Overview

Brief Summary

The Fischer's Lovebird (Agapornis fischeri) is virtually restricted to Tanzania south and east of Lake Victoria, with its range centered on the Serengeti. This species is found in wooded grasslands as well as (especially in the western part of its range) more open grasslands and cultivated areas. Fischer's Lovebirds feed largely on seeds. They drink every day and are often found near water. This species breeds colonially. Feral populations are present in Mombasa, Kenya, and elsewhere where they apparently hybridize with Yellow-collared Lovebirds. The Fischer's Lovebird is distinguished from the Red-faced Lovebird (A. pullarius, with which it co-occurs on islands in the south of Lake Victoria) by its golden brown collar, golden breast, and white eyering; it is distinguished from the Yellow-collared Lovebird (A. personatus, with which it overlaps narrowly at the southeastern margins of its range) by having an orange rather than yellow breast. Although Fischer's X Yellow-collared Lovebirds can be found in feral populations, these are not known from areas where the two species naturally occur together. In captivity (where any lovebirds may be seen!), the Fischer's combination of brown crown and nape, orange-red face, and blue rump distinguishes it. The Fischer's Lovebird is sometimes considered conspecific with (i.e., belonging to the same species as) the Yellow-collared Lovebird (and sometimes with the Black-cheeked, A. nigrigenis, and Nyasa, A. lilianae, Lovebirds as well). Fischer's Lovebirds are generally encountered in small flocks, often near water, and are usually quite tame and approachable. Although still quite common in some areas, and with large numbers in captivity outside its range, native populations may be endangered by the cagebird trade.

(Collar 1997 and references therein; Juniper and Parr 1998 and references therein)

  • Collar, N.J. 1997. Genus Agapornis. P. 409-411 in: del Hoyo, J., Elliott, A., and Sargatal, J., eds. Handbook of the Birds of the World. Volume 4. Sandgrouse to Cuckoos. Lynx Edicions, Barcelona.
  • Juniper, T. and M. Parr. 1998. Parrots: A Guide to Parrots of the World. Yale University Press, New Haven, Connecticut.
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Biology

The noisy Fischer's lovebird is generally seen in small flocks, but in crop-growing areas large flocks of more than 100 birds may congregate to feed on grain (2). They will attack ripening crops, particularly millet and maize (2), and also feed on seeds, fallen berries and fruit in the ground (6), whilst taking care that they are within easy flight to the protection of a thorny bush (7). Fischer's lovebirds breed in the dry season from January to July (6), when they construct a nest in a tree hole, a cavity in a building, or among the bases of palm fronds (2). Inside the chosen site a bulky dome-shaped nest is constructed from long twigs and strips of bark (2). The clutch size can range from three to eight eggs, but is most commonly five or six (6).
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Description

With such vibrant, colourful plumage it is easy to understand why this tiny parrot has been threatened by collection for the wild bird trade (1). Fischer's lovebird has a bright green body, with some blue in the tail and wing fathers. The yellow collar and upper breast blends into an orangey-red face. The rest of the head is a dull olive green. The eyes are prominent due to a surrounding fleshy, white ring and the bill is red (2). Lovebirds get their name from the strong bonds they form, with the male and female spending much of their time close together, frequently preening each others feathers (5).
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Distribution

Range Description

Agapornis fischeri is endemic to north-central Tanzania, where its historical range includes 14 locations, including three national parks (Morton and Bhatia 1992). Records from Rwanda, Burundi and Kenya apparently refer to feral birds and not to wild populations (Morton and Bhatia 1992). It was very common in the past but, since the 1970s there has been a major population decline, caused principally by widespread trapping for the wild bird trade, with large flocks perhaps still occurring only around Ndutu and the Serengeti National Park (Morton and Bhatia 1992, Moyer 1995).
A self-supporting feral population derived from escapes from captivity exists in south-eastern France, where A. personatus has also escaped with hybrids also observed (Jiguet 2007).

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Range

N Tanzania (south and east of Lake Victoria).

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Geographic Range

Agapornis fischeri, or Fischer's lovebird, is found primarily in Tanzania, in central east Africa. They are known from Rwanda and Burundi as well. They are most often sighted in Tanzania's northern districts of Nzega and Singida, the Serengeti, Arusha National Park, the southern edge of Lake Victoria, and the Ukerewe islands in Lake Victoria.

