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Black-cheeked lovebird

Scientific name: Agapornis nigrigenis

Country: Zambia

Continent: Africa

Diet: Fruits - frugivore, seeds - granivore, buds

Food & feeding: Herbivore

Habitats: Tropical dry forest, tropical grassland

Conservation status: Vulnerable

Relatives: Budgerigar, cockatiel

Description: This small parrot is mainly green with an orange patch on the breast, brown head and black face, with a white ring around the eye. They are around 14 cm long, with a very short tail.

Lifestyle: Much of a lovebird's day is spent feeding on grass seeds near the ground. If danger threatens, the birds fly silently up into the nearest tree. Drinking from pools and waterholes is an important part of a lovebird's day, the food they eat is often low in moisture so they need an additional source of water. They sleep with their heads tucked under their wing, or resting on their orange breast.

Family & friends: Unlike other lovebird species, these birds are not so often seen perched as a close pair, but partners do usually perch nearby one another. It is believed that pairs mate for life. Birds gather in large noisy groups to drink at pools. Lovebirds will often feed on seeds and fruits alongside other birds such as weavers and mammals such as squirrels.

Keeping in touch: Like other parrots, lovebirds are very noisy, uttering a variety of loud shrieks and calls in flight.

Growing up: Little is known about the breeding behaviour of black-cheeked lovebirds in the wild. In general, lovebirds nest in holes laying four or five eggs which typically hatch after around 25 days. The young fledge (have flying feathers) after about six weeks.

Conservation news: The black-cheeked lovebird is Africa's most endangered parrot. There is an estimated 20% chance that this species will go extinct in the wild within the next 20 years. Restricted to approximately 6,000 sq km in southern Zambia, where the wild population is probably well below 10,000. Lovebirds are one of the most popular cage birds and can be taught to perform tricks and even to speak, just like much larger parrots. It was their popularity as cage birds that lead to wide-scale trapping and the decline in numbers in the 1920s.

The population has never fully recovered, probably because less millet (one of their favourite foods) is grown and the area in which they live has become much dryer. As a popular cage bird, there is still a real risk that trapping could again become a problem.
This species is monitored within the European Association of Zoos and Aquaria (EAZA) to ensure the future of this species in captivity.