Lovebirds are very popular parrots as pets because of their small size and large personality. If you are wondering what Peach Faced Lovebirds are really like and does a Peach Faced Lovebird make a good pet, then knowing a bit about what they are like in the wild may help answer your question. It was really exciting to get to see where their pet qualities come from during my trip to Namibia where I got to see Peach Faced Lovebirds in the wild.
Peach Faced, also known as Rosy Faced, Lovebirds (Agapornis roseicollis) are native to the southwest corner of Africa. Their habitat is woodland savanna bordering on semi-desert. It is a harsh dry climate where these birds come from. They have it pretty tough. These lovebirds go on various kinds of trees and on the ground. However, palm trees seem to be their favorite. They mainly stay in pairs and groups made up of pair units.
The birds stay in a more tight area (a lot like conures) going back and forth between their nesting trees and food sources, as opposed to Cape Parrots and other Poicephalus that make long commutes to food area. The Peach Faced Lovebirds are quite noisy chirping and calling to each other throughout the day. They definitely aren't shy and they make their presence known.
The boldness of the lovebirds is not just obvious by their calling and colors, they are bossy birds. They go after much larger birds to maintain their nesting and feeding areas. Lovebirds may be one of the smallest kinds of parrots but they act like they don't know this.
The wild behavior of these Peach-Faced Lovebirds should not be surprising to anyone who has seen them in captivity. They are high energy, active, bold, fairly aggressive birds in a small package. When considering lovebirds as pets, don't let their small size trick you into thinking that they are less trouble or require less responsibility. The only way their small size should impact your decision to get one should be that they can reside in a smaller space and that the overall costs are smaller (less food, smaller cage, smaller toys). Otherwise they can be aggressive, tough, noisy, and messy like any bigger parrot. In fact, it might be a surprise that a bird so small could create a presence of a much bigger bird.
In some ways, lovebirds can be more difficult to keep as pets and train than larger parrots. They tend to be more poorly raised. Breeders put less effort into providing individual care and taming as they crank out many small birds. They grow up more quickly so the "baby stage" may already be over by the time you even get to purchase a weaned baby. Chances are that almost any lovebird you get, young or old, it will be quite a wild bird. Not only will it be more wild but it will do this at a high pace. Keeping up with a hyper bird jumping and flying about won't make it easy to have it on you or in your hand.
However, lovebirds are very intelligent. They may well be more intelligent than other small parrots and parakeets like budgies, cockatiels, and even parrotlets. This intelligence does not mean that they will comply with you or cooperate. In fact, if anything, it will mean they are more shy of human contact. Being shy of human contact does not mean they won't have the boldness to attack. Like the lovebirds I observed in the wild (you will see in the video below), household lovebirds may try to attack and drive humans away. Not the best recipe for a pet.
The good news is that their intelligence makes lovebirds quite trainable. They are opportunistic and driven. So if you properly set up your home environment, balance their diet, and get involved in their training, they have potential just as any bigger bird to be a great companion. Lovebirds can learn quickly and be taught many tricks. All of the basic cued tricks taught on the TrainedParrot Blog (such as Target, Turn Around, Wings, and Fetch) can be taught to lovebirds. They can even be flight recall trained. I recommend that lovebird owners read my book, The Parrot Wizard's Guide to Well-Behaved Parrots to learn the effective application of training and how to get their lovebird to become a wonderful family pet.
Here's a video of my experience watching Peach Faced Lovebirds in the wild:
On a recent trip to South Africa, I had the amazing opportunity to see Cape Parrots in the wild. I also got to meet Sanjo from the Cape Parrot project to learn more about the project and about the wild Cape Parrots.
The South African Cape Parrots are restricted to a fairly small habitat, the subtropical cloud forests of the eastern Cape. It is a dense wet forest environment with frequent mist and rainfall. The temperatures are cooler because of the 3,000ft+ elevation. It can be fairly warm in the summer but in winter time, these birds can be dealing with below freezing conditions.
