The Black-cheeked lovebird or Agapornis nigrigenis comes from Zambia. It was discovered as late as 1904 by Dr. Kirkman near the Muguazi river. The first imports took place in 1908. Agapornis nigrigenis has a warm brownish-black head, the front and cheeks being the darkest. On the lower throat and upper breast a salmon coloured bib is found. The main body colour is green again. The rump also is green.
The bill fades from bright red at the tip to a pinkish white at it’s base. Cere and ring around the eye of bare white skin. The feet are grey, the claws are black. At 13,5 centimetres it is one of the smaller species. They have been imported in quantity in the twenties and thirties. Little importance was given then to found free-breeding strains. Nowadays they have become scarce in England and the USA. On the European continent they still can be found easily. Here even colour mutations have appeared.
Agapornis nigrigenis have become Africa’s most threatened parrot species. There habitat nowadays encompasses some 2.500 square kilometres. Research in 1974 showed that Black-cheeked lovebirds mainly are found in the wooded areas around the Zambesi river. These woods are only a few meters wide and then change into dry savannah. There they search for food: grass seeds, berries and fruits. They use the gallery-woods for protection. Holes in trees provide nesting cavities and the river itself gives them an opportunity to bath.
Although mass exportation usually is blamed for their decline expanding agriculture also must have taken its toll. Woods are cut down and farmers grow less millet. Birds are locally chased to protect the crops or are caught for illegal export and even for food. Finally it is quite possible that some viral or other disease caused the wild population to decline. The Research Centre for African Parrot Conservation recently has started a project to protect the Black-cheeked lovebird on the wild side.
Colour mutations are largely to blame for the impurity of many Black-cheeked. When the blue variety appeared a few years ago it was very expensive. Many breeders tried to make some money quickly and took a shortcut by crossing Black-cheeked with blue Masked lovebirds. A few signs of impurity are listed below:
The rump must show the same colour as the back. Any bluish feather there indicates hybridisation.
Too reddish a facial mask indicates an earlier cross with either Fischer’s or Nyasa lovebirds.
Too black a mask points to the Masked.
Finally both Black-cheeked and Nyasa differ in type from the other two eye ring species. They are much smaller and have a more upright posture.
It should be remembered that this is a threatened species and that is highly necessary to maintain a viable stock of pure Black-cheeked lovebirds.
© Dirk Van den Abeele