Biogeographic Regions: ethiopian (Native )

  • Rauzon, M. 2001. Parrots Around the World. United States of America: Grolier.
  • Dickinson, E. 2003. The Howard and Moore Complete Checklist of the Birds of the World. New Jersey, United States of America: Princeton University Press.
  • Fry, H., S. Keith, E. Urban. 1988. The Birds of Africa - Volume III. San Diego, California, United States of America: Academic Press, Inc.
  • Forshaw, J. 2006. Parrots of the World - An Identification Guide. Princeton, New Jersey, United States of America: Princeton University Press.
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Range

Fischer's lovebird is endemic to north Tanzania. It has also been recorded from Rwanda, Burundi and Kenya, but these are thought to have originated from aviary escapees and are not wild populations (1) (2).
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Physical Description

Morphology

Physical Description

Fischer's lovebirds are brightly colored and relatively small parrots. Females and males are identical in appearance. Individuals range in length from 12.7 to 15 cm with a wingspan of 88 to 89 mm, and weigh from 42 to 58 g. The eyes are surrounded by a white ring that makes the eyes stand out. The iris is dark brown, the beak is dark orange-red, ending in a white band near the nares. The face is orange, becoming olive-green and brown on the back of the head to the middle of the nape of the neck. The cheeks are dark orange, becoming lighter on the throat and yellow on the belly. The remainder of the body is a vibrant green. The wings are a darker shade of green compared to the body. The tail is wedged shaped and primarily green except for some blue feathers. The feet are light gray.

Immature A. fischeri have the same coloring pattern as adults, however their feathers are not as vibrant in color, young birds appear to have drab and dull plumage compared to adults. Young birds also have a black pigment at the base of their mandible. As they age the colors of their plumage sharpen and the coloring on their mandible fades until it disappears altogether.

Range mass: 42 to 58 g.

Range length: 12.7 to 15 cm.

Range wingspan: 88 to 98 mm.

Other Physical Features: endothermic ; homoiothermic; bilateral symmetry

Sexual Dimorphism: sexes alike

  • Soderburg, p. 1977. All About Lovebirds. Neptune City, New Jersey, United States of America: T.F.H. Publications, Inc.
  • Rogers, C. 1975. Encyclopedia of Cage and Aviary Birds. New York: Macmillian Publishing Co., Inc.
  • Bannerman, D. 1953. The Birds of West and Equatorial Africa - Volume I. Birmingham, Great Britain: Kynoch Press.
  • Vriends, D. 1978. Encyclopedia of Lovebirds and Other Dwarf Parrots. Neptune, New Jersey, United States of America: T.F.H. Publications, Inc.
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Ecology

Habitat

Habitat and Ecology

Habitat and Ecology
It inhabits semi-arid woodland with Acacia, Adansonia, and Commiphora at 1,100-2,200 m, deforested grassland, cultivation with remnant Adansonia and Borassus palm savanna (Morton and Bhatia 1992, Moyer 1995, del Hoyo et al. 1997). In the Serengeti, it is present in all types of woodland(del Hoyo et al. 1997). Riverine forest dominated by Ficus, Ziziphus, Tamarindus, Aphania, Garcinia and Eckbergia is an important dry season habitat. The species is mostly granivorous, taking seeds from seedheads and off the ground. It also takes Acacia seeds directly from trees. It attends waterholes and other types of surface water daily to drink. Breeding takes place from January to April and in June and July. Most nests are situated 2-15 m above the ground in holes and cracks in dead trees or dead branches on living trees, but possibly sometimes in cliffs as well. Its clutch-size in captivity is three to eight eggs, with an incubation period of c.23 days and fledging period of 38 days (del Hoyo et al. 1997).


Systems
  • Terrestrial
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Agapornis fischeri lives at elevations of 1100 to 2000 m. They inhabit dry woodlands, scrub forests, and savannas dominated by Commiphora, Acacia, baobab, and Balanites trees. They are also frequently seen in agricultural areas.

Range elevation: 1100 to 2000 m.

