Agapornis fischeriFischer's lovebird

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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. (Dickinson, 2003; Forshaw, 2006; Fry, et al., 1988; Rauzon, 2001)

Habitat

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. (Forshaw, 2006; Fry, et al., 1988; Rauzon, 2001; Williams, 1963)

  • Range elevation
    1100 to 2000 m
    3608.92 to 6561.68 ft

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. (Bannerman, 1953; Forshaw, 2006; Fry, et al., 1988; Rogers, 1975; Soderburg, 1977; Vriends, 1978; Williams, 1963)

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. (Bannerman, 1953; Forshaw, 2006; Fry, et al., 1988; Rogers, 1975; Soderburg, 1977; Vriends, 1978; Williams, 1963)

  • Sexual Dimorphism
  • sexes alike
  • Range mass
    42 to 58 g
    1.48 to 2.04 oz
  • Range length
    12.7 to 15 cm
    5.00 to 5.91 in
  • Range wingspan
    88 to 98 mm
    3.46 to 3.86 in

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). (Forshaw, 2006; Fry, et al., 1988; Rauzon, 2001; Soderburg, 1977)

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. (Forshaw, 2006; Fry, et al., 1988; Rauzon, 2001; Soderburg, 1977)

There are viable, wild hybrids of A. fischeri and a close relative, A. personatus, where they co-occur. (Forshaw, 2006; Fry, et al., 1988; Rauzon, 2001; Soderburg, 1977)

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. (Fry, et al., 1988; Hansell, 2000; Maclean, 1990; Teitler, 1979)

  • 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

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. (Fry, et al., 1988)

  • 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

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. (Teitler, 1979)

  • Range lifespan
    Status: wild
    12.6 (high) years
  • Typical lifespan
    Status: captivity
    15 to 25 years

Behavior

Fischer's lovebirds tend to travel in tight flocks. When flying long distances, flocks fly quickly and directly. Flock size varies from 10 to 20 individuals up to hundreds when they congregate at food sources. (Forshaw, 2006; Rauzon, 2001)

Home Range

The home range and territory size of Fischer's lovebirds is not well documented. They tend to stay in one general area unless drought or famine forces them to move in order to find water or food. (Dickinson, 2003)

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. (Fry, et al., 1988; Rauzon, 2001; Williams, 1963)

  • Other Communication Modes
  • mimicry

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. (Fry, et al., 1988; Rauzon, 2001; Williams, 1963)

  • Plant Foods
  • seeds, grains, and nuts
  • fruit

Predation

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

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

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. (Rauzon, 2001; Soderburg, 1977; Vriends, 1978)

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. (Forshaw, 2006; Higdon, 2001; Williams, 1963)

  • Negative Impacts
  • crop pest

Conservation Status

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.

Other Comments

Fischer's lovebirds are difficult birds to keep healthy in captivity. They are active birds that need a lot of room. When confined to a cage their health tends to suffer. Instead of being active and vocal they often sit on the floor of the cage in a corner. Negative physical problems such as molting and becoming overweight also shorten the lifespan of captive A. fischeri. Surprisingly, they don't seem to have to much trouble acclimating to cold weather despite the fact that their original habitat is tropical. If they are kept away from drafts they can weather winters well.

Of all Agapornis species, A. fischeri is known to be the most acrobatic. (Higdon, 2001; Soderburg, 1977; Teitler, 1979)

Contributors

Tanya Dewey (editor), Animal Diversity Web.

Leah Blazek (author), Kalamazoo College, Ann Fraser (editor, instructor), Kalamazoo College.

Glossary

Ethiopian

living in sub-Saharan Africa (south of 30 degrees north) and Madagascar.

