If you love the bold personality of an Amazon parrot, but you're not sure you can deal with a bigger bird, consider a pet lovebird. If you're willing to learn how to care for them and don't mind an occasional nip to remind you who's really in charge, lovebirds make intriguing, albeit challenging, pets.
Do Lovebirds Make Good Pets?
Lovebirds are a little different from most pet birds, so it's important to understand their typical personality before you decide if they're the right species for you.
General Lovebird Personality and Temperament
Lovebirds can make wonderful pets, but they tend to be more feisty/aggressive than a parakeet or cockatiel. They have tons of personality, and they can be extremely affectionate with the people they bond with. They can also be rather cantankerous, so they're a better choice for someone who already has some experience keeping birds.
Keeping a Lovebird Tame
Most lovebirds birds won't remain tame unless you spend time handling them each day. It's usually best to start out with a hand-fed baby lovebird that is fully weaned and spend some time talking to it and holding it while you gently stroke its feathers. Tame birds adore attention, but if you fail to make time for them, they can become nippy and may eventually refuse to let you handle them at all.
Lovebird Singles or Pairs
The traditional perception of lovebirds is that they have to live in pairs, primarily because two bonded birds will sit close and preen each other. However, a single lovebird can live happily on its own if it has the opportunity to bond with its owner.
As a rule of thumb, two lovebirds that bond to each other may not be as friendly toward their human companion. If you want a lovebird to bond closely with you, it's usually better to keep one as a single pet. If you don't feel the need to handle your lovebird, consider keeping two together to prevent loneliness.
Aggression Can Be an Issue With Lovebirds
Lovebirds are sometimes prone to aggression, so they shouldn't be housed with other species. They will often attack new lovebirds introduced to their cage as well, so it's best to let potential cage mates get used to each other in side-by-side cages before you try keeping them together.
Males Lovebirds Generally Make Better Pets
Although there are always exceptions, males tend to stay tamer than females. Females are the more aggressive sex of the species, and they often become quite nippy when they reach sexual maturity.
Lovebird Physical Characteristics
There are nine different species of lovebirds. Lovebirds that are typically found available as pets are the Fischer, masked and peach-faced lovebirds. All three of these species are small-sized birds and are about 5 to 6-1/2 inches long. They look different from other small parrots like parakeets due to their short, rounded tail feathers and stocky frames.
- Fischer's lovebirds are known for their bright coloring, with an orange head and chest, green body, wings and tail feathers, red beak and a distinctive white ring around their eyes.
- Peach-faced lovebirds come in several color combinations and in fact, along with parakeets, they come in more colors than other parrot species. Some colors you can find in peach-faced lovebirds include shades of peach (obviously!), blue, cream, violet, green and yellow.
- Masked lovebirds get their names from the dark black coloring around their faces and head. They have the white ring around their eyes and red beaks like Fischer's lovebirds. Their body coloring can include violet, blue, yellow, green, white, and black.
Housing a Lovebird
Every lovebird needs a safe, spacious home. The following guidelines will give a better idea of what your new pet needs.
Rectangular cages are best because they offer space for a lovebird to fly back and forth as it would naturally do if it lived out in the wild. A cage that measures 30" L x 18" W x 18" H is a good minimum size for one or two lovebirds, but you can go with a larger cage as long as the bar spacing is no wider than five-eighths of an inch.
Lovebirds need a good night's rest of about 10 to 12 hours, so cover the cage at night to block out light.
The ideal size range for a lovebird's perch is three-fourths to one and one-half inches. It's best to use several hardwood perches that aren't easily chewed, as well as one cement conditioning perch to keep the nails and beak trimmed.
Toys for Lovebirds
Lovebirds have quick little minds, and they're very active. They need a lot of toys to keep them busy, or they'll chew up inappropriate items like plastic food dishes and perches, and anything else they can reach.
- Wooden toys: Lovebirds are voracious chewers, so always make sure they have plenty of wooden toys. Manzanita and willow toys offer these birds a good challenge.
- Shredding toys: Toys made from yucca, coconut shell, and palm leaves are big favorites with lovebirds. A breeding pair will even use the shreds as nesting material for their nest box.