Habitat Regions: tropical ; terrestrial

Terrestrial Biomes: savanna or grassland ; scrub forest

Other Habitat Features: agricultural

  • Williams, J. 1963. A Field Guide to the Birds of East and Central Africa. Great Britain: Houghton Mifflin Company Boston : The Riverside Press Cambridge.
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Fischer's lovebird inhabits grassland and savanna with scattered trees. It can also be found in cultivated land dotted with baobabs (2). It generally occurs between 1,100 and 2,000 meters above sea level, and is often near water, especially in hot weather (6).
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Trophic Strategy

Food Habits

Fischer's lovebirds are ground feeders. They forage mainly for seeds, but they also eat fruits such as small figs. They are not migratory, but will travel widely to find food and water when hard pressed. They flock to agricultural areas at harvest time to eat cultivated millet and maize. Fischer's lovebirds need water daily. If it is unusually hot they can be found near water holes or water sources where they can get water several times a day.

Plant Foods: seeds, grains, and nuts; fruit

Primary Diet: herbivore (Frugivore , Granivore )

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Associations

Ecosystem Roles

Fischer's lovebirds contribute to seed dispersal by eating fruits and seeds. They are also prey to predatory birds such as lanner falcons (Falco biarmicus).

Ecosystem Impact: disperses seeds

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Predation

The main known predators of Fischer's lovebirds are lanner falcons (Falco biarmicus).

Known Predators:

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Life History and Behavior

Behavior

Communication and Perception

Fischer's lovebirds are very vocal birds. Their calls are comprised of sets of high-pitched, loud twitterings. The mating ritual is performed using physical and vocal signs. When threatened, they fly away or puff up their feathers to make themselves look larger and open their beaks slightly in preparation to bite if necessary. State of health can also be determined by physical cues such as resting position and feather appearance.

Communication Channels: visual ; tactile ; acoustic

Other Communication Modes: mimicry

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Life Expectancy

Lifespan/Longevity

Currently there is not much information on lifespan in wild Agapornis fischeri. Captive Fischer's lovebirds can live from 15 to 25 years.

Range lifespan

Status: wild:
12.6 (high) years.

Typical lifespan

Status: captivity:
15 to 25 years.

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Lifespan, longevity, and ageing

Maximum longevity: 12.6 years (captivity) Observations: One demographic study suggested these are fast ageing animals with a maximum longevity of 7.7 years (Ricklefs and Scheuerlein 2001). One specimen lived 12.6 years in captivity (Brouwer et al. 2000). Maximum longevity could be underestimated, though, and further studies are necessary.
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Reproduction

Fischer's lovebirds, like other lovebirds in the genus Agapornis, mate for life. The term lovebird arose from the strong bonds that mates make with one another. When separated, the physical health of each individual will suffer. Mates like to be in physical contact as much as possible. They affectionately preen one another and bite each other’s beak (this action looks like the pair is kissing which is where to common name "lovebird" arose).

The mating ritual takes place when a male bird approaches a female, sidling back and forth, while bobbing his head up and down and twittering. The male will repeat this behavior, then approach the female to regurgitate into her mouth.

There are viable, wild hybrids of A. fischeri and a close relative, A. personatus, where they co-occur.

Mating System: monogamous

Fischer's lovebirds are cavity nesters. They seek out natural cavities in rocks, trees, buildings, or even deserted nests. Then the female collects vegetation in her beak such as grass, stalks, and strips of bark to line the cavity and create the nest. When finished, the nest is a bulky roofed structure which has a tunnel that leads to an enclosed chamber where the female will lay and sit on the eggs. The female becomes very aggressive, vicious and protective when nesting. Agapornis fischeri breed January to April and June to July during the dry season. The female lays 3 to 8 eggs per clutch. The eggs are small, round, and white. The eggs hatch after 21 to 23 days of incubation. Young fledge in approximately 38 days and become independent 4 1/2 weeks after hatching.

Breeding interval: The breeding interval for the Agapornis fischeri is not well documented, but birds may breed up to twice each year.

Breeding season: There are two breeding seasons, the primary breeding season is from January to April, followed by a shorter season which lasts from June to July.

Range eggs per season: 3 to 8.

Average eggs per season: 6.

Range time to hatching: 21 to 23 days.

Average fledging age: 38 days.

Average time to independence: 4 1/2 weeks.