World Map

acoustic

uses sound to communicate

agricultural

living in landscapes dominated by human agriculture.

altricial

young are born in a relatively underdeveloped state; they are unable to feed or care for themselves or locomote independently for a period of time after birth/hatching. In birds, naked and helpless after hatching.

arboreal

Referring to an animal that lives in trees; tree-climbing.

bilateral symmetry

having body symmetry such that the animal can be divided in one plane into two mirror-image halves. Animals with bilateral symmetry have dorsal and ventral sides, as well as anterior and posterior ends. Synapomorphy of the Bilateria.

chemical

uses smells or other chemicals to communicate

endothermic

animals that use metabolically generated heat to regulate body temperature independently of ambient temperature. Endothermy is a synapomorphy of the Mammalia, although it may have arisen in a (now extinct) synapsid ancestor; the fossil record does not distinguish these possibilities. Convergent in birds.

frugivore

an animal that mainly eats fruit

granivore

an animal that mainly eats seeds

herbivore

An animal that eats mainly plants or parts of plants.

iteroparous

offspring are produced in more than one group (litters, clutches, etc.) and across multiple seasons (or other periods hospitable to reproduction). Iteroparous animals must, by definition, survive over multiple seasons (or periodic condition changes).

mimicry

imitates a communication signal or appearance of another kind of organism

monogamous

Having one mate at a time.

motile

having the capacity to move from one place to another.

native range

the area in which the animal is naturally found, the region in which it is endemic.

nomadic

generally wanders from place to place, usually within a well-defined range.

oviparous

reproduction in which eggs are released by the female; development of offspring occurs outside the mother's body.

pet trade

the business of buying and selling animals for people to keep in their homes as pets.

scrub forest

scrub forests develop in areas that experience dry seasons.

seasonal breeding

breeding is confined to a particular season

sedentary

remains in the same area

sexual

reproduction that includes combining the genetic contribution of two individuals, a male and a female

social

associates with others of its species; forms social groups.

tactile

uses touch to communicate

terrestrial

Living on the ground.

tropical

the region of the earth that surrounds the equator, from 23.5 degrees north to 23.5 degrees south.

tropical savanna and grassland

A terrestrial biome. Savannas are grasslands with scattered individual trees that do not form a closed canopy. Extensive savannas are found in parts of subtropical and tropical Africa and South America, and in Australia.

savanna

A grassland with scattered trees or scattered clumps of trees, a type of community intermediate between grassland and forest. See also Tropical savanna and grassland biome.

temperate grassland

A terrestrial biome found in temperate latitudes (>23.5° N or S latitude). Vegetation is made up mostly of grasses, the height and species diversity of which depend largely on the amount of moisture available. Fire and grazing are important in the long-term maintenance of grasslands.

visual

uses sight to communicate

References

"Amazing Animals: Lovebird" (On-line). Science & Nature : Animals. Accessed November 11, 2006 at http://www.bbc.co.uk/nature/reallywild/amazing/lovebird.shtml.

Bannerman, D. 1953. The Birds of West and Equatorial Africa - Volume I. Birmingham, Great Britain: Kynoch Press.

Dickinson, E. 2003. The Howard and Moore Complete Checklist of the Birds of the World. New Jersey, United States of America: Princeton University Press.

Forshaw, J. 2006. Parrots of the World - An Identification Guide. Princeton, 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.

Hansell, M. 2000. Bird Nests and Construction Behaviour. United Kingdom: Cambridge University Press.

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.

Maclean, G. 1990. Ornithology for Africa. South Africa: University of Natal Press Pietermaritzburg.

Rauzon, M. 2001. Parrots Around the World. United States of America: Grolier.

Rogers, C. 1975. Encyclopedia of Cage and Aviary Birds. New York: Macmillian Publishing Co., Inc.

Soderburg, p. 1977. All About Lovebirds. Neptune City, New Jersey, United States of America: T.F.H. Publications, Inc.

Stattersfield, A., S. Butchart. 2004. "The IUCN Red List of Threatened Species: Species Information: Agapornis fischeri" (On-line). The IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. Accessed November 12, 2006 at http://www.iucnredlist.org/search/details.php/661/summ.

Teitler, R. 1979. Taming & Training Lovebirds. Neptune, New Jersey, United States of America: T.F.H. Publications, Inc. Ltd.

Vriends, D. 1978. Encyclopedia of Lovebirds and Other Dwarf Parrots. Neptune, New Jersey, United States of America: T.F.H. Publications, Inc.

Williams, J. 1963. A Field Guide to the Birds of East and Central Africa. Great Britain: Houghton Mifflin Company Boston : The Riverside Press Cambridge.