A guide to Pet Masked Lovebirds

Agapornis personatus

There are nine species of Lovebirds (Agapornis) worldwide, four of which are available in Australia. This page will be dedicated to the Masked Lovebird but will also offer a brief overview of all species available in Australia.

Masked Lovebirds or Yellow-Collard Lovebirds are spritely small parrots from Northeast Tanzania, Africa. They make excellent companion birds given they are correctly handled and raised. All Lovebirds are known for their aggressive tendencies towards their own kind, although will form a strong "love" bond with their chosen mate. 

Inquisitive, intelligent and strong willed Masked Lovebirds are best suited to teenagers or adults. We consider Masked Lovebirds to be hard feather companions; meaning they are not a cuddly "hands on" bird like a Cockatiel or Conure. They enjoy their space and are just happy to snuggle into a collar or pocket and watch the world go by. Well socialised Masked Lovebird can be kept with other species such as Cockatiels or Conures in a companion situation, although we do recommend separate housing.

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What we (Queenslander Aviaries) feed our Masked Lovebirds:

  • Staple pelleted diet – Vetafarm Nutriblend Mini Pellet, Vetafarm Parrot Essentials Pellet. Ratios are changed during times of breeding. Pellets are offered 24 hours a day;
  • Sprouted seed – Adzuki, Barley, Black Eye, Black Turtle, Blue Peas, Corn, Linseed, Mung, Northern, Soya, Wheat and small amounts of Sunflower. Ratios are changed during times of breeding;
  • Fruits, Vegetables and Cooked Foods – Corn, Celery, Apple, Kale, Apple and seasonal others. See safe foods; and
  • All our birds are offered cuttlebone, mineral blocks, fine grit, egg/ biscuit and the occasional millet spray and nuts.

Pellets:

We feed all our birds the Vetafarm brand of pellets. We have used this brand with confidence for many years. Consumption and waste are easier to manage as they are much cleaner. We have the peace of mind knowing our birds are getting all the necessary vitamins, minerals, amino acids and essential oils. We recommend feeding; Vetafarm Nutriblend Mini and Parrot Essentials.

Seed:

If you feed a seed diet, ensure the mix is varied, clean and nutritionally balanced. We highly recommend Birdzone Small Parrot Blend. If you want to change a young Lovebirds staple diet (e.g. from seed to pellets), wait at least six months.

Supplements:

All Lovebirds should have access to cuttlebone, grit and a mineral block; you can purchase these at any good pet or bird store. If you own a female Masked Lovebird cuttlebone or a calcium block is essential to avoid egg binding and bone deficiencies.

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Safe Plants and Branches:

Masked Lovebirds LOVE palm leaves. Fresh or dried always ensure they have not sprayed with harmful chemicals. Golden Cane and Alexandria are readily available and safe. Eucalyptus, Lillypilly and Bottlebrush also make excellent perches. See list of safe plants

Fruit and Vegetables:

They can be picky when it comes to eating their greens. Celery, Spinach, Kale, Corn, Apple, Passionfruit and Chilli are all relished by our Masked Lovebirds.

Choosing a Cage:

Buy the biggest most practical cage you can afford, preferably the cage should be new, if second-hand it should be thoroughly disinfected with bird safe cleaner. Good quality cages have stands, metal seed catches and some styles have an open top. 

Be cautious when selecting a cage, they are excellent at escaping. Bar spacing is critical; we recommend no wider than 12mm. Use a peg to secure slide up doors as they quickly learn to open them.  The minimum size cage would be 50cm x 50cm. 

Perches:

If you buy a cage that comes with smooth dowel or plastic perches, throw them in the bin. Natural wood with varied widths and textures will help exercise the feet and keep toes nails short. 

Eucalyptus, Bottle-brush and Lillypilly are safe as long as they have not been sprayed with dangerous chemicals. You can also buy readymade mineral perches that are also suitable to use. Do not use sand perches; these will damage your lovebird's feet.