Key Reproductive Features: seasonal breeding ; gonochoric/gonochoristic/dioecious (sexes separate)

Only females incubate the eggs. While the female incubates the eggs, her mate feeds her through regurgitation. Baby birds hatch naked and helpless approximately 21 to 23 days after the females first lays the eggs. As soon as baby lovebirds hatch, both parents begin to feed their young through the process of regurgitation.

Parental Investment: altricial ; pre-fertilization (Provisioning, Protecting: Female); pre-hatching/birth (Protecting: Female); pre-weaning/fledging (Provisioning: Male, Female, Protecting: Male, Female); pre-independence (Protecting: Male, Female)

  • Soderburg, p. 1977. All About Lovebirds. Neptune City, New Jersey, United States of America: T.F.H. Publications, Inc.
  • Rauzon, M. 2001. Parrots Around the World. United States of America: Grolier.
  • Maclean, G. 1990. Ornithology for Africa. South Africa: University of Natal Press Pietermaritzburg.
  • Hansell, M. 2000. Bird Nests and Construction Behaviour. United Kingdom: Cambridge University Press.
  • Fry, H., S. Keith, E. Urban. 1988. The Birds of Africa - Volume III. San Diego, California, United States of America: Academic Press, Inc.
  • Forshaw, J. 2006. Parrots of the World - An Identification Guide. Princeton, New Jersey, United States of America: Princeton University Press.
  • Teitler, R. 1979. Taming & Training Lovebirds. Neptune, New Jersey, United States of America: T.F.H. Publications, Inc. Ltd.
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Molecular Biology and Genetics

Molecular Biology

Statistics of barcoding coverage: Agapornis fischeri

Barcode of Life Data Systems (BOLDS) Stats
Public Records: 0
Specimens with Barcodes: 1
Species With Barcodes: 1
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Conservation

Conservation Status

IUCN Red List Assessment


Red List Category
NT
Near Threatened

Red List Criteria

Version
3.1

Year Assessed
2012

Assessor/s
BirdLife International

Reviewer/s
Butchart, S. & Symes, A.

Contributor/s
Baker, N.

Justification
This species is listed as Near Threatened because it has experienced a moderately rapid population reduction in its restricted range owing to trapping for export. Although this has been halted, it could re-start, and any evidence of a greater population decline could qualify the species for a higher threat category.

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The main threats to Agapornis fischeri are the live bird trade and human habitat destruction. Populations are not currently considered threatened but, as is true for most parrot species, populations may become vulnerable if collection and habitat destruction are not curbed.

US Federal List: no special status

CITES: no special status

State of Michigan List: no special status

IUCN Red List of Threatened Species: near threatened

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Status

Classified as Near Threatened (NT) by the IUCN Red List 2007 (1), and listed on Appendix II of CITES (4).
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Population

Population
The population has been estimated at 290,205-1,002,210 birds.

Population Trend
Decreasing
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Threats

Major Threats
It was the most commonly traded wild bird in the world in 1987 and was the most popular wild-caught parrot imported into the then European Economic Community, accounting for c.80% of the Psittacine exports from Tanzania(RSPB 1991). Legal trapping for export has now been halted, but the population is still much lower than it was, and trade could re-start (Moyer 1995). The species has hybridised with Yellow-collared Lovebird A. personata in the wild, but not within the species's natural range (there is range overlap but A. fischeri appears to be a non-breeding visitor to A. personata habitat [N. Baker in litt. 1999, Morton and Bhatia 1992]) so this is unlikely to pose a threat.

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Despites its restricted range, Fischer's lovebird used to be very common, until the 1970s when numbers began to drastically decline, due primarily to widespread trapping for the wild bird trade (1). In 1987, Fischer's lovebird was the most commonly traded bird in the world (1), which gives an indication of the extent of its devastating exploitation.
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Management

Conservation Actions

Conservation Actions
Conservation Actions Underway
CITES Appendix II.

Conservation Actions Proposed
Carry out surveys to obtain an up-to-date population estimate. Monitor population trends through regular surveys. Prevent trapping for export from starting again. Investigate the extent of hybridisation with A. personata.