- Swings: Lovebirds enjoy spending time swinging, and it's not unusual for bonded birds to share a swing.
- Acrylic toys: Acrylic is very difficult for a lovebird to chew, so it's good to have at least one bird toy made from this material in your bird's cage so he'll always have something to play with when he shreds his other toys to pieces.
A Healthy Lovebird Diet
According to the Lafeber Vets, lovebirds can eat the same seed mix as cockatiels, but seed should be a small portion of their diet. Fresh foods and pellet food provide better nutrition than seed, and should be the mainstay of a healthy diet.
Offer your pet about two tablespoons of lovebird or cockatiel pellets, and one to two teaspoons of seed mix each day.
Safe Foods for Your Lovebird
Feed approximately one-fourth cup of freshly chopped organic vegetables and a little fruit each day. Feed these foods first thing in the morning when your lovebird is most hungry and discard any leftovers in the afternoon.
Safe foods include, but are not limited to:
- Green beans
- Sweet potatoes
- Swiss chard
You can also feed a little cooked egg a couple of times a week for additional protein.
A lovebird's grooming needs are fairly simple.
Bathing and Routine Trimming
Lovebirds love to bathe and will often take a dip in their water dishes right after you give them fresh water. You can give your pet a separate bowl of water to bathe in if you want to try to save his drinking water. You may also need to have your avian vet trim your pet's toenails and beak occasionally unless you equip the cage with a cement perch.
Wing trimming is a bit controversial, but it can lessen the chance of your pet escaping if you give him time out of his cage. There's a delicate balance between trimming just enough flight feathers to hamper full flight and trimming too many and causing your pet to crash and injure himself. For this reason, it's usually best to let your vet take care of trimming so it's done correctly.
Hopefully your pet will never have any serious health issues, but some routine veterinary care can keep things on the right track.
Lafeber Vet recommends a complete work up on newly acquired lovebirds, followed up by yearly check ups. Birds that show signs of illness, such as staying on the bottom of the cage, not eating, acting lethargic, or any other abnormal behavior should be examined by an avian veterinarian immediately.
Psittacine Beak and Feather Disease
Lovebirds are especially susceptible to Psittacine Beak and Feather Disease (PBFD). This contagious, often fatal viral infection causes feather abnormalities and abnormal beak growth, but the disease can also affect the brain and liver, as well as suppress the immune system. Many birds die from secondary infections before the primary disease runs its course.
Unfortunately, there is currently no cure for the disease, but scientists are trying to develop a vaccine. Testing for PBFD should be part of a lovebird's initial veterinary work up.
Training a Lovebird
Lovebirds can be trained to sit on your hands, "talk" and make sounds, and do other fun tricks. They are highly intelligent and social and are great candidates for clicker training. Some typical tricks that owners teach their lovebirds include stepping up, spinning, lifting a wing (waving) and ringing bells.
How Much Do Lovebirds Cost?
Lovebirds are not as expensive as some other types of birds such as larger parrots. You can purchase a lovebird for about $40 to $130 and pricing will vary based on whether they are hand-raise or parent-fed. Harder to find species may also cost a bit more. It's possible to find lovebirds available in some animal shelters and rescues.
Cost of Owning a Lovebird
In addition to the fee for your lovebird or birds, you will need to factor in the costs for necessary equipment and supplies:
- A cage which can average between $170 to $300, such as the A&E Company Flight Bird Cage on the lower price range and the Midwest Homes for Pets Nina Dometop Bird Cage on the high end.
- Cage supplies such as food and water feeders. A typical feeder such as the All Living Things Quick Lock Bird Crock is about $10 and these can be used for seed and water.
- Food is a regular cost to consider. A four-pound bag of Kaytee FDPH Feather Conure/Lovebird Bird Food runs about $15 and will last you about two to three months for one bird (assuming you feed your bird 1/8 cup per day).
- You will also need to factor in the cost of veterinary visits. Price out avian veterinarians in your area to find out about their typical fees for office visits.
Lovebirds Are a Real Commitment
Spend time talking to breeders and getting to know their lovebirds before you decide whether to bring one home. These little parrots can potentially live 15 to 20 years if you take good care of them, so be sure you can provide everything your little pet will need to live a long and healthy life.