This is a species of the sexual dimorphic group, in these species male and female birds show colour differences. It measures approximately 13 centimetres. The male bird has a typical pearl-grey head, neck and breast. Its body is green. The hen is almost completely grass-green. Apart from the grey areas all cocks posses black under wing coverts; in hens these are green. Of Agapornis canus a sub-species is recognised, namely A. c. ablectaneus. The male of A. c. ablectaneus has the grey areas somewhat darker with a violet suffusion. Both cock and hen are darker green than the nominate species. We doubt if any pure specimens of this sub-species exist in captivity. The Madagascar lovebird ranks amongst the smallest species of the genus and is considered a transitional form toward the genus Loriculis. Its feather structure differs slightly from that of other lovebird species. The barbs of the head and breast feathers have a cloudy zone that does not reflect blue light, but violet light instead.
Agapornis canus was first described in 1788. The sub-species was only discovered and described as late as 1918. A. c. canus is found all over the coastal areas of the Malagasy Republic, except for the arid south. There it is replaced by the subspecies ablectanea . It lives in open wooded areas near the coast. They are gregarious and feed on grass seeds exclusively. Although they live in large groups they can not be considered colony breeders. When the breeding season arrives the flights split up and individual pairs settle down to business. The birds nest in holes in trees. The hen uses pieces of leaves and grass as nesting material. This is transported between the feathers of the body, the breast and the rump.
In aviculture Madagascar’s generally are considered difficult to breed. Nevertheless some breeders continuously and successfully have offspring. There seem to be no fixed rules for breeding. I know several people who breed Madagascar’s and each has his own way of management. One person uses vertical budgerigar nest boxes, where a second one swears by the use of normal horizontal lovebird nest boxes. Some breeders supply branches as nesting material, others supply coconut fibre and still others give no material at all. There certainly is still is room for experiment.
© Dirk Van den Abeele