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Conservation

Luckily, trapping of Fischer's lovebird for export is no longer legal (1), and it is listed on Appendix II of the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES), meaning that any international trade in this species should be carefully regulated (4). Large flocks of Fischer's lovebird still occur in a few areas, such as Serengeti National Park (7), but in many areas population numbers still remain low, and the constant threat of a re-start in the wild bird trade hangs over this lovebird (1). Large numbers of Fischer's lovebird remain in captivity outside of their natural range (6), which, whilst an outcome of the trade that put the lovebird in a precarious position, may be important should captive breeding and reintroduction ever be required to save this species. However, with careful management of the wild bird trade, and with the continued enforcement of protected areas, hopefully this 'last resort' strategy will never be needed.
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Relevance to Humans and Ecosystems

Benefits

Economic Importance for Humans: Negative

When Fischer's lovebirds flock to feed on crops their numbers can reach up to several hundred. In such large numbers they often damage fruit and grain crops. As a result, they are often killed by farmers because they are seen as pests.

Negative Impacts: crop pest

  • Higdon, P. 2001. The Lovebird: An Owner's Guide to a Happy Healthy Pet. New York, New York, United States of America: Wiley Publishing, Inc.
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Economic Importance for Humans: Positive

Fischer's lovebirds have been kept as pets since the 1550's. They became part of the live bird trade in 1926. The first successful captive breeding of Agapornis fischeri was documented on January 11th of 1928. By the year 1931 the Berlin Zoo in Germany had reared 68 A. fischeri successfully in captivity. Today they are bred and sold as pets mainly in the United States and Europe. In 1987 A. fischeri was the most widely traded pet bird species in the world.

Positive Impacts: pet trade

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Wikipedia

Fischer's Lovebird

The Fischer's Lovebird (Agapornis fischeri) is a small parrot species of the Agapornis genus. They were originally discovered in the late 19th century, and were first bred in the United States in 1926. They are named after German explorer Gustav Fischer.[2]

Description[edit]

Flock in tree in Serengeti, Tanzania
Green back and blue rump

The Fischer's Lovebird has a green back, chest, and wings. Their necks are a golden yellow and as it progresses upward it becomes darker orange. The top of the head is olive green, and the beak is bright red. The upper surface of the tail has some purple or blue feathers. It has a white circle of bare skin (eyering) around its eyes. Young birds are very similar to the adults, except for the fact that they are duller and the base of their mandible has brown markings. They are one of the smaller lovebirds, about 14 cm (5.5 in)[3] in length and 43-58g weight.

While most Fischer's Lovebirds are green, several color variations have been bred. The blue variation is predominant; lacking yellow, it has a bright blue back, tail, and chest, a white neck, a pale grey head and a pale pink beak. This mutation was first bred by R. Horsham in South Africa in 1957, and two years later it was bred by Dr. F. Warford in San Francisco, California. There is a yellow mutation, which first appeared in France. These birds are typically pale yellow with an orange face and a red beak. Lutino (a mutation that is yellow in color), pied, black or dark eyed white, cinnamon, white, and albino mutations have also been bred.

Sexual morphism[edit]

Fischer's Lovebirds show no sexual dimorphism, therefore it is impossible to tell whether an individual is male or female through plumage alone. The sexes of Agapornis fischeri appear the same, and are distinguished with certainty through DNA testing, and less certainly by their habits in perching. Generally, females sit with their legs farther apart than males because the female pelvis is wider.

Distribution and habitat[edit]

Fischer's Lovebird are native to a small area of east-central Africa, south and southeast of Lake Victoria in northern Tanzania. In drought years, some birds move west into Rwanda and Burundi seeking moister conditions. They live at elevations of 1,100-2,200m in small flocks. They live in isolated clumps of trees with grass plains between them. The population is estimated to be between 290,000-1,000,000, with low densities outside of protected areas due to capture for the pet trade; export licenses were suspended in 1992 to halt any further decline in the species.

Behaviour[edit]

Fischer's Lovebird has a fast flight, and the sound of their wings as they fly can be heard. Like all Lovebirds, they are very vocal and when they do make noise they have a high-pitched chirp and can be very noisy.

Food and feeding[edit]

Fischer's Lovebirds eat a wide variety of foods, including seeds and fruit. They sometimes are pests to farmers, as they eat their crops such as maize and millet.

Breeding[edit]

The breeding season is January through April and June through July. The nest is in a hole in a tree 2 to 15 metres above the ground. The eggs are white and there are usually four or five in a clutch, but there could be as few as three or as many as eight. The female incubates the eggs for 23 days, and the chicks fledge from the nest about 38–42 days after hatching.[3][4]

Aviculture[edit]

Lovebirds are very active and love to chew things

Fischer's lovebirds are kept in captivity. Lovebirds are social animals and are popular as pets.