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Perches:

If you buy a cage that comes with smooth dowel or plastic perches, throw them in the bin. Natural wood with varied widths and textures will help exercise the feet and keep toes nails short. 

ucalyptus, Bottle-brush and Lillypilly are safe as long as they have not been sprayed with dangerous chemicals. You can also buy readymade mineral perches that are also suitable to use. Do not use sand perches; these will damage your lovebird's feet.

Overcrowding:

Lovebirds should have enough room to turn around, stretch their wings and fly a small distance freely. Don’t overcrowd the cage with toys.

Fabric/Rope:

Masked Lovebirds are notorious for ingesting fabric, do not use rope toys, perches or seed catches.

Cleaning:

Cages should be cleaned weekly with a bird safe disinfectant. We use and recommend Vetafarm Avicare and F10 disinfectant. Newspaper is fine to use in cage trays.

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Wing Clipping:

Deciding to clip your Lovebirds wings is entirely up to the situation in which you want to keep it. If the Lovebird is a teenagers pet or you live in a multi-pet household, clipping would be ideal. Fully flighted Lovebirds are strong flyers and can easily slip through an open door or window. 

NEVER have an inexperienced person or vet clip your Lovebirds wings. Incorrect wing clipping can result in injuries and damaged feathers. Both wings should be clipped but still allow the bird to glide to the ground, not fall directly. We recommend an Avian Vet clip your Lovebirds wings.

Nail Clipping:

Calcium and natural wood perches should help keep your Lovebirds toenails trim. If not, ask your local vet or pet store to cut them for you. Cut in a similar fashion to that of a dog's nail, just enough of the end to avoid cutting the quick. If bleeding occurs dip the toe in flour, this should help stop the flow. 

Dangers Around the Home:

Toilets, sinks, flower vases, dishwashers, washing machines, stove tops and other household appliances are all potentially dangerous. If your Lovebird is having some out of cage play time, they must be supervised at all times.

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Bathing:

Lovebirds LOVE a bath. You should offer a shallow bowl of water for your Lovebird to bath in at least once a week especially in the warmer months. If you cannot accommodate that type of bathing method you can also use a fine mist spray bottle, these can be purchased from most grocery/hardware stores cheaply. NEVER re-use old spray bottles that you have previously used for chemicals.

hower perches are a great way for Masked Lovebird to bath. They usually have suction cups that can be pushed onto tiles or a shower screen. NEVER leave your Masked Lovebird unsupervised when using a show perch. Shower perches can be purchased at any good pet or bird store.

Toys:

Toys are a great way to keep your Lovebird entertained when you’re not around. Providing appropriate foraging toys will also help reduce boredom related behaviour problems like screaming or feather picking.

We do not recommend using rope or fabric toys for Lovebirds; they are notorious for ingesting fibres that will eventually block their digestive tract.

Foraging Toys: In the wild they spend hours a day foraging for food; this is a natural behaviour you can replicate by offering toys designed to keep them stimulated for hours. Rotating foraging toys will help keep them guessing, swap foraging toys every week.

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Happy Hut Alternatives:

Lovebirds will chew anything put in their cage, hence Happy Huts are not suitable. Alternatives made from natural untreated seagrass mats are safer. You can buy them with attached toys from any good pet or bird store.

Fruit Kabob Holder:

A fantastic way to hang your Lovebirds favourite fruits and vegetables. Easy to clean and can be hung in hard to reach places for added stimulation.

Worming:

All birds are susceptible to intestinal worms. We recommend and use Vetafarm Wormout Gel, repeating treatment every three months. Prevention is better than cure, combining your worming and mite control routine it will ensure you never forget.

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Mites and Lice are harmless to humans, but an infested Lovebird may show signs of feather damage or constant irritation.

Parasites:

All birds are susceptible to parasites; Lovebirds should be treated every three months with a Mite and Lice Spray. We recommend and use Vetafarm Avian Insect Liquidator. Always spray the Lovebirds on a warm day and ensure you spray under the wings and tail. Vetafarm Avian Insect Liquidator is also safe to use on cages and has an Insect Growth Regulator to prevent mites and lice breeding.

 

Sexing Lovebirds

It is impossible to sex young Lovebirds without a DNA test. Mature birds over one year can be pelvic sexed.

