Breeding

Lovebird, Red-faced (Agapornis pullaria)

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by Jim Hayward

ORIGINAL HOMELAND:
A vast band of country stretching from Ethiopia in the east through central Africa to Sierra Leone and Guinea on the west coast.

NATURAL HABITAT:
Prefers lightly wooded savannah country.

STATUS IN THE WILD:
Reported to be common in some of its localities.

STATUS IN AVICULTURE:
They were the most commonly available lovebird species before the second world war, but are seldom come by nowadays. Those imported in the 'seventies probably came originally from Portuguese nationals returning from Angola when that country gained its independence; the origination of the few sparse consignments advertised by British dealers in latter times is not known.

LEVEL OF KEEPER'S EXPERIENCE:
Not for the beginner - specialist knowledge and dedication is required; they have been bred only rarely and spasmodically, even in recent times.

HARDINESS:
Red-faceds are difficult, if not impossible, to acclimatize fully to outside conditions in Britain, and it is hard to believe that they would ever become completely hardy against our worst weather.

TYPE OF ACCOMMODATION:
Flight cages inside a heated birdroom; or a secluded inside flight with access to a well sheltered outside flight, so they have the security of the inner one at all times of the year and the benefit of the outer one in the warm months. A wooden framework with 19g wire mesh is sufficient.

TYPE OF DIET:
In their equatorial habitat, Red-faced Lovebirds live on seeding grasses, fruit, shoots of foliage, berries and figs; they also raid ripening crops. In confinement: the usual seed mixture (mostly small seeds: panicum, Japanese millet, white millet, canary, the tiny seeding grass heads of Poa annua, seed capsules of chickweed. Any sunflower offered should be as small as that which is given to British Finches), they are particularly fond of apple. On at least one occasion an important part of the rearing diet was reported to be a daily amount of mealworms - these were taken eagerly by the parents.

SEXING:
They are easily sexed; the hen has green underwing coverts while the cock has black underwing coverts and black at the bend of the wing. The youngsters differ from the parents in having yellowish faces and light brown bills. Even at the fledgling stage, young cocks and hens show the same differences in colouration of the underwing coverts as the adults.

SEXUAL MATURITY:
One year old.

NESTING SEASON IN BRITAIN:
No particular season.

TYPE OF NEST:
A cork block encased in a plywood nest-box has been used as a substitute. The birds excavate a tunnel straight through the cork until they hit the back board, then they turn left, right or upwards to hollow out a small and cosy chamber roughly 10 cm (4 in) in width. Once the birds have finished nesting for the first season, a slice can be cut off the top to make a removable lid which will make nest inspection possible in following seasons - provided that inspection is thought to be advisable and acceptable to the breeding birds. The tunnel and nest chamber can be packed tightly with cork granules to make the birds work to gain entrance, stimulating their breeding instincts in the process. In recent years, reports have been forthcoming from the same Scandinavian country of cage breeding of Red-faceds using simple budgie nest-boxes.

USUAL NUMBER OF EGGS:
4 to 6.

INCUBATION PERIOD:
about 22 days.

USUAL NUMBER OF YOUNG:
2 to 3.

FLEDGING AGE:
About six weeks.

USUAL NUMBER OF CLUTCHES:
Usually one.

NESTING HABITS:
In the wild they nest in arboreal termitaries, burrowing right inside to make a hollow in which to rear their young; prefering termitaries which are situated in the highest trees.

NOISE FACTOR:
Their voices are softer and more twittering than most of their relatives.

AVAILABILITY:
Rarely offered for sale.

COLOUR VARIETIES:
Recessive Lutino and Pied examples existed in the 'seventies and 'eighties, but seem to have disappeared completely. The Lutinos were brilliant golden yellow with scarlet faces, red in the tail, white flights and shoulders, pink feet and red eyes and red bills.

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