Agapornis roseicollisrosy-faced lovebird

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Geographic Range

Peach-faced or rosy-cheeked lovebirds (Agapornis roseicollis) have a range centered on the south-western portion of Africa. They inhabit the north-west corner of South Africa, through the western half of Namibia, and into the southwest corner of Angola. The area around Lake Ngami is quickly becoming populated by A. roseicollis due to natural range expansion. This species is kept as a cage bird in many parts of the world, including the United States and Japan. (De Grahl, 1984; Rowan, 1983)

Habitat

Agapornis roseicollis lives in dry regions near permanent standing water. Habitats used by this species include the outskirts of deserts and woodlands, and poorly wooded areas, as long as the few trees are located near water. Preferred regions vary from sea level to elevations over 1500 m. (Rowan, 1983)

  • Range elevation
    0 to 1500 m
    0.00 to 4921.26 ft

Physical Description

Agapornis roseicollis is widely regarded as one of the most beautiful lovebird species. These birds weigh about 55 g, and are 15 cm long. Females tend to be slightly heavier than males. Wingspans range from 98 mm to 102 mm in males, and 99 mm to 106 mm in females. The average wingspans for males and females are 99.6 and 102.6 mm, respectively.

This species shows age-related and, to a lesser extent, sexual variation in coloration. Males have rosy pink foreheads, chins, throats, upper breasts and cheeks. The remainder of the body is typically bright green, although the underside is slightly lighter. The feet are a mix of greenish-grey and the bill is horn-colored. The rump and the feathers covering the tail are bright blue; the tail feathers themselves are green with blue tips, and all but the central feathers have a black band with red patches toward the end. The females of this species are very similar but slightly duller in color.

The young initially have much paler faces than adults. Birghter feathers erupt after their first molt at around 4 months of age. Also, the upper mandible of young birds is black at first, only later becoming the horn-color common in adults.

There are two subspecies of A. roseicollis; these are A. roseicollis roseicollis, and A. roseicollis catumbella. Agapornis roseicollis catumbella can be recognized by its brighter colors. The throat is much redder with a touch of lavender. The green color is much deeper, and the rump is more purple than blue. The beak is also much different than that described above; it is white with green dots. Agapornis roseicollis catumbella is less common than A. roseicollis roseicollis, and it typically inhabits the small region of Benguela, an area of Angola.

A blue mutation occurs in both the wild and in captivity, although it is not particularly common. In captivity, several color mutations of this species have been selectively bred. (Rowan, 1983; Smith, 1979; Vriends, 1978)

  • Sexual Dimorphism
  • female larger
  • male more colorful
  • Range mass
    48 to 61 g
    1.69 to 2.15 oz
  • Average mass
    54.8 g
    1.93 oz
  • Average length
    15 cm
    5.91 in
  • Range wingspan
    98 to 102 mm
    3.86 to 4.02 in
  • Average wingspan
    99.6 mm
    3.92 in

Reproduction

In this species pair formation is very rapid and can occur at as early an age as two months. Pairs formed between siblings are not uncommon. Females are dominant and males wait for female approval before approaching. Females show this approval by assuming a fluffed position.

Males feed their mates during courtship. Because feeding is an important component of the interaction between mates, males use head bobbing, similar to the movement used in feeding, to attract females. Scratching is also used during courtship. A male will position himself near a female and scratch her head, especially the area around the beak and the beak itself. When a male is trying to approach a female, he creeps towards her in a sideways fashion known as sidling. If she appears aggressive, he tries to approach from the other side in a process known as switch sidling; however, if she seems receptive he continues sidling toward her. (Rowan, 1983)

Agapornis roseicollis has been observed to be a seasonal breeder in the wild, but in captivity can breed year-round. Its eggs are typically 23.5 x 17.3 mm. On average, 4 to 6 eggs are laid in one season. In captivity as many as 8 have been laid. Eggs hatch after about 23 days of incubation, and young fledge at about 43 days of age. The young begin to form pairs at around 2 months of age, and also begin to seek their own nests at this time. (Rowan, 1983)

  • Breeding interval
    Agapornis roseicollis is a seasonal breeder in the wild, and a year-round breeder in captivity. This has led some ornithologists to conclude that the species breeds when conditions are favorable, not at a specific time of the year.
  • Breeding season
    It is hypothesized, though not certain, that breeding takes place between February and May in the wild.
  • Range eggs per season
    4 to 6
  • Average time to hatching
    23.3 days
  • Average fledging age
    42.8 days
  • Average time to independence
    2 months
  • Average age at sexual or reproductive maturity (female)
    2 months
  • Average age at sexual or reproductive maturity (male)
    2 months

Eggs are laid every other day during the breeding season. Beginning when the first egg is laid, a female spends the majority of her time in the nest incubating the eggs. Males often bring their mates food during the period of incubation. The average incubation period is 23.3 days.

