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Abyssinian Lovebird

Common Names: Abby, Black Winged Lovebird
Scientific Name: Agapornis taranta
Origin: Ethiopia, Eritrea
Relative Size: 6 1/2 inches
Weight: 55-60 grams
Average Lifespan: 10-20 years
Egg Clutch: 2-4 white eggs
Incubation: 24 days
Talking Ability: Poor

Abyssinian Lovebird

General Information about Abyssinian Lovebirds

Most lovebirds are bright and often look as if they have been touched by the colors of a rainbow; however, Abyssinians are quite the opposite. Their color is often simple but yet elegant. These tiny parrots have dark green bodies and dark green wing covers. The primary flight feathers are black, thus giving this parrot another popular name - the Black Winged Lovebird. Their rump feathers are a lighter green color with a black-tipped tail. Their beaks are red and their feet are charcoal colored.

Unlike most lovebirds, these birds are sexually dimorphic. This simply means that males and females can be easily told apart. Males have a bright red forehead and a red ring that circles their eyes. Females lack these markings but are just as attractive.

Young juvenile Abyssinians will have orange beaks when they first fledge. After a few weeks the beaks change to their standard red color. Only when the birds have reached eight to nine months will the juveniles start to attain their adult plumage.

Abyssinian Lovebirds are large compared to other lovebirds. In fact, they are the largest of the lovebird species. Most Abyssinians are about six and half inches; however, they can vary somewhat.

Abyssinian Lovebirds in the Wild

This parrot is from Central and Eastern Ethiopia and Eritrea. Its habitat consists of high grasslands intermixed with trees and shrubs. Some Abyssinian Lovebirds will thrive in lower grasslands, but most prefer highland environments. These parrots enjoy mild or cooler temperatures and breed best in these conditions.

Abyssinian Lovebirds can be seen in large flocks around waterholes, but are perfectly comfortable with other bird species when drinking water. These birds are very cautious when on the ground, and they are constantly scanning the area for danger. The slightest disturbance will cause the parrot to fly away.

During the breeding season, a bonded pair will leave the group to raise their young. The female will look for a cavity inside a tree, or for holes within building walls to lay her eggs. These birds do not carry nesting material back to their nests like most lovebirds. While the female is incubating her eggs, the male will stand guard to alert of incoming danger. The male also takes on the task of feeding the female during this “nesting” time. The babies will fledge six weeks after hatching.

Abyssinian Lovebirds In Captivity

Abyssinian Lovebirds are rarely found in captivity. These birds were probably not kept due to a lack of mutations, their difficulty breeding, and dietary requirements. Breeders who do work with them are quick to point out the difficulty in housing these lovebirds.

The birds available in today’s market are mainly sold as breeders and can be purchased at bird shows or from exclusive breeders. Many aviculturists, who specialize in this particular parrot, continue to document this species’ behavior, breeding habits, and diet. Many breeders have devoted their lives to ensure these parrots remain in aviculture and it is not uncommon for them to trade birds to strengthen the bloodline.

These parrots make excellent pets; however, they are rare and really not sold as pets. There is such a limited quantity of these parrots that most are entered into breeding programs. Most breeders exchange their lovebirds to keep the bloodline healthy and fresh.

Abyssinian Lovebirds as Pets

As a pet, an Abyssinian Lovebird can provide a rewarding experience. They are very loyal and affectionate creatures. If handfed and properly socialized, these parrots are very curious and will strongly bond to their owners.

Like most lovebirds, females can become territorial; therefore, it is important that an owner set consistent rules from day one. These lovebirds have powerful beaks and can do more damage than a Peach Faced Lovebird. Nibbling should not be encouraged, nor should any reactions take place if the lovebird decides to bite. Abyssinians are more prone to stress than Peach Faced, Masked, or Fischer’s Lovebirds. While holding one of these lovebirds, an owner should never wobble their hand or yell at the bird as this will only frighten it. This could lead to a bird developing an aggressive behavior.

These parrots are very intelligent and inquisitive. They need a great deal of toys to be stimulated mentally. All pet Abyssinians need colorful wooden beads, ropes, and ladders to swing on.

They will gladly entertain their owners for head scratches and affection. These comical parrots enjoy being carried around the house on their owner’s shoulders and also enjoy being held when the owner is relaxing.

Abyssinian Lovebirds can be loud and have a shrill call. They do not make great talkers; however, they can learn to do tricks through positive reinforcement.

Breeding Abyssinian Lovebirds

Abyssinian Lovebird

Ideal weather for breeding Abyssinians is late winter or early spring, usually around April. These parrots do not breed well in warmer weather, nor should it be practiced with any lovebird species. If environment temperatures are too high, above 90 degrees Fahrenheit, the babies and the mother will most likely be uncomfortable and this could lead to death.

These parrots already have a reputation of being difficult to breed and the owner should understand that it can take several years for a pair of Abyssinians to breed successfully. Often times, these birds will lay infertile eggs or the chicks will die during incubation.

When these lovebirds are paired up to breed, the owner should take extra care to ensure these parrots have the proper privacy. Lovebirds caught in the wild do not take kindly to nest inspections and will most likely abandon their nests. First generation Abyssinians, who have been bred in an aviary environment, are usually tolerant to humans and nests can be examined.

It is important these birds have a layer of nesting material such as wood shavings or dried grasses because these parrots do not collect nesting material like most lovebirds. Once the female has secured a nesting site, she will remove feathers from her chest to line the nest. This is done to provide extra bedding for the babies. After modifying a nest, the female will lay between two and four eggs. Eggs are produced every other day until the clutch is complete. The duration of the incubation is 24 days. The female will usually start to incubate after the second egg is laid.

After the chicks hatch, the parents will feed the lovebirds around the clock until the baby birds are ready to leave the nest. This occurs between seven and eight weeks. At around ten weeks, all chicks should be weaned.

Hand feeding and Fostering Baby Abyssinian Lovebirds

Should a baby Abyssinian lovebird need to be handfed, it is best to use a higher fat formula made for macaws. These babies need more fat to develop properly. Many babies that are fed a standard commercial formula, tend to be smaller, may die, or can develop stress bars on their feathers.

Should a baby need to be fostered, it is best that the baby be placed with a pair of Fischer's Lovebirds. This causes the baby to grow much slower. When the baby lovebird is around four weeks, the owner needs to pull the baby for hand feeding as an Abyssinian Lovebird will be too large for the Fischer's pair to continue feeding.

The Diet of the Abyssinian Lovebird

These parrots need more fat in their diet and higher levels of Vitamin B to remain healthy. In the wild, these parrots feed on figs, juniper berries, blossoms, and seeds. Many breeders will place these foods inside the breeding cage a month before the breeding season. This motivates the parrots to breed.

Unlike other lovebirds, Abyssinian Lovebirds are not picky eaters. Most enjoy fresh greens like broccoli, spinach, kale, or carrot tops. Adding tropical fruits to their diet such as papaya, mangos, apples, pears, kiwi, or pomegranates make excellent sources of nutrients and provides them with a tasty treat.

Providing the lovebirds with only a diet of pellets is not recommended. They need a combination of seeds as well. Adding a sufficient amount of

sunflower and safflower seeds will supply the fat content they need in order to thrive. When feeding your Abyssinian, it’s better to keep the diet well balanced with seeds, pellets, fresh fruits, and fresh vegetables.

If these parrots are routinely taken to the veterinarian, and fed a healthy diet, most will live between 10 and 20 years.

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