This is why it should be no surprise that it was very difficult to get to see them. Not only did we have to travel to a fairly remote part of South Africa, that was only the beginning! Their population is very small and they are quite hard to find. They are considered quite large for an African Parrot, however, they are still a medium parrot at best when you compare with Cockatoos and Macaws. Green parrot, green trees, misty forest, and a broad range makes them a tremendous challenge to see. They travel for many miles from roosting to feeding sites so there is only a brief span of time when you can see them where they live. At night they are sleeping and in the day time they are spread out feeding. Only in the early hours of morning and at dusk can you catch a glimpse of them heading out and coming back.
With the help of Sanjo from the Cape Parrot Project, we set out early in the morning looking for the birds. We woke up and were out by 5AM to catch them as the sun was rising. Unfortunately a thick fog blanketed the entire area. We drove to higher ground to break out of the fog but still could not find them. We walked around several places known to be visited by Capes before we so much as heard a single call from them. Following the calls we saw a small group flying and followed them to the tree they finally landed in. We were lucky to be standing in enough of a clearing to even see where they went. Standing in the forest, it would be impossible to track them.
It was a joy to watch flocks of Capes flying and to listen to their familiar calls. The beautiful South African Cape Parrots are truly a sight to behold. But finding and seeing them is extremely tricky. Although they stay in groups, they aren't quite a "flock bird." The trees they land on are high and dense. They aren't ostentatious like Conures and other parakeets I've seen in the wild. Nor are they shy like Senegal Parrots and other small Poicephalus. They really do fall somewhere in between. They are certainly more shy and prone to spook than other types of parrots but at the same time, they are the most courageous of the Poicephalus genus.
What does that mean? Well, in regards to how close you can approach them or how predictable their movements are, that is how I rank them to be somewhere in between. It was not impossible to get footage of them but it was quite difficult. You have to be very patient, know where to look, and be even more patient still. It took us hours of observation across two days to get to spend just about 15 minutes in their majestic presence. And then, as quickly as they had come, they were gone.
It was so exciting to watch the resemblance of these wild Cape Parrot to Truman, my pet Cape Parrot at home. I got to see preening, calling, and playing behavior in the wild Capes that was essentially identical to the behavior that Truman exhibits. It was just so familiar even though I had never seen a South African Cape in person before.
What is the difference between Truman and the Cape Parrots in South Africa? Truman is a different subspecies. He is definitely not the Poicephalus robustus robustus subspecies. He is one of the other two and most likely the Brown-Necked subspecies (Poicephalus robustus fuscicollis) which is endemic to the semi-rainforests of Sierra Leone region of West Africa. You will notice in the pictures that Truman's subspecies is a bit larger while the South African Cape Parrots have an olive yellow head. Otherwise, they do look the same.
The South African Cape Parrots are extremely rare to find in aviculture or captivity. The ones you find as pets in the US and Europe are of the Brown-Necked Fuscicollis or Grey-Headed Suahelicus subspecies. They are more similar to each other than to the South African Robustus Cape Parrot. We encountered one Robustus Cape at a bird park in Johannesburg and heard that there are a few breeders of them in South Africa. I have yet to see or hear of any Robustus Capes outside of South Africa.
There has been research done by South African researchers and the Cape Parrot project to reclassify the South African Cape Parrot (P. r. r.) as a separate species from the two northern subspecies. They hope that by naming it a separate species, it could end up on the endangered species list and receive CITES protection. However, even as of 2016, Bird Life International and the IUCN Redlist, have not accepted there to be sufficient evidence to name them separate species. Heck, the differences between Timneh and Congo Greys or between Jardine's Parrot subspecies are far more significant than between the most distant Capes.