After the young hatch, a female regurgitates food brought to her by the male to feed the young. Food that the young eat has therefore been regurgitated twice. Starting midway through the nestling period, which lasts between 5 and 6 weeks, both parents feed the young directly.

Little is known about the behavior of wild A. roseicollis in regards to parental investment after fledging. In captivity, the young remain dependent upon the parents for two more weeks and frequently fly back to the nest to receive food; this happens for as long as the parents permit. When the young leave the nest, after around 42.8 days, they are fully feathered and able to fly.

Agapornis roseicollis shows variability in both nest choice and nest usage. In the wild, these birds commonly breed in the large, communal nests of sociable weavers. They also use the nests of white-browed sparrow-weavers. It is not known if A. roseicollis forces these other birds out of their nests or if they use vacated nests. In captivity A. roseicollis pairs build their own nests. A female prepares strips of bark by cutting them with her beak into relatively uniform shapes and sizes. To carry the bark to the nest site, a female tucks them into the feathers of her rump. Together the male and female build the nest in the shape of a deep cup using bark, leaves, and grass. (De Grahl, 1984; Rowan, 1983; Vriends, 1978)

  • Parental Investment
  • altricial
  • pre-fertilization
    • provisioning
    • protecting
      • female
  • pre-hatching/birth
    • provisioning
      • female
    • protecting
      • male
      • female
  • pre-weaning/fledging
    • provisioning
      • male
      • female
    • protecting
      • male
      • female
  • pre-independence
    • provisioning
      • male
      • female
  • post-independence association with parents

Lifespan/Longevity

The typical lifespan in captivity of A. roseicollis is 15 to 25 years. It is not known what limits the lifespan of this species. It is also not known what the typical lifespan in the wild is, although it is likely to be shorter than that seen in captivity. (De Grahl, 1984)

  • Range lifespan
    Status: captivity
    15 to 25 years

Behavior

Agapornis roseicollis is a very social bird. It tends to move around in flocks of at least 5, with typical groups sizes ranging between 5 and 20 birds. At times, usually when grass seeds ripen in their natural environment, groups of about 100 are not uncommon.

Movement is primarily by flight, but over short distances these birds prefer to walk or sidle sideways. This species has been recorded flying at 58 km/hr. Long flights are regularly interrupted by periods of gliding. Gliding periods are most often accompanied by a characteristic squawking sound. These birds can climb up vertical walls using feet and beak, often beating their wings rapidly to facilitate movement.

Allopreening and bathing are behaviors observed in these birds, but water bathing in this species is far less common than in other Agapornis species.

When cold, the birds fluff their feathers out and even huddle together in pairs or in groups of 4 or 5 in order to conserve heat.

Agapornis roseicollis sleeps at night and is active in the day. At night these love birds roost in the nests of the white-browed sparrow-weavers or of sociable weavers. (Rowan, 1983; Rowan, 1983; Vriends, 1978)

Communication and Perception

This lovebird makes a sharp screeching noise. This can be given as a single sound or as a series of squawks. This species also can make a soft, rasping mechanical noise by rubbing its mandibles together. Mates communicate for breeding purposes as discussed in the previous section on mating systems, using visual signals like bobbing. These birds also allopreen as a form of communication and to help maintain the pair bond. (Rowan, 1983)

Food Habits

Agapornis roseicollis typically feeds on seeds, especially seeds native to its habitat, such as those from Albizia and Acacia. It eats the seeds by either picking them off growing plants or by picking them up off the ground, then husking them rapidly using the tongue, mandible and the cutting edge of the maxilla. It feeds on flowers by plucking them from trees and clipping off the petals and stamens with the beak. This species is known to drink water several times per day in order to cope with the demands placed upon it by the hot, arid habitat in which it lives. (Rowan, 1983)

