Masked Lovebird

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Is the Masked Lovebird right for you?

Species group:

Other common names: Yellow-collared Lovebird; Black-masked Lovebird; Black-faced Lovebird; Black-headed Lovebird

Scientific name: Agapornis personatus

The basics:
The Masked Lovebird is one of the top three classic lovebird species. Easy to feed and easy to breed, these birds have always attracted attention from fanciers working to develop a rainbow of gorgeous color mutations. Since the 1980s, when more breeders began to hand-feed their babies, these birds have attracted a second wave of interest, as pet lovers have discovered the charm and sass of a tame lovebird who lives to be its person's “pocket parrot.”

If you are looking for a single pet, pick the youngest and best-socialized baby Masked Lovebird you can get. Check the upper mandible for a large dark patch as proof of the bird's youth.

The wild Masked Lovebird is a near-endemic to Tanzania, with one record from Kenya. This hardy upland species, naturally found from 1,100 to 1,800 meters, enjoys wooded grasslands but can also make use of parks and gardens. It's a popular pet in Africa as elsewhere, and escapees have established feral populations in several areas around Tanzania and Kenya. Feral Masks will hybridize with feral Fischer's and travel with them in mixed flocks. Like other Agapornis, but unlike the overwhelming majority of parrots, Masked Lovebirds will bring nesting material to line their nests.

The Masked Lovebird is the only lovebird with a black face, white eye-ring, and a brilliant yellow collar. There are many mutations available, although the beautiful Blue-masked Lovebird is undoubtedly the most popular. Despite the name, the mask is black, and the body is blue.

43 - 47 grams (1.5 - 1.7 oz.)

Average size:
13 - 14 centimeters (5 - 5.5 in.)

10 - 15 years

Behavior / temperament:
Masked Lovebirds are rated as highly territorial. Your pair must have its own territory, with no other birds or pets ever kept in the cage or even allowed to touch the cage. Their size is deceptive, because they have killed much bigger birds. But even the most loving single pet is likely to take exception to anyone putting their hands near or in the cage. Therefore, stick-training the bird so that it can ride in and out of the cage in style is essential.

Because of their spunk and sass, a single handfed Masked Lovebird can make an excellent pet for someone who has time to devote to them every day. They will become tightly bonded to you, and it can be an amazing experience to be able to carry this tiny gem around on a shoulder or in a shirt pocket. However, you do have to maintain the relationship, or the bird can lose its tameness very quickly. A neglected lovebird can develop the typical behavior problems of any parrot, including biting, shrieking, or feather plucking.

A single pet that you want to remain tame should have a powder-coated metal cage, perhaps 24”w by 18”d by 24” h with ½ “ bar spacing, but it shouldn't be too awkward or too big for you to place a stick in the cage so the bird can “step up” on request and ride out into the open. You don't want the bird to become cage-bound, because you need to take your Masked Lovebird out every single day and play with it in a neutral area such as a play gym or even on your person, for at least an hour. If it's a hassle to remove your pet from the cage, and you let it go, your pet will probably lose its tameness rather quickly. A smaller cage and more time together is better than a bigger cage with less time together if you want to preserve the sweetness of your lovebird.

If you are worried about egg-binding and excessive broody behavior in a female Masked Lovebird, you may have to withhold a roost box and access to nesting materials, including twigs. Try more puzzle and foraging toys, and fewer hiding boxes or tree branches.

If you have a pair of Masked Lovebirds, who are bonded to each other, then you should absolutely get or build the largest flight you can manage. They need to exercise, to play, and to fly, but they will prefer to do it with each other, on their own territory, so be very generous. If you cannot find a large flight with sufficiently small bar spacing, you may have to have something custom-made, but it will be worth it.

The popular lovebirds, including the Masked Lovebird, are highly gifted escape artists that understand how to lift doors or food and water access windows. Secure those doors and windows with hardware clips.

Masked Lovebirds may not accept the rich diet beloved by many other pet parrots. While some experts advise that you choose a pelleted diet, the reality may be that your lovebirds never accept it, unless they were raised to eat pellets or crumbles from the very beginning. A more realistic diet, for many individuals, will be a high-quality small seed mix, along with an excellent chopped salad containing lots of vitamin-rich fruits and vegetables.

Here's a trick: Soak or actually sprout the seeds to create green, healthy salad with more nutritional value than just the plain dry seed. You can also offer a mixed cooked legume, grains, and rice dish. Never offer chocolate or avocado to the Masked Lovebird, as these foods are toxic to all parrots.

Check with your breeder, pet store, or vet about vitamin supplements, especially if your Masked Lovebird is a picky eater. There are reports of females dying of egg-binding, a condition sometimes linked to a vitamin A deficiency. Grated carrot or cooked yam or sweet potato may be an important ingredient in your bird's food bowl. Calcium deficiency may be another cause. In order to use dietary calcium, lovebirds need to be exposed to natural sunlight or full spectrum lighting, or some alternate source of vitamin D3.

Written by Elaine Radford

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