The biggest difference between South African Cape Parrots and the other two subspecies are not in their appearance but in their living habits. The South African Capes rely almost religiously on the yellowwood tree. They refuse to nest in anything but natural cavities of the yellowwood tree and they also rely on it for food. Not only do they eat the seeds of the fruit of the yellowwood tree, it has been discovered that properties of the yellowwood fruit help give these birds an immune system boost that helps them battle a beak and feather disease epidemic. Their survival depends on the yellowwood tree for fighting disease as well as for feeding and nesting.
Still, regardless of classification, science, politics, or what you call it, the fact that the South African Cape Parrot is critically endangered still stands. There are fewer than 2,000 known South African Parrot Parrots remaining. Deforestation of their peculiar habitat, widespread disease, and some remaining poaching is making their survival questionable. The Cape Parrot Project is performing research to learn more about these birds in order to focus best efforts on their protection. A main focus is replanting yellowwood forests to protect the Capes' natural habitat. The Cape Parrot project receives funding through donations to the Wild Bird Trust.
Here is an interview with Sanjo about Capes and the Cape Parrot Project along with my footage of Cape Parrots in the wild:
In August, 2015 I traveled to Australia on honeymoon. We got to see many parrots and other animals around that beautiful country. This article is about the wild Cockatiels and Galahs we saw in the vicinity of Pine Creek in the Northern Territory.
We made two sightings of wild Cockatiels. The first was during lunch by the lake at Copper Dam. The distinct call of Nymphicus hollandicus came through the air as a handful of Cockatiels flew by. I followed them with my eyes as they landed in a dead tree across the lake.
Some more Cockatiels arrived and they congregated in the tree. There were around a dozen Cockatiels in total. They spent a few minutes in the tree alternating circling flights with rest. Cautiously, several Cockatiels flew down to the shoreline. A few quick steps and they were wading at the waters edge. More came down to join them. They didn't spend a whole five seconds on the ground before they took flight back to the safety of their tree. The same Cockatiels repeated this drinking endeavor at least three more times.
Most of the cocktail party departed but a few Cockatiels stayed for a nap in the tree. The Cockatiels were too far and too quick when flying for water, so I was not able to get any video of the process. But here's a video of them in the tree and a photo of them getting a drink.
The second encounter with Cockatiels came on the morning of the following day. Driving from Pine Creek back to Darwin, we spotted Cockatiels foraging on the ground by the road side. I approached them slowly but it was disturbing their feast. I couldn't get close enough to get footage and a few steps closer and they flew off into a nearby tree. Much like the Cockatiels at Copper Dam, these birds were very cautious on the ground.
The birds spooked and went into the tree. I took this as an opportunity to get closer and station my gear hoping they would come back. They watched from their high vantage point for the danger to subside. A few brave birds came down first and then the rest followed. I would discover that I wasn't the only reason they'd take off to the tree. Every few minutes, the whole flock would fly back to the tree for a bit before coming back.
What was even more interesting than watching Cockatiels feeding on the ground was to discover that Galahs were amongst them! The two different species of Cockatoos would remain in their own distinct factions, but in very closer proximity to each other. In fact, when the flock would launch, they would both fly back to the same tree together.
There were about two dozen Cockatiels for the half dozen Galahs. The large flock was visibly subdivided into smaller group units. We could hear Red Tailed Black Cockatoos in the distance but they did not mingle with the Galahs and Tiels.
The Cockatiels scurry around the ground on quick legs. Some birds look up while others have their heads down eating. But here's a fascinating thing. They are absolutely quiet while eating on the ground. It makes perfect sense, but it is the polar opposite of the endless Cockatiel chatter you hear when they are flying or perching.
It was an amazing experience to get to see these birds in the wild and what they do. It makes me appreciate them even more as pets and I hope that we can learn a bit from their wild habits and apply that knowledge toward making our homes an even better place for them.
Did you know that there are wild parrots living in the United States? Since the extinction of the Carolina Parakeet there are no native parrot species to the US. However, there are several populations of feral parrots once brought over as pets.