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

Predation

Agapornis roseicollis deals with predators by mobbing. As part of their mobbing behavior, individuals initially stand upright and squawk loudly. If the predator moves closer, they flap their wings wildly, holding their bodies erect, and increase their squawking to even higher-pitched squeaks. They also move toward the attacker as if to attack. If the predator does not back down, large groups of birds will attack. (Smith, 1979)

  • Known Predators
    • none known

Ecosystem Roles

Agapornis roseicollis has two known parasites. These are the ectoparasites Pellonyssus viator, a mite, and the feather louse Afrimenopon waar Amblycera. Other ways that this species affects its ecosystem are through its interactions with other species of birds, especially the ones whose nests it uses. As a result of its seed-based diet, A. roseicollis probably has some impact on plant ecology. (Rowan, 1983)

Commensal/Parasitic Species
  • Pellonyssus viator
  • Afrimenopon waar

Economic Importance for Humans: Positive

Agapornis roseicollis has little positive economic importance for humans apart from its popularity as a cage bird. This species is found all over the world as a pet, and its many color mutations and outgoing personality make it a favorite. A second, and more minor economic value, is tourism. People from around the world take trips to Africa, often to the area around Lake Ngami, now part of this species' territory, to see the beautiful wildlife. (De Grahl, 1984; Smith, 1979; Vriends, 1978)

Economic Importance for Humans: Negative

Agapornis roseicollis also has few negative affects on humans, with the notable exception of the damage it causes to farmers’ seed crops. It is an important pest on millet and other small-grained crops, which has led to a rapid population decline due of persecution by farmers trying to protect their crops. (Smith, 1979; Vriends, 1978)

  • Negative Impacts
  • crop pest

Conservation Status

Agapornis roseicollis is not currently considered a threatened or endangered species.

Other Comments

Agapornis roseicollis has a long history of being kept and bred in captivity, but it has not been widely studied in the wild. The first record the peach-faced lovebird in captivity is from 1869. (Smith, 1979)

Contributors

Nancy Shefferly (editor), Animal Diversity Web.

Pamela Rasmussen (editor, instructor), Michigan State University, Jessica Vonck (author), Michigan State University.

Glossary

Ethiopian

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

World Map

acoustic

uses sound to communicate

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

colonial

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.

desert or dunes

in deserts low (less than 30 cm per year) and unpredictable rainfall results in landscapes dominated by plants and animals adapted to aridity. Vegetation is typically sparse, though spectacular blooms may occur following rain. Deserts can be cold or warm and daily temperates typically fluctuate. In dune areas vegetation is also sparse and conditions are dry. This is because sand does not hold water well so little is available to plants. In dunes near seas and oceans this is compounded by the influence of salt in the air and soil. Salt limits the ability of plants to take up water through their roots.

diurnal
  1. active during the day, 2. lasting for one day.
ecotourism

humans benefit economically by promoting tourism that focuses on the appreciation of natural areas or animals. Ecotourism implies that there are existing programs that profit from the appreciation of natural areas or animals.

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.

forest

forest biomes are dominated by trees, otherwise forest biomes can vary widely in amount of precipitation and seasonality.

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).

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.

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.

polymorphic

"many forms." A species is polymorphic if its individuals can be divided into two or more easily recognized groups, based on structure, color, or other similar characteristics. The term only applies when the distinct groups can be found in the same area; graded or clinal variation throughout the range of a species (e.g. a north-to-south decrease in size) is not polymorphism. Polymorphic characteristics may be inherited because the differences have a genetic basis, or they may be the result of environmental influences. We do not consider sexual differences (i.e. sexual dimorphism), seasonal changes (e.g. change in fur color), or age-related changes to be polymorphic. Polymorphism in a local population can be an adaptation to prevent density-dependent predation, where predators preferentially prey on the most common morph.

riparian

Referring to something living or located adjacent to a waterbody (usually, but not always, a river or stream).

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.

visual

uses sight to communicate

References

De Grahl, W. 1984. The Parrot Family. New York: Arco Publishing, Inc.

Rowan, M. 1983. The Doves, Parrots, Louries and Cuckoos of Southern Africa. Claremont, South Africa: David Phillip.

Smith, G. 1979. Lovebirds and Related Parrots. London: Paul Elek Ltd.

Vriends, M. 1978. Encyclopedia of Lovebirds. Neptune, N.J.: T. F. H. Publications, Inc. Ltd.