Canadian Parrot Symposium

Canadian Parrot Symposium



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Some Observations on the Captive Breeding of Abyssinian Lovebirds
G. Speckmann

The Abyssinian or Black-winged Lovebird, Agapornis taranta, represents one of the nine existing lovebird species. This species has no white eye ring. Distinguishing characteristics are the radiant green coloration, black primary wing feathers, and a bright red beak. Abys are sexually dimorphic birds: the male has a distinct bright red forehead. The underside of the wings turns black long before that of juvenile females.

It is absolutely intriguing how different the various lovebird species are with regard to general habits, feed requirements, behaviour, vocalization, and breeding aspects. Relatively little is known about their lifestyle in the wild. The unusually rare occurrence of this species in Canadian aviaries seems totally unjustified and hard to explain.

All Abys have a pleasant disposition. They are probably the least noisy of the lovebird family. They produce a twittering song and a rasping sound when excited. Their almost arrogant appearance makes them a special display in the aviary. Abys are particularly tolerant towards each other if sufficient space is provided. I still have not separated a number of young birds from their parents, and they were hatched over a year ago. The parents obviously do not mind, but they will not breed while so many birds are interfering. Sometimes birds even tolerate being touched with the finger on the beak while being fed.

Most of the cages are 30 inches long, 18 inches high, and 18 inches wide. The wire mesh is 1 x 1 inch which has caused accidents (none ever fatal) in young birds. Once they are older, they no longer seem to stick their heads through. The bottom is metal covered with newspaper for easier cleaning. One the top front of the cage, a 6-inch long piece of cage wire has been cut and bent inwards so that it can hold a head of spray millet or any other treat (e.g. broccoli, chickweed, mullein heads, spinach). One cup on the upper front holds a seed mixture (millets, canary seed, sesame, flax, brown rice, dark wheat, buchwheat, cracked corn), another cup holds water. An S-hook hangs from the cage top to hold fruits (apple, pear, fig, grape etc.). Abys also relish fresh corn on the cob. Like most other lovebird species, they are basically seedeaters with a definite preference for sunflower seeds, striped or black, which I offer ad libitum in a separate bowl on the cage floor. They never seem to get fat from them. Another bowl on the bottom contains grit. All my Abys refuse to peel willow twigs. Multiple vitamins are used sparingly and are only sprinkled over the fruit on the S-hook.

Lighting is about 14 hours, and the temperature during the cold season averages 56 degrees F.

Breeding: nestboxes are installed in November, sometimes later. Abys prefer tunnel boxes which simulate a tree hollow. They have to squeeze through a 2-inch entrance hole, then slide down the middle part of the box to reach the 4 x 5 inch bottom. This part is accessible to the aviculturist through an opening panel should inspection be required.

Although it is often said that Abys are not nest builders, we still provide rotted material from trees with small chunks of peat in it. It usually gets chewed up and is eventually used as bedding. Two of our 8 breeding pairs shred newspaper and carry it into the nestbox. The average egg number per clutch appears to be 4-5, and the eggs are laid at various intervals. The incubation time is around 24 days. Double clutches are common. Abys do not seem to mind a slight disturbance while sitting on eggs, although this should be minimized. Baby Abys are born completely naked and develop very slowly. Their eyes do not open until day 15 or so. Banding is done at approximately day 10. However, we go by baby size rather than time. The ring size used is M (4.34 mm) as recommended by A.A.C.C. Feathers appear first on the wings, then very gradually on the rest of the body. As the food intake of the parents increases at this time, we fill the seed cup twice daily and also give 5-grain bread soaked in 2% milk with some poppy seed sprinkled over it. Bread is no longer fed as soon as the babies are about 35 days old. At day 45 the now fully feathered youngsters occasionally peek through the entrance hole which means they have now moved from the bottom to the top floor of their nestbox. The first youngsters fledge at about 48 days, others later. In the beginning they are very flighty and scared, but that phase soon changes. Both parents feed the youngsters although they are now quite capable of picking seeds or even cracking sunflowers. Weaning is common about 2 - 3 weeks after fledging when all youngsters appear to be completely self-sufficient.

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