Acquired: Rescue / shelter organization
Louisiana, United States
Posted Feb 12, 2013
After Hurricane Isaac, a concerned birder in Biloxi noticed an odd confrontation -- an adult Peachfaced Lovebird toe to toe with a Northern Mockingbird. He returned the next day, and the lovebird was still there, weary enough now that he could catch her and bring her to me for rescue. After an extensive search over three states, I was unable to locate the original owner, but she fits in nicely in my household and will have a home here for life. Not knowing her previous name, we have called her Nyota.
My previous experience with lovebirds involved a pair of very pleasant, very easy-going, untamed Fischer's Lovebirds, a species I still recommend to people who want to keep lovebirds in pairs. They lived a long time, brought beauty and color to the aviary, and were essentially no effort at all. Nyota is something different.
She is clearly a domestic bred and probably a handfed bird, because she is extremely tame, friendly, and attention-loving. She is strongly diurnal and likes to have some life around her during all the daylight hours. Then she likes to conk out and go right to sleep. But she would not be happy in a house that was silent and lonely during the daylight hours.
The man who rescued her reported that she bit him, but she has never bitten us. She is -- like many Peachfaced Lovebirds are said to be -- frightened of human hands. Because he had no equipment and carried her in a sock, I believe he frightened her so much that she did resort to biting him. However, we simply ask her to step on/off a stick, since she came to us very well stick-trained, and we allow her to ride on our arms or shoulders.
She would be the ideal pet for an older person who worked at home or was retired. I say that because she's up with the sun and ready to turn in at night. I have placed a playpen for her in our picture window, where she can spend hours keeping an eye on dog-walkers, school kids, feral cats, squirrels, and wild birds. She likes me near, or she will cry, but it's OK for me to work on my computer or just cruise the internet. She's like a kid who is happy to play side by side with you, so she provides an easy, low-key companionship. But if you spend too long in a separate room, and she does not have a companion with her, then she may cry.
Since I do travel quite a bit and my husband works full-time outside the home, I was concerned to see how she would do when I travel. I have taken two fairly long trips since I got her, plus a shorter 1 week long vacation. Adult Peachfaced Lovebirds are frequently reported to lose their tameness if they don't get daily handling so I didn't want to leave a report on her until I'd taken these trips. What we did is that we set her up where she can see and talk to a bigger bird, my fortysomething Yellow-fronted Amazon, who is clearly besotted with her and loves to talk to her or just sit with her. My husband also left a radio on during the day. I think my birdsitter actually came in and simply spent time with her while he worked on his computer. Despite these three trips, Nyota did not lose her tameness, and she still responds immediately to "Step up" and "Fly to [name of whoever I wish her to fly to]." She goes to anyone, as long as they hold up their arm and do not try to grab or pet her with their hands. She is really quite a charmer!
At this point, I am honestly baffled as to why no one would be looking for this sweet pet. I assume that the storm lifted her so far away that it has become impossible to find her previous owners, since I searched the Gulf Coast region from Mobile to New Orleans, with no luck.
Handfed Peachfaced Lovebirds are frequently recommended to people who work at home or who are retired and who want only one small bird as a pet. Because of their hours and lifestyle, they seem tailor made for retirees who just want a small but outgoing pet.
However, there are issues with this species that you should be aware of.
1) The voice. Although she isn't very vocal very often, it's quite unpleasant when she lets out a yell, because her voice is high-pitched and quite irritating. In order to stop her from talking back and forth to Blue Jays, I do play some music in the background to mask the cries of outdoor birds. You do NOT want to allow a bird like this to get in the habit of chatting back and forth with wild birds. My other parrots all have relatively low pitched voices, so it was a bit of a shock to realize how piercing a high-pitched shriek can be. If you have a noisy home with lots of yelling or if you have a VERY quiet home where your bird could respond to the cries of outdoor birds from a long distance...there is a potential problem here. A retiree, with a reduced ability to hear high-pitched sounds, might again be the preferred owner here.
2) Even with a full clip on BOTH wings, this light-bodied bird can still fly. While it's convenient to be able to tell her to "go to..." and have her go to that person, it's VERY inconvenient that she can fly to and find trouble even with clipped wings. This is a bird for a VERY careful household. Deadbolt doors from the inside so that you will have a warning before someone walks in, because she could fly out in an instant. On two occasions, she has also flown into my big bird's cage. My Amazon loves her and was protective of her but if he was in a bad mood on a bad day, it could have been tragic.
This means that whenever I have Cookie inside in his cage, I cannot have Nyota out on her playpen, because she can fly right through his bars and join him.
For me, this is not a huge problem, since Cookie likes to sleep in late, and Nyota likes to get most of her exercise on the playpen in the morning. However, it is something to watch
for in a multiple pet home. I would never recommend this species to a cat owner because this lovebird can't resist teasing and confronting a bigger pet!
A third issue many people have mentioned has never caused a problem for me, only a delight -- the fact that this species loves water. Nyota will bathe in her water bowl at least once and sometimes twice a day. She loves to get wet. If nothing else, she'll go over and get her tail wet.
Sometimes, she will try to splash me, and it's super cute. However, I've read reports of many Peachfaced Lovebirds drowning because they will fly to toilet bowls, half empty drink glasses, and so on. You must be very aware of all open water in your home, because this species has a magnetic attraction to it.
To sum up: All parrots and all Peachfaced Lovebirds are individuals, but this little bird, like many others, is 1) afraid of hands, 2) has a rather high-pitched voice, 3) loves open containers of water, 4) loves to fly where she doesn't belong, such as a bigger bird's cage where she will boldly try to tell the bigger bird what to do. For us, she has proved to be a wonderful, entertaining companion, but we can see how it happened that this light-bodied bird flew away, got lost, and was never found again. You really need to take a LOT
of extra care with this species.
Also, I believe that someone must have handfed this bird. I do not believe that an adult Peachfaced Lovebird can be tamed to become this affectionate and fearless if she wasn't handfed as a youngster.
Don't forget. Even though these birds seem bold and aggressive to other pets, and they will even try to tell YOU how to run your life, they can be afraid of hands. I would consider it a phobia that can't always be fixed. I believe you could easily spoil this bird's personality by trying to hold her. Fortunately, stick training has worked wonderfully well for Nyota. Even when she gets into some awkward spot, we can just offer the stick and she hops aboard.
Yes, Peachfaced Lovebirds are EXTREMELY aggressive. I don't know another bird of this size that could stare down a Northern Mockingbird. However, this spunk can make for a wonderful pet IF they are understood and handled with respect to their phobias. They are a unique mix of bold and fearful that's hard to describe without some experience with them. Nyota thinks she is as big as my Amazon, and she will scold him when he just wants to kick back and watch Adult Swim on the tube. She is at the window trying to attack feral cats and wild squirrels all the day long. Yet...she is terrified of hands. Go figure. Their psychology is just not the same as human or dog psychology. If you try to apply human logic, it won't work.
Thanks to Greg Baker and David D'Aquin for assistance with the photos.