Personality[edit]

Lovebirds are seen as charming and affectionate by their owners. Though they're not as cuddly as many parrots, they enjoy spending time with their owners, and require regular interaction.

As with many parrots, lovebirds are intelligent and inquisitive birds. In captivity, they like to investigate around the house, and have been known to figure out ways to escape from their cages, and to find hiding places where they may get stuck, and where it may be difficult to locate them. In order to avoid escapes it is advised to lovebird owners to use a cage where the bird cannot get out simply by lifting or pushing the door with its beak.

Lovebirds are avid chewers, with strong beaks. They can enjoy "preening" the hair and clothing of their owners, and chewing on clothing, buttons, watches, and jewelry. They may also, especially the females, chew up paper and weave it into their tails, which they will carry back to their cages to make nests.

Lovebirds are very active.

Females may be seen as friendlier and more intelligent than males, and thus as better pets.[citation needed]

Female lovebirds are supposedly more aggressive than the males but both can make fine pets with patience and correct training.

Lovebirds (in general) are not known for their talking ability, although there are some lovebirds that do learn words - the females are usually the ones that do this. As is the case when many smaller parrots, the "voice" of lovebirds is high-pitched and raspy and it may be difficult to understand their speech.

Lovebirds are very vocal birds, making loud, high-pitched noises that can be a nuisance to neighbors. They make noise all day, but especially at certain times of day. That said, Fischer's are not quite as loud as some other lovebird varieties, and while they cheep frequently, they do not scream like the larger parrots. Their noise level increases substantially when they are engaged in pre-mating rituals.

Health problems[edit]

Fischer's Lovebirds, like many captive birds, can suffer from feather-plucking if they get bored or stressed. This is more likely to occur with single lovebirds than those kept in pairs or groups. They should have a roomy cage, and should be shown affection if they enjoy it. After feather-plucking starts, it is very hard to stop the habit. Providing them with plenty of toys and giving them more opportunities for entertainment will often reduce or stop the habit.

Fischer's Lovebirds are prone to a mysterious disease characterized by having brownish to creamish patches in their feet and legs, which is probably an infection as a result of their obsessive biting of those areas. It is not known what causes this disease. One hypothesis is that they suffer from hormonal problems caused by changing light levels and the inability to perform things Fischer's lovebirds in the wild would naturally perform, such as building a nest. Another hypothesis is that it is caused by a pathogen. Treatments usually involve antibiotics for the wounds, and some way to stop them from continuing the biting of the area. This can sometimes be accomplished with sedatives. The Elizabeth collar may also be used, though wearing them is extremely stressful both to the bird wearing the collar and to the birds around it, and some lovebirds may start feather-plucking as a result of the stress.

Female lovebirds are prone to egg-binding, an often fatal condition in which an egg cannot be laid as it gets caught in the reproductive tract. It is thought that egg binding often occurs due to a lack of liquid calcium in the diet, which causes a softer shell. To prevent this, females, particularly those kept in pairs, should be given calcium supplementation in their water from a young age. Additionally, egg binding appears more likely amongst younger birds, and might be prevented by discouraging mating in younger birds.

References[edit]

  1. ^ BirdLife International (2012). "Agapornis fischeri". IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. Version 2013.2. International Union for Conservation of Nature. Retrieved 26 November 2013. 
  2. ^ Beolens, Bo; Watkins, Michael (2003). Whose Birds? Men and Women Commemorated in the Common Names of Birds. London: Christopher Helm. pp. 127–128. 
  3. ^ a b Alderton, David (2003). The Ultimate Encyclopedia of Caged and Aviary Birds. London, England: Hermes House. p. 218. ISBN 1-84309-164-X. 
  4. ^ "Species factsheet: Agapornis fischeri". BirdLife International (2008). Retrieved 9 July 2008. 
  • del Hoyo et al. (1997). Handbook of the birds of the World 4: 410. BirdLife International / Lynx Edicions.
  • Lovebirds, second edition. By Matthew M. Vriends
  • Garcia, Alejandro (May 30, 2011). «Fischer´s Lovebird[dead link]»
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