In Brooklyn, New York, there are several populations of feral Monk Parakeets - Myiopsitta monachus - also known as Quaker Parrots. Legend has it that around 1967, a shipment of Monk Parakeets got accidentally released at JFK airport and was the foundation of the urban psittacine population. Lost or released pet quakers may have also joined up with those flocks. Since then, the parrots have bred and multiplied.
But life is no walk in the park for these lean green parrots! For a non-migratory tropical bird to survive the cold New York winter's is nearly miraculous. The Monk Parakeets are the only parrot species known to be able to survive these freezing winters because of their instinct to build communal nests. Not only that, they have learned to build these nests on power transformers and make use of a little free heating without paying a bill! The power company despises the destruction caused by these birds but some New York natives stand up for them and ensure they are allowed to survive.
I have heard that some city residents try to capture the parakeets to keep as pets. Since they are non-native, I don't think there is any law stopping them. However, bird watchers and fans of the parakeets do their best to stop this perhaps not illegal, but certainly undesirable poaching.
I wanted to see how the parakeets were doing after one of the coldest New York winters I can remember. On a brisk spring day, I headed to one of the locations the parakeets frequent. I was happy to hear their calls and discover that they had made it through the cold. But besides cold and humans, the parrots have yet another enemy to their survival!
While shooting footage of the Monk Parakeets going about their normal parrot business, we managed to catch a slow motion video of a Cooper's Hawk capturing a Quaker Parrot straight out of a tree! It happened in the blink of an eye, but the green color of the Hawk's victim was unmistakable! As the attack occurred, the rest of the flock scattered in all directions. It took at least ten minutes until any of the other birds had courage to come back to the same tree.
The mature Cooper's Hawk flew onto a roof with its catch but later came back to the same tree while still holding its prey. An observation I have made of the hawks that only occasionally visit this city is that they tend to stay in the natural environments (like parks and trees) and avoid excessively urban places. The hawk's red eyes were a firey blaze while the lifeless green bird dangled in its talons.
I recently was on a trip to northeast South America and the Caribbean which involved visiting five countries in six days so it was very intense. This is a brief story about the trip and the parrots I got to see in the wild there. I went on this trip with my dad while my brother took care of the parrots at home.
Shortly after arriving in Guyana, we boarded a Cessna 206 Stationair for a private charter flight to the Kaieteur Falls. This spectacular waterfall is four times higher than the Niagra Falls and considered to be the largest single drop waterfall in the world. But unlike the Niagra Falls and so many other popular destinations, this waterfall is located in a remote part of an even remoter country so it is seen by few. What was most amazing was the ability to walk right up to the cliff's edge or stand amidst the waterfall without any regulation, safety ropes, or anyone around. Truly a remarkable experience.
From Kaiteur we flew on to nearby Orinduik Falls not more than 20 minutes away. However, unlike the Kaieteur which flows into the Atlantic, the Orinduik flows into the Amazon! The Orinduik Falls is not so much a single waterfall but a series of cascades. The cool thing is that it's possible to walk around the falls and my dad rolled up his pants and did just that. I stayed behind to video in case he slipped and fell cause it would give me more youtube fodder but unfortunately he managed to stay dry.
Upon returning to Georgetown, the capital city, we spent the remaining part of the day walking around. The impoverished littered streets display a fading glory of the once prevalent British colonial influence. We spotted a pet shop that was just closing up but they held off a bit to let us see their parrots. For sale they had Budgies, Cockatiels, and some locally wild caught Amazon Parrots. While the IUCN regulates export and trade of parrots, it really does next to nothing to stop local trapping and sale of wild parrots in these types of countries. A wild caught Amazon Parrot sells for a mere $40 including a shabby wire cage meant for a Budgie.
The same day as we got to Guyana we were gone. We flew to neighboring Suriname and arrived to Paramaribo well after dark. The Dutch influence on their former colony is apparent in the architecture and canals. We walked all about the city and visited Fort Zeelandia. After a short drive we walked about the New Amsterdam Open Air Museum which is the remains of the old Dutch fort that occupied that area. Besides relics and the botanical decor, I caught my first glimpse of wild parrots on this trip. The little green birds on the ground turned out to be Green Rumped Parrotlets. They blend in perfectly both in color and size to the leaves of the plants they land on. They actively forage on the ground and in the low grasses but fly up high into trees when disturbed. They were moving about alone or in pairs but joined a flock of closer to twenty when they took off.
