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The seven sins of omission

Seven types of neglect can seriously undermine lovebirds’ health. PAULINE JAMES explains how to avoid them

Play time: active lovebirds are happy lovebirds

PEACH-FACED, masked and Fischer’s lovebirds are generally hardy and robust creatures, and are not prone to illness. But, if any element of their care is neglected, the health of our birds can rapidly be compromised.

1. Overcrowding
Too many pairs of birds kept in a small area will cause high levels of stress and unrest in a colony flight. A victimised, highly stressed bird can suffer a rapid breakdown of its immune system because the growth of harmful bacteria accelerates, and the production of beneficial bacteria dramatically slows.

If an avian probiotic is administered orally at this stage, the correct balance can be restored and the bird will make what appears to be a miraculous recovery.

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The challenge of colour mutation

PAULINE JAMES looks at problems you might face when pairing the white-faced mutation of peach-faced lovebirds

A single factor white-faced Australian cinnamon violet cock

IN MY opinion, white-faced mutation, peach-faced lovebirds at their best produce some of the most spectacularly coloured lovebirds available. But, unfortunately, it is also the mutation that can vary the most.

Although there are some very good, even stunning examples being bred, there are some under-sized, poor examples out there too, along with other dubious, mixed-up individuals that are quite wrongly being passed off as white-faced.

Mutation confusion
I didn’t realise the confusion that this mutation was causing until several lovebird enthusiasts explained to me that they had difficulty telling the difference between their white-faced and the pastel blue series of birds. When I described to them what a white-faced should look like, the birds that they were describing were obviously not white-faced at all, and as they had suspected, they had been sold a red herring.

These inferior birds are often the result of a white-faced adult being paired carelessly or randomly to an unsuitable partner, and especially if they have been unwittingly bred back to green series birds. Once this has been done the mutation loses the advantage of having all the pink-colouring being bred out of their faces, and in fact the reverse happens – more colour is bred back into the mutation, which serves to spoil it for many generations. No youngsters from such a pairing, all of which would carry the hidden gene for white-faced, should be sold on or described as split white-faced, as their progeny would not be good quality white-faced.

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Preventing aggression

Pugnacious, violent and even murderous are all words that have been used to describe peach-faced lovebirds, but PAULINE JAMES says it’s down to how you house them

Overcrowding your aviary will cause aggression. Pauline recommends that no more than four pairs should be housed together

ACRIMONY within a lovebird flight usually only occurs because of the way the occupants are being housed and looked after. It’s not that the lovebirds are showing unacceptable levels of aggression for no apparent reason, as is usually presumed.

It is completely natural for a peach-faced hen to be the dominant partner in a pairing, and for the male to be placid and subservient, to the point that sometimes she won’t even allow the male in the nest-box at night during the breeding season.

But it is not all doom and gloom for the male, and a compatible pair of peach-faced lovebirds actually show each other much affection – hence their name. They will spend a lot of their time mutually preening, chewing and playing in the willow branches, and in quieter moments they will take a nap snuggled up together.

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Inside info

Is it OK to breed lovebirds indoors? Yes, says experienced lovebird fancier Pauline James, but you need to follow strict rules on the birds’ housing, diet and exercise

What a shower: it’s pure pleasure for a peach-faced

FOR some people who want to breed lovebirds, but have a small garden or no outside space, need to house them indoors. This is fine, but there are three main problems to address: a lack of exercise, very low humidity levels, and no natural sunshine.

Depleted fitness levels
Lovebirds should never be kept or bred in a budgie-sized cage – they are active and energetic birds, and must have room to fly. A wooden double-sized breeder cage 90cm (3ft) long is more suitable. Perches should be spread out and positioned fairly high, so that the birds have to exert a lot of energy flying steeply from the floor up to a perch, and to encourage them to fly the length of the box.

A nest-box should be placed on the outside of a cage, so that it does not take up precious space inside. After no more than two clutches, successful or not, remove the nest-box and give the birds a rest.

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