Many people at least know the name of these amicable African parrots. In English they are called “lovebirds”, in French one speaks of “les Inséparables”, in German of “die Unzertrennlichen” whereas in the Dutch language usually the scientific names are used. The name Agapornis has been composed of the word “agapein” (Greek) meaning “to love” and the word “ornis” (Latin) meaning “bird”. They were placed in this taxonomic genus by Selby in 1836, previously being classified as Psittacus.This family has nine species: Agapornis canus, Agapornis pullarius, Agapornis taranta, Agapornis swinderniana, Agapornis roseicollis, Agapornis personatus, Agapornis fischeri, Agapornis nigrigenis and Agapornis lilianae.

Quite often a division is made into three separate groups.
The first is the sexually dimorphic one. In plain words: cocks and hens have different colours. This applies to Agapornis pullarius (Red-faced lovebird), A. canus (Madagascar lovebird) and A. taranta (Abyssinian lovebird).
Group two is intermediate between group one and group three. It contains A. roseicollis (Peach-faced lovebird) and according to some authors A. swindernianus (Swinderns lovebird). There is no colour difference between the sexes. About Swindern’s lovebird we know almost nothing. This species has never been exported alive. The Peach-faced lovebird is bred in quantity all over the world and has produced a lot of colour mutations.

Last but not least a third group consisting of the white eye-ring species, Agapornis personatus (Masked lovebird), A. fischeri (Fischer’s lovebird), A. nigrigenis (Black-cheeked lovebird) and A. lilianae (Nyasa lovebird). Group three often is called the “personata group”. We prefer to use “white eye-ring group”, because of their species-typical bare white eye ring. These birds can not be sexed by external means.

Hybrids between members of this closely related group are fertile. Some people consider this an advantage. Colour mutations can easily be transposed from one species to another. However, and I stress however: if this is not done in the correct way the resulting offspring are merely worthless hybrids. And these hybrids pose a threat to the purity of each of the original species. Several species of lovebirds are relatively free breeders, many are inexpensive and housing or feeding them is not too complicated nor expensive. A good breeding pair of quality birds will easily earn it’s keep.
Lovebirds have rightfully become very popular and quite a lot of breeders now specialise in birds of the genus.

© Dirk Van den Abeele