in general, can be aggressive to birds outside their own family group. Care is to be taken when introducing new birds into the area.
Unlike some parrots, lovebirds don't imitate human speech.
Their life span is generally about 15 years or longer.
Training and Behavioral Guidance:
Lovebirds are pretty easy to manage for most people. They are not as destructive and noisy as their larger cousins. If not properly socialized, however, they will discover their beaks as method of "disciplining us".
It really is important to learn to understand them and to guide their behavior before an undesirable behavior has been established. There are few things to consider ...
Biting: If not properly socialized, however, they will discover their beaks as method of "disciplining us". They can be very aggressive towards other animals (including birds), if they don't know them or are jealous of the attention they are getting from their favorite human.
Noise: Lovebirds are very vocal birds, making loud, high-pitched noises that can be a nuisance. They make noise all day, but especially at certain times of day.
Chewing: As stated above, lovebirds are also very active, and love to chew things. When they are let out of their cage, it would be wise to watch them carefully, and protect any furniture, electrical wiring or anything else that they could possibly chew on. They are not big chewers - as their preferred medium is "paper."
Paper: They love to tear up paper -- especially when they are in the "mating" spirit -- which is all-year-round for birds kept indoors (not exposed to the seasons). I have learned not to keep important papers laying around - and even use it as a way to keep my lovebird busy.
Training and behavioral guidance is recommended ...
AvianWeb Resources: I put together web resources for you to help you understand your pet bird and properly direct him. Please visit the following website to learn more about parrot behavior and training. If you found a way to resolve a "parrot behavioral issue" please share it with others.
If you are, as I am, a visual learner and prefer step-by-step instructions to train your pet, I recommend:
the Parrot Training Course to teach your parrot to:
Perform Tricks &
Tame ANY SIZE bird you could possibly own
and/or try the "Teach Your Parrot to Talk" Training Course. (Note: lovebirds rarely learn to talk, but there is a chance they may learn to mimic human speech if taught to at a young age.)
If you are considering a conure as a pet, the following web resources might be of interest:
Housing & Caring for Your Lovebird: Lovebirds love to climb and play and need to be provided with a cage that allows them to move around freely and toys to entertain themselves with. Please refer to the following websites for information:
Black-masked lovebirds can start breeding when they are as young as ten months of age and may continue until they are five to six years. They are very prolific and may produce several egg clutches within a single year. Due to this, they are usually readily available on the pet market.
During breeding season the behavior between partners will change: the male displays a more aggressive behavior, while the female begins preparing the nest. There are specific nesting boxes for lovebird-size birds, but if not available a cockatiel nesting box will do just fine. Samples of available nest boxes.
The nests are almost entirely made by the females and the three to six eggs are incubated for about twenty-three days. The hatchlings will be cared for by the female until they leave the nest at about six weeks of age. The father then takes over the feeding of the young birds for another two weeks or so until they are weaned.
Lovebirds should be fed a quality seed mix, in addition to providing them with vegetables and fruits. It is recommended to supplement their diet with vitamins and minerals. Bird-specific vitamins are available at the vets or better pet stores.
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