Nyasa Lovebird

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Ornitologia Lodato

Is the Nyasa Lovebird right for you?

Species group:

Other common names: Lilian's Lovebird

Scientific name: Agapornis lilianae

The basics:
The tiny Nyasa Lovebird, the smallest of the eye-ring lovebirds, is something of a lost species in captivity, because it was confused with Fischer's Lovebird in the earliest years of aviculture. They were both knowingly and unknowingly hybridized with that species – and others – in decades gone by.

There are scattered populations in Tanzania, Zambia, Zimbabwe, and elsewhere in southeastern, but not extreme south, Africa. This near-threatened species caught the attention of the international pet trade decades ago with the discovery of a naturally occurring lutino mutation. These birds were collected and hybridized with Fischer's Lovebirds to create more colorful mutations, to the point where the natural form of the bird is at risk both in captivity and in the wild. A pet Nyasa available to you may be a bird that shows evidence of hybrid genes, such as scattered blue feathers in the rump. If the breeder asks you to never breed your pet, respect that advice, because it's given in an attempt to help restore a more natural gene pool.

As with any lovebird, the Nyasa Lovebird must be hand-fed or hand-tamed very young to make a good pet. Look for a youngster that still has dull, blackish feathers on its face and some black at the base of the upper bill. The Nyasa female is a talented homemaker. She will bring nest materials, including twigs, to the cavity and build an intricate domed structure inside.

While the Nyasa Lovebird does possess the bright orange-red face and white eye-ring seen in the Fischer's, a pure Nyasa in its natural form can easily be distinguished from its more famous relative by its tiny size and the fact that its rump is green, not blue.

28 - 37 grams (1 - 1.3 oz.)

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

10 - 15 years

Behavior / temperament:
Nyasa Lovebirds are described as shy, although they can still become extremely territorial. A pair must have its own territory, with no other birds or pets kept in the cage or even allowed to touch the cage. Even a pet Nyasa is likely to take exception to anyone putting their hands near or in the cage, so it's imperative to stick-train your pet while it's still young. Be patient, and never do anything (like shouting) that would cause your bird to lose its trust.

A single handfed Nyasa needs kind, loving attention from its owner every single day. 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 will lose its tameness. A neglected lovebird can develop the typical behavior problems of any parrot, including biting, shrieking, or feather plucking.

The rules about housing Nyasa Lovebirds are very different depending on whether you have a single, hand-tamed pet or a semi-wild aviary pair. They can be territorial, and even the most loving pet is likely to snap at someone who places their hand in or on the cage.

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 Nyasa Lovebird out every single day 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.

If you are worried about egg-binding and excessive broody behavior in a female Nyasa 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 places or tree branches.

If you have a pair of Nyasa 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.

Nyasa 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 seed. You can also offer a mixed cooked legume, grains, and rice dish. Never offer chocolate or avocado to the Nyasa Lovebird, as these foods are toxic to all parrots.

Check with your breeder, pet store, or vet about vitamin supplements, especially if your Nyasa 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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