  1. Secure the lovebird in one hand, laying on its back in your hand;

  2. Feel just below the legs for two small bumps; these are the pelvic bones; 

  3. Females will have a significant gap between these bumps to allow eggs to pass and a male will usually have two bumps close together or touching.

Although this method is not 100% accurate, it is the most common and recommended technique of sexing Masked Lovebirds. 


Choosing a Pet Masked Lovebird

If you decide a Masked Lovebird would best suit your lifestyle, it is best to buy one that is hand-raised, meaning they are raised to be tame companions. Choosing the healthiest most active bird is not all you will be looking for, use the guide below to help you through the process.

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  • Allow enough time to observe the Lovebirds in their cage; this is where they are most comfortable and will show their true colours;

  • Always ensure they are fully weaned (eating independently, no formula). At least two weeks from weaning is ideal. If you observe the Lovebirds eating in their cage, that is a good sign. Don’t be tempted to buy a young Lovebird that is not weaned correctly or too young as it will only end in disaster;

  • Look for a bright, active and tight feathered Lovebird. Don’t choose the mutation (colour) over the overall look of the bird. If the bird shows particular interest in you and has bright, clean eyes, clean beak (mouth) and vent (bum), this would be the best Lovebird to consider taking home;

  • Whenever buying a Lovebird, take particular interest in their living conditions. Cages should be clean, brightly lit and have no smell. Any animal kept in overcrowded, damp or dirty conditions are more susceptible to disease and a sign of poor husbandry;

  • Request as much information about the bird from the breeder/hand raiser/staff including exactly the brand food they are feeding, health routine (worming, etc.), age and any temperament observations. Any good breeder/hand raiser/staff will have some idea of each Lovebirds temperament;

  • Never buy a hand raised bird you have not handled. Every bird has their likes/dislikes and personality. A good hand raised Lovebird will sit on your hand/shoulder with little fear and is also a good time to inspect the birds physical condition; eyes/beak/feet/vent;

  • Always ensure you buy the exact brand of food whether it be seed or pellets that the Lovebird is currently eating. Staying on the same diet will ensure a smooth transition to its new home and reduce the risk of the Lovebird regressing and unnecessary stress. NEVER change the diet of a young Lovebird, if you want to change the staple diet (e.g. from seed to pellets) wait at least six months;

  • Ensure you have the necessary accessories before picking up your new Lovebird. If you are buying a Lovebird from a breeder or store that does not sell accessories, ask what brand of food they are feeding beforehand and have it ready; and

  • When transporting your new bird home ensure they are properly contained, most good pet stores will sell bird transport cages/boxes;


Masked Lovebird Shopping List

Please note: These products are recommended when buying a Masked Lovebird from Queenslander Aviaries.

Essentials:

  • Vetafarm Parrot Essentials Pellets
  • Vetafarm Nutriblend Mini Pellets
  • Birdzone Soft Soak/Sprouting blend
  • Vetafarm Wormout Gel (Worming Gel)
  • Vetafarm Avian Insect Liquidator (Mite and Lice Spray)
  • Cuttlebone or Mineral Block
  • Cage

Recommended:

  • Millet Spray (Treat)
  • Calcium Perch
  • Vetafarm Avicare Cage Cleaner
  • Vetafarm Deli Stock (Best of both worlds - not the seed type)
  • Play Gym or Stand
  • Shower Perch or clean new spray bottle
  • Grey-Stripe Sunflower seed for foraging toys
  • Birdzone Nuts and Seeds Little Bits for foraging toys

Toys and Enrichment – Toys are rotated every week

NO ROPE OR FABRIC TOYS

Week 1

  • 1 x Foraging Toy
  • 2 x All day Toys
  • 1 x Chewable Toy

Week 2

  • 1 x Foraging Toy
  • 2 x All day Toys
  • 1 x Chewable Toy

Everyday:

  • 1 x Sea Grass Hut
  • 1x Foraging tray to go on a play gym or stand

*Information offered here is to provide guidance and is not intended to be a substitute for the good advice provided by your own avian vet. When in doubt always consult your own veterinarian.

Attribution: Marked Photo Credit RMAP: Rob Maybin Agapornis Personatus