Masked lovebirds live primarily in grassland or lowland savannas, but are also found in woodlands with large numbers of baobab trees and acacias and in inland plateaus. Masked lovebirds require access to water in all habitats and regularly drink several times a day. They commonly occur between 1,100 to 1,800 meters in elevation. (Appleyard, 2001; Juniper and Parr, 1998; Perlo, 2009)
Masked lovebirds are strikingly beautiful, with a green body and a blackish-brown head and mask. They have a black throat with a lemon-yellow chest and collar, grey legs, a coral colored beak and a white ring marking their eyes. Except for the central pair, their tail feathers are mostly green, with a dull orange and blackish band. Their bright yellow collar and black face separate them from other lovebirds. Although masked lovebirds have no sub-species, they do have different color polymorphisms. One of the most recognizable morphs is the blue-masked lovebird, these birds have a deep blue body, white chest and color, and the same blackish-brown head and mask. Other color morphs have been seen but they are not common. This species is relatively small and stocky, with no sizable difference between the males and females. Variation in coloration is not seen between males and females, but is visible between immature and mature birds. Mature adults can range in mass between 30 and 60 grams, with an average mass between 50 and 55 grams. Their wingspan is between 90 and 98 mm, their tail can measure anywhere from 39 to 45 mm and their beak can measure between 16 and 19 mm, the average body length for these birds in 150 mm. Immature masked lovebirds look similar to mature adults, but their head and collar are duller in color. (Appleyard, 2001; Juniper and Parr, 1998; Perrin, 2008)
Masked lovebirds breed in pairs and maintain the same mate throughout their life. This coupling happens early in life, both in the wild and in captivity. During the breeding season, the behaviors of both male and female birds change. Males grow more agitated, while females are busy building a nest to rear young. The appetite of both sexes increases during this time. Males will bring food to the nest and feed their partner during courtship; these birds also preen each other during courtship. ("Masked Lovebird", 2013)
In the wild masked lovebirds are considered seasonal breeders, they breed during the dry season between the months of March and April, and June and July. They generally have one clutch per season, laying 3 to 8 eggs. In captivity these birds breed year-round. Their average clutch size is 5 to 6 eggs in both captivity and in the wild, with a greater chance of laying up to 8 eggs in captivity. Their incubation period is 23 days. Young lovebirds are largely independent of their parents two weeks after fledging, when they are about 44 days old. Both male and female masked lovebirds reach sexual maturity at 10 months of age. (Appleyard, 2001; "Masked Lovebird", 2013; Juniper and Parr, 1998)
During the breeding season, females initiate nesting in the hollows of trees. They carry materials, such as strips of bark and long stalks and weave them into a bulky, dome-shaped nest. These nests will maintain their shape, even if removed from the tree cavity. Females may also use the dome-shaped nests of other species in the wild. Egg incubation lasts 23 days. During the first six weeks after hatching, females feed the young until fledging. After the young birds leave the nest, males then take over the feeding of fledglings for an additional two weeks, or until the young birds reach independence. (Eberhard, 1998; "Masked Lovebird", 2013; Juniper and Parr, 1998; Kavanau, 1987)
The usual lifespan of masked lovebirds in captivity is 10 to 20 years of age. Their lifespan in the wild is not known. ("Masked Lovebird", 2013)
Masked lovebirds are very social. They received their common name, lovebird, because they preen and groom each other, especially their mates. Their pair bonds form early and persist throughout the course of their lives. Masked lovebirds travel mainly by flight and live in small flocks of 4 to 5 birds, but can sometimes be seen in flocks up to 100, although they tend to only move in small flocks, despite belonging to larger groups. While they are rather amiable birds, masked lovebirds can become aggressive with unfamiliar birds or rivals in the wild. In captivity, lovebirds may show signs of aggression when encountering an unfamiliar bird or human. (Appleyard, 2001; "Masked Lovebird", 2013; Juniper and Parr, 1998)
There is currently little information about the home range size of masked lovebirds.
