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Choosing a Fischer's Lovebird

By: Dr. Susan Clubb

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Fischer's lovebirds are popular pet birds – good for just about anyone. They are less common in captivity than peach-faced or black-masked lovebirds, but they are affordable. They cost between $35 and $100 each.

These lovely little parrots are known as lovebirds because of the strong pair bond between mates, which sit together preening, cooing and billing. Fischer's are not as hardy and adaptable as peach-faced, but this is balanced by their gentler disposition. Natives of Africa, Fischer's lovebirds are admired for their beautiful coloration (bright green body; red face; yellow-orange chest) and engaging personalities, small size, and ease of maintenance. They are small bundles of energy, personality and vitality: always active, playing with toys, chattering, and interacting with each other or their owners.

When buying a Fischer's make sure you buy a young bird. Young Fischer's lovebirds can be recognized by a small dark patch on the upper beak next to the cere and less intense facial coloring.

The voice of a Fischer's is a mixture of chirping and whistling interspersed with short high-pitched shrieks. They are not easily taught to speak and have a squeaky speaking voice, which is difficult to understand. They are most commonly kept in pairs and are ideal pets for people who prefer to watch the antics of a colorful lively pair of birds rather than handle a single bird.

Known by the scientific name, Agapornis fischeri, Fischer's are limited to a small area in northern Tanzania including the Serengeti National Park. Under pressure because of the wild bird trade, they live in well-wooded grasslands and are typically found in small flocks of four to five birds. They breed colonially and often nest in abandoned nests of other species.

Feeding

Pelleted diets, made in a small size are available for Fischer's lovebirds and provide balanced nutrition in every bite. Seeds can be given as treats. Fischer's lovebirds should also be offered small mounts of fresh dark green leafy vegetables, tiny slices of apple, grapes, melons and sprouts. Boiled eggs or commercial egg food are excellent for young and breeding Fischer's lovebirds, but care must be taken in avoiding contamination. Vitamin supplementation is not necessary if the bird eats a pelleted diet.

Historically, Fischer's lovebirds have been fed only seed mixes. While they can survive for an extended period of time on such a diet, eventually they fall into poor health.

Contrary to popular belief, Fischer's lovebirds do not need grit.

Housing

Fischer's lovebirds are small but they are very active and should be given plenty of room to move around their cage. Since lovebirds are typically kept in pairs, keep this in mind when purchasing a cage and make it at least 50 percent larger than you would think is appropriate for a single lovebird. They should have at least two perches far enough apart to jump or fly between. A cage for a single lovebird should be at least 18 inches square and for a pair it should be approximately 24 inches square.

The cage should be placed so it is not directly below an air conditioning vent or in a direct sunlight from a window, which could result in overheating. The cage should be in an area of the home where there is much activity. Fischer's lovebirds are very social and like to be the center of attention.

The cage should have at least two perches. Don't use sandpaper perch covers as they are very abrasive on the feet. Place one perch near the food and water to allow easy access. Toys should be supplied to keep the bird busy. Single birds also love mirrors and will even court or spar with their image.

Grooming

Fischer's lovebirds love baths and small bird baths can be purchased that will fit into the door of a standard cage. Fill it with lukewarm water and allow the bird to enter as he chooses. Fischer's lovebirds can also be bathed by misting with a fine mist spray bottle. They should be bathed twice weekly to maintain excellent plumage.

Wing clipping is essential for initial training of the Fischer's and will need periodic renewal as the flight feathers are regrown. If you choose to keep your bird flighted, safety concerns include ceiling fans, open toilets, swimming pools, pots on the stove, etc. Escapes can also happen very quickly when a door is suddenly opened and the bird becomes startled and flies out.

Nails should be kept an appropriate length, as overgrown nails can be a hazard as well. They can be clipped with fingernail clippers watching for the quick (vein) inside the nail. In case a nail bleeds after it is cut, you can stop the bleeding by application of Quick Stop. If no such product is available you can stick the nail into a bar of soap, apply flour or cornstarch or you can light a match, blow it out and cauterize the nail on the hot head of the match. Because the birds are so small, control of bleeding is important.

Breeding

Fischer's lovebirds are very easily bred beginning when they are a year old. The breeding cage should be larger than a single pet cage. A good size is approximately 24 inches by 24 inches by 20 inches. A small wooden box can be mounted at a top corner. The box should be approximately 6 inches by 6 inches by 8 inches.

Nest boxes are usually available at the local pet store. Pine shavings can be used as nest material however Fischer's lovebirds also love to build a nest inside the box.

Provide plenty of food for the pair to feed their young, especially eggs food and some fresh greens. Both parents share in caring for the young until they are ready to fledge (emerge from the nest). Babies are clumsy and should not be allowed to fly free initially as they can be easily injured in their clumsy flight attempts.

Breeding pairs are often in a hurry to start another clutch of eggs and may abuse the chicks to force them from the nest. Chicks may be plucked or bitten. Such chicks may need to be removed for hand feeding.

Common Diseases and Disorders

Lovebirds are relatively healthy birds but are susceptible to the following:

  • Psittacosis or parrot fever
  • Polyoma virus
  • Psittacine beak and feather disease
  • Yeast infections
  • Liver disease
  • Traumatic accidents and accidental poisonings
  • Megabacteria – Historically called "going light," this "bacteria" is probably actually a yeast infection that causes chronic weight loss.

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