The black-cheeked lovebird is a small parrot that is endemic to a small area of deciduous mopane forests in southwest Zambia. Being a member of the lovebird genus, it is a social bird that is often seen in pairs sitting closely. Thus, the origin of the romantic name; lovebird. The genus is also known as “eye-rings” due to the featherless rings around birds in the group. Other members of this group include the masked, nyasa and fischer lovebirds. The black-cheeked lovebird was previously classified as a sub-species of the nyasa lovebird.
In south-western Zambia, this bird species is resident in an area between rivers Zambezi and Kafue. Sightings have been recorded in Botswana and Zimbabwe around Victoria Falls although it is now considered extinct in those areas. Besides Mopane woodlands, the bird is also found in Acacia woodlands and agricultural areas. It needs daily access to water hence a permanent supply of surface water. This localized distribution makes the bird highly vulnerable. In fact, it is considered one of the most endangered of all African parrots. Major threats are a decline of habitat especially water bodies.
The black-cheeked lovebird is slightly smaller than other members of its group. The adult averages 14cm in length and 45 gm in weight. Its plumage is mostly green with a black face and a forecrown that is reddish-brown. The throat and cheeks are brownish-black which fades to yellowish-green below the throat. The feet are grey, eye-rings white and the beak bright red. The juveniles are the same as the adults except the beak is mostly orange and the colours are not as vibrant. Vocalization is the same as other lovebirds which is a loud shriek that is piercing. There have been reports of black-cheeked lovebird mutations but they are so far unconfirmed. When it comes to feeding, black-cheeked lovebird feeds mainly on annual grass seeds at ground-level. It also feeds on millet, sorghum, corn and insect larvae.
When it comes to aviculture, the black-cheeked lovebird is relatively easy to breed although it is not as popular as other lovebirds. This has been attributed to its inbreeding which is thought to result in poor hatchability of its eggs, reduced fertility, reduced survivability of the young ones and being susceptible to diseases. This should however not dull your enthusiasm. It is a peaceful and docile bird in nature and will breed successfully in a colony setting. When properly socialized, it is not as destructive either. To succeed though, you should note a number of things:
Overcrowding can be stressful to them.
When left to their devices, they can breed prolifically so it is important to allow them rest periods between clutches. At the end of the breeding season, it is also important to keep their nest boxes clean.
Weaned young ones should be provided with their own nesting boxes. One way to identify the time to do this is when the female begins to lay eggs again. For these young ones they will also need to form compatible pairs. Allow this to happen naturally by giving them time to interact and bond. You will find compatible pairs sharing a nest box.
Above all, it is important to learn and understand them. This will help you guide their behavior, preferably before an undesirable trait has settled in.
When you chance upon this beauty, don't forget to key in your observation.