Masked lovebirds have a high-pitched twittering call that is used in flight, or when perching, to communicate with conspecifics. One particular call used in the wild is known as the contact call. This is used when flock members want to locate other members and to keep in contact with one another. They usually sing in the morning and evening. Masked lovebirds have a thick, fleshy tongue that allows them to change the sound of their voices and articulate different sounds. This mechanism allows these lovebirds to mimic human voices in captivity; however, it is not particularly common. (Appleyard, 2001; "Masked Lovebird", 2013; Juniper and Parr, 1998)
Masked lovebird eat primarily seeds of trees and grasses including Acacia seeds, millet and sorghum, they also eat tree bark and crops. In captivity, they are fed a variety of seeds as well as mixed vegetables and some fruits. (Appleyard, 2001; "Masked Lovebird", 2013; Juniper and Parr, 1998; Perrin, 2008)
There is currently no known information available on the predation of masked lovebirds.
The microsporidian parasite, Encephalitozoon hellem, is passed through the fecal matter of birds and is believed to be potentially infectious to humans. Masked lovebirds are 25% more likely to carry this parasite than other birds tested. (Barton, et al., 2003)
Masked lovebirds do not play a major economic role; however, they are kept as cage birds due to their social and amiable behavior. (Appleyard, 2001)
Masked lovebirds are considered a crop pest because they feed on millet and corn in fields. (Appleyard, 2001)
Masked lovebirds are considered to be of least concern; they are not endangered or threatened at this time. (BirdLife International, 2012)
Kristen Weimer (author), Indiana University-Purdue University Fort Wayne, Mark Jordan (editor), Indiana University-Purdue University Fort Wayne, Leila Siciliano Martina (editor), Animal Diversity Web Staff.
living in sub-Saharan Africa (south of 30 degrees north) and Madagascar.
uses sound to communicate
Referring to an animal that lives in trees; tree-climbing.
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.
uses smells or other chemicals to communicate
used loosely to describe any group of organisms living together or in close proximity to each other - for example nesting shorebirds that live in large colonies. More specifically refers to a group of organisms in which members act as specialized subunits (a continuous, modular society) - as in clonal organisms.
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.
an animal that mainly eats seeds
An animal that eats mainly plants or parts of plants.
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).
Having one mate at a time.
having the capacity to move from one place to another.
the area in which the animal is naturally found, the region in which it is endemic.
reproduction in which eggs are released by the female; development of offspring occurs outside the mother's body.
the business of buying and selling animals for people to keep in their homes as pets.
breeding is confined to a particular season
remains in the same area
reproduction that includes combining the genetic contribution of two individuals, a male and a female
associates with others of its species; forms social groups.
uses touch to communicate
Living on the ground.
the region of the earth that surrounds the equator, from 23.5 degrees north to 23.5 degrees south.
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.
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.
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.
uses sight to communicate
breeding takes place throughout the year
Fort Wayne Children's Zoo. 2013. "Masked Lovebird" (On-line). Fort Wayne Children's Zoo. Accessed April 04, 2013 at http://kidszoo.org/our-animals/african-journey/masked-lovebird/.
Appleyard, V. 2001. The Lovebird Handbook. New York: Barron's Educational Series, Inc.
Barton, C., D. Phalen, K. Snowden. 2003. Prevalence of Microsporidian Spores Shed by Asymptomatic Lovebirds: Evidence for a Potential Emerging Zoonosis. Journal of Avian Medicine and Surgery, 17/4: 197-202.
BirdLife International, 2012. "www.iucnredlist.org." (On-line). IUCN Redlist of Threatened Species. Accessed August 01, 2013 at
Eberhard, J. 1998. Evolution of Nest-Building Behavior in Agapornis Parrots. The Auk, 115/2: 455-464.
Juniper, T., M. Parr. 1998. Parrots: A Guide to Parrots of the World. New Haven, Connecticut: Yale University Press.
Kavanau, J. 1987. Behavior and Evolution: Lovebirds, Cockatiels, Budgerigars. University of Minnesota: Science Software Systems.
Perlo, B. 2009. Birds of Eastern Africa. Princeton, New Jersey: Princeton University Press.
Perrin, M. 2008. Niche separation in African parrots. 12th Pan-African Ornithological Congress: 29-37.
Zimmerman, D., D. Turner, D. Pearson. 1996. Birds of Kenya and Northern Tanzania. New Jersey: Princeton University Press.