Posted on Friday 21st July, 2017
Living up to their name, lovebirds are
social and happy to live in groups with their nests close together. They are
monogamous and pairs usually snuggle close together strengthening their
Director Alison Hales explains “This species had never been kept
at Paradise Park before, but last July, Calvin Bradley, former Secretary of the
Lovebird Society, made contact and asked would we be interested in taking a
breeding colony which had been established in the 1990s?
The date was of interest as, in the past twenty
years or so, many Lilian’s had been hybridised with other lovebirds aiming to
create colour mutations.
Lilian’s Lovebird (Agapornis lilianae), also
known as the Nyasa Lovebird, is distributed across countries in South East
Africa including Zambia, Mozambique, Malawi and Zimbabwe. Classified as ‘Near
Threatened’ in the wild due to persecution by farmers and capture for the local
and international bird trade, it is among the World Parrot Trust’s (based at
Paradise Park) priority species in Africa.”
Because of the genetic purity and increasing
importance of this well-managed captive group, we made plans to take the birds
at the Park. The move took place in March 2017, and the birds were housed in a
tall aviary next to the resident group of Black-cheeked Lovebirds (Agapornis
nigrigenis). It was interesting to see them side by side, very similar in
shape with the Lilian’s perhaps a little more lightweight and each with their
After a period of transition when they got used to
their new surroundings, nest boxes were added both inside the hut and out in
the aviary to give them a choice of location. They quickly took to the ply
boxes we made for them, packing them with leaves, grass and twigs to leave
just a small space at the top.
The birds were regularly visiting their nests and
then the Keepers found the first eggs. Three weeks later and chicks had
hatched. Over the next weeks there were chicks in three nests, and then we
were excited to see the first fledgling. The youngster spent a morning on
the ground before climbing up low branches, soon joining the
group when we could hardly distinguish it from the adults.
We hope this will be start of many successful nests, and we will be
happy to cooperate in breeding schemes for Lilian’s in future so we
can share our birds and their genes.
At risk due to
habitat loss and persecution
The World Parrot
Trust’s Africa Programme has been focusing on Lilian’s Lovebirds as part of an
initiative to protect these parrots in Africa’s Zambezi basin, an area which
includes the closely-related Black-cheeked Lovebird. The work, which was
launched in 2014, includes:
- Research to learn the current status of populations and causes of
- Identification of key breeding areas and other important sites for
- Development of actions to address threats and protect areas of
- Explore possibilities for reintroduction into areas from which they
are conducted in partnership with Dr. Tiwonge Gawa from the Museums of Malawi, researchers from The FitzPatrick Institute of
African Ornithology at the University of Cape Town, BirdWatch Zambia and the
University of Edinburgh. The work has highlighted the importance of areas of
mature Mopane woodland for roosting and breeding, identified new distributional
records as well as worrying range contractions, and highlighted the threat of
expanding agriculture, charcoal production and timber production. In
Malawi, where many Lilian’s Lovebirds were being killed by pesticide poisoning,
vulnerable waterholes have been protected through improved surveillance which
has included piloting the use of camera traps to deter poachers.
Find out more about the work of Paradise Park here.