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Physical Appearance: Masked Lovebirds and the other eight Agapornis species are considered to be the smallest of the parrots and no separate sub-species of the Masked Lovebird are recognised. They are stocky birds and grow to about fifteen centimetres long. Lovebirds have a larger hooked upper mandible or beak that is hinged to the skull, and a reversible fourth toe. Their natural calls are sharp and loud, but their thick fleshy tongues and voice apparatus allow a wide range of sounds, including imitation of the human voice. The Blue-masked lovebird is the only naturally occurring mutation in the wild. Its main plumage colour is sky blue with a white collar about fifteen millimetres wide around the neck, widening across the breast where it merges with the main body colour of blue. The overall head colour, including lores and cheeks, is sooty black. Another identifiable characteristic of this species is a white featherless ring that encircles both eyes making it also one of the four Eye-ring species of Lovebirds. Juveniles are identical to the adults but their colours are not so bright until after the first moult.


Feeding:


In the wild they are mainly grass seed eaters but will also raid and devour


cereal crops grown in the near vicinity. I have found in captivity they will readily eat a commercial lovebird seed mixture which can be supplemented by wild grass seeds when available. If hung in the aviary in bunches they will soon make short work of these wild seeds. Millet sprays are a favourite of Masked lovebirds and more sprays should be added when young are in the nest. Cuttlefish bone should always be available to provide calcium for good hard shelled eggs. Too much sunflower seed however will make the birds fat.


Breeding: In my experience Masked Lovebirds are the hardiest of all the species of Lovebirds available to UK breeders. If their aviary is sheltered on three sides and roof covered, along with a nest box to roost in they can withstand the bleakest of winters in the UK and I have personally rung chicks on Christmas Day with 15cms of snow on the aviary roof. Although Masked Lovebirds are colony breeders in the wild they can be the most vicious towards others if the aviary is allowed to get over-populated. Youngsters should be moved away from their parents as soon as possible after weaning, and each nest of youngsters should be caged separately in order to avoid fighting between the families, even at this early age.


Lovebirds have a larger hooked upper mandible or beak that is hinged to the skull, and a reversible fourth toe. Their natural calls are sharp and loud, but their thick fleshy tongues and voice apparatus allow a wide range of sounds, including imitation of the human voice.


38 BIRD SCENE


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