Abyssinian love bird, or Agapornis tarantus, is also known as the blackwinged love bird. This species is sexually dimorphic, meaning the cock is visibly different in color from the hen. Abyssinian cocks are viridian green; the forehead, lores, and small ring of feathers around the eye are carmine red and the underwing coverts are black. Hens have no red on the head or eye area, their underwing coverts are green, but variable to black with some green.
The Abyssinian is a high altitude dweller from Ethiopia. It was little known to aviculture until this century and was first imported into the trade in the early 1900's. Abyssinians are bred as single pairs.
Black-cheeked love birds, Agapornis nigrigenis, are green, being slightly darker than the Nyasa, and lighter green on the underparts and rump. The head appears brownish-black, the throat salmon, the back of the head is yellowish-olive and the wings are darker green. They are considered "eye-ring" lovebirds as the area around the eye is white skin; the cere is also white. The beak is bright red and the feet are gray.
The black-cheeked is found in the most restrictive areas in two river valleys, one in southwest Zambia and the other in the Victoria Falls area of Zimbabwe. The black-cheeked love bird was not described until the early 1900's and was imported shortly thereafter. The birds are good breeders, and can be bred in colonies.
The Fischer's love bird, Agapornis fischeri, is not a sexually dimorphic species, both hens and cocks appear alike and the two sexes cannot be distinguished visually. They are considered "eye-ring" love birds due to the white ring of skin around the eye.
Wild-type Fischer's are green, being darker on the wings and back, and lighter on the underparts; many color mutations exist. The forehead is bright orange-red, suffusing to dark olive, with cheeks and throat a paler orange. The rump and upper tail coverts are violet blue. The beak is coral red, the cere and bare skin around the eye are white, and the feet are pale gray.
In the wild Fischer's love birds are found on the inland plateaus of northern Tanzania. In captivity they breed freely and have been bred in large colonies.
The masked love bird, Agapornis personatus, is not a sexually dimorphic species, both hens and cocks appear alike and the two sexes cannot be distinguished visually. They are considered "eye-ring" love birds due to the white ring of skin around the eye.
Wild-type birds have a generally green body plumage, with the head, including the lores and cheeks, brown to sooty black. There is a yellow collar about half an inch wide at its narrowest point on the back of the neck, widening on the breast. The cere and bare skin around the eye are white. The beak is red and feet are blackish-gray.
The masked love bird is found on inland plateaus in northeastern Tanzania. Discovered in the late 1800's they were not imported until the 1920's. Masked love birds breed freely in colonies. The blue mutation occurred in the wild and was imported soon after its discovery.
Madagascar love bird, Agapornis canus, is also known as the grayheaded love bird. It is a sexually dimorphic species meaning cocks and hens are visually distinguishable. Cocks have gray on the head, back of the neck and breast; a green body that is darker on the back and wings, black underwing coverts, a whitish gray beak, and pale gray feet. Hens differ from the cocks by being completely green.
As might be expected the Madagascar love bird is from the island of Madagascar, as well as some of the neighboring islands and there have been isolated sightings on the mainland of South Africa. These birds have been freely imported for well over 100 years. Today this species has become very rare in the U.S. due to export regulations out of Madagascar.
One reason Madagascars are rare is that they are not prolific breeders. In the wild they are found in very large flocks, however captive breeding has not been generally successful when colony breeding is attempted. Several subspecies exist.
A male Madagascar love bird is pictured.
Nyasa love bird, Agapornis lilianae, is not a sexually dimorphic species, both hens and cocks appear alike and the two sexes cannot be distinguished visually. They are considered "eye-ring" love birds due to the white ring of skin around the eye. They are also commonly known as Lilian's love bird.
Nyasa love birds are green, paler on the underparts and darker on the back and wings. The head is bright salmon to orange, brighter on the forehead, and paler on the cheeks, throat and upper breast. The cere and ring around the eye is white. The beak is red, feet are gray.
The Nyasa is another love bird species which is relatively new to aviculture. It was not described until the late 1890's by Miss Lilian Sclater, for whom the species was named. This species was not imported into the U.S. until the 1920's. In the wild Nyasas are gregarious and found in groups of 20 to 100 birds. In captivity they breed freely in colonies as well as single pairs in cages. They are the rarest eye-ring love bird species in captivity.
Peachfaced love bird, Agapornis roseicollis, is a sexually monomorphic species, meaning hens and cocks are not visually distinguisable. Wild-type birds have an overall bright, almond-green plumage which is yellow on the underside, with a brilliant blue rump. The frontal band is a deep rose-red, and the lores, sides of the head and throat are a paler rose-red. The beak is horn colored and greenish toward the tip, the feet are gray.
The peachfaced is found in the dry country of south Angola. It was first found in the late 1700's but was confused at that time with the red-faced love bird. In the wild birds are usually found in small groups of around ten birds. In captivity they are very prolific breeders to the point of domesticity.
Red-faced love bird, Agapornis pullarius, is a sexually dimorphic species meaning cocks and hens are visually distinguishable. Cocks are bright green and are more yellowish on the front and underneath. The face and crown are orange-red, the flights and bend of the wing are green and the shoulder and underwing coverts are black. The bill is red, and the feet are gray. Hens have more orange in the face, which is not quite as bright red, and underwing coverts are green.
The red-faced love bird has perhaps the longest natural expanse of territory of any of the love bird species, stretching from the coastal regions of central Africa all the way to western Ethiopia. The red-faced is considered to be the first love bird imported into Europe, the Duke of Bedford mentions that it was used in portraits as early as the 16th century. Considering this long period in captivity one might think the species would be well-established and understood, however that is not the case. There are few red-faced love birds in captivity and they have been bred on only a few occasions. Here in the U.S. only a handful of breeders have had success with this species. In the wild red-faced nest in termite sites which is hard to replicate in captivity. There have been mixed results with various methods of breeding in captivity, but one key to successful breeding appears to be breeding as single pairs, not in colonies. Several subspecies exist.
Black-collared love bird, Agapornis swindernianus, is also known as Swinder's love bird. The Swindern's includes distinct subspecies, all of which are sexually monomorphic, meaning that hens and cocks cannot be distinguished visually.
Agapornis swindernianus swindernianus (the nominate black-collared love bird) has a main body color of dusky green, lighter on the cheeks and underparts, with a yellow wash on the throat. A narrow black collar on the nape, with a chrome yellow area below, merges into the green of the back. The lower back, rump, and upper tail coverts are brilliant blue, and the underwing coverts are green. The central tail feathers are green, occassionally with a red-orange spot; lateral tail feathers are bright red towards the base, with a black bar and green tips. The iris of the eye is golden-yellow. The beak is blackish-horn and the feet are dark gray. It is a dense forest dweller patchily found in Liberia, Ivory Coast and Ghana and is considered to be rare in the wild.
The Cameroon black-collar love bird, Agapornis swindernianus zenkeri, has a distinctly colored orange area below the nape. This sub-species is also slightly brighter green and larger in size than A. s. swinderniana. It is found in Cameroon to Gabon, southern Central African Republic and western Democratic Republic of the Congo. This subspecies was successfully maintained in captivity in Africa by a missionary named Father Hutsebour who fed the love birds a diet of sycamore figs. When the birds were removed from this diet they would die within three days. They have never been successfully exported.
A third subspecies exists, A. s. emini, which is found in the lowland forests of Democratic Republic of the Congo and western Uganda.
Illustrated by Rosana D'Angieri-front right bird likely Cameroon black-collar love bird, Agapornis swindernianus zenkeri, back left bird likely Agapornis swindernianus swindernianus (the nominate black-collared love bird).