We continued to the town of Zanderij while passing an abandoned rum distillery. With sunset approaching, the town was alive with endless bird chatter. Among the calls was the unmistakable shrill call of conures and sure enough there was an entire flock of them amidst the trees and shrubs in the field of the town center. Every so often they would zoom across the field and land in a tree on the other side. In the distance I caught glimpse of a toucan with it's enormous beak fly between some taller trees. It was difficult to see the conures and catch a photo of them because every time I would walk within range, they would fly away. I finally chose a new strategy by staying put at the location of what seemed to be their favorite tree. The long patient wait paid off because all at once they raised the entire flock of over 30 and flew a few laps of the field before coming to the tree I was waiting by. What a show they put on as they hopped from branch to branch foraging and allopreening. I identified the species as the Brown-Throated Conure, also known as the St Thomas Conure. Almost certainly this was the Suriname subspecies, Aratinga pertinax surinama. The audible volume diminished as though it was set on a dimmer switch connected to the sun as it set. The Conures were gone and so were we.
The following morning we had to leave by 4AM in order to rush to the border to catch the 8AM ferry. After crossing immigration control we found out we could just as well use one of the local long boats instead of waiting for the ferry to set off and thus we went across the border with the locals to French Guiana. After a mishap with the car rental, we were finally off and making haste across Guiana to reach the European Space Agency in time for our preorganized tour of the facility. On the road I caught a glimpse of a green bird flying between trees and just bigger than Truman and with round wings. It must have been an Amazon parrot because I don't anything else that big, round winged, and green!
We made it to the space center just in time and got to see the launch sites where the European Space Agency takes advantage of the equatorial position for launching unmanned rockets into space orbit. Afterward we continued to the capital city of Cayenne and made it before sunset to see the city. Cayenne was by far the most touristy city of the trip with its countless souvenir shops, fine restaurants, and white people on the streets. This remote department of France is a fairly popular travel destination for the French. What was interesting was that most of the gift shops had depictions of parrots on their signs and sold many parrot themed souvenirs from paintings to towels. I guess tourists have to settle for the pictures because there aren't many parrots to be seen in Guiana. We had dinner in a restaurant called Hippo but couldn't figure out why it's called that until we walked out stuffed like one.
Parrot cookbook featuring 30 delicious ways to prepare those Guiana parrot delicacies
The next destination was the Caribbean island of Guadeloupe which is also considered a part of France. The island produces rum, bananas, and is a fairly popular resort destination. We did not spend any time at resorts though as we made haste to drive all around the two parts that make up the island.
As the finale of the voyage, we ventured to the western half of the island Hispaniola known as Haiti. Haiti is the poorest nation in the Western Hemisphere and this is apparent. In fact, visiting Haiti made me feel like I was back in Africa. Although I would not compare Haiti to the poorest of Africa but somewhere in the middle. To add insult to injury, the country was devastated by a tremendous earthquake that leveled the region back in 2010. While some sections of Port Au Prince were largely unaffected, the devastation is apparent in the city center. Many buildings are shattered and abandoned. People have reverted to selling in street markets instead of stores in the buildings. Virtually all trade is thus done outdoors. There still remain some humanitarian services but not even close to the amount that occupy countries such as The Republic of Congo or East Timor that possibly need them far less. Still, the local people seem to carry on with their lives.
My parrots were excited as usual when I returned and were well behaved in my absence. My brother reported that Kili did not even bite him once while I was gone. Surprisingly Truman was the one that was giving more trouble, although not biting by any means. With a lot of training, socialization, and patience, Kili has gotten past that stage of adolescence while Truman is just moving into it.