Keeping and breeding of the Grey-headed Lovebird (Agapornis canus). PART I

April 25th, 2016 | by Oldrich Siska
Keeping and breeding of the Grey-headed Lovebird (Agapornis canus). PART I

Grey-headed Lovebird is found on Madagascar island. There are two subspecies – Agapornis canus canus and Agapornis canus ablectaneus. It can be difficult to recognize them in captivity, more likely impossible. Together with Black-winged Lovebird (Agapornis taranta), Red-headed Lovebird (Agapornis pullarius) and Black-collared Lovebird (Agapornis swindernianus) , this species belongs to a group of birds with distinct sexual dimorphism.

Body length is about 13cm and therefore Grey-headed Lovebird is together with Lilian’s Lovebird the smallest species of all lovebirds.

In males, the head, neck and upper part of breast are light grey. The rest of plumage is green. Only underwing coverts are black, beak and legs are grey. Young males posses greenish back of the head in comparison with adult birds.

Females are completely green including head, neck and upper part of breast.


Grey-headed Lovebird (Agapornis canus)

David Cook (c) This file is licensed under Attribution-NonCommercial 2.0 Generic license. (


Grey-headed lovebird breeding and keeping

I bought my first pair of Grey-headed lovebirds from my friend in summer of 2007. Birds were initially very picky about food and ate only millet spikes. However, within one month they had learned to eat also other foods like seed mix for lovebirds which consists of more types of millet, canary seed, hulled oat and niger. I also offered them buckwheat, safflower and thistle milk seeds but those remained untouched. As for fruits, they consumed only pieces of apple. Drinking water was enriched by vitamin and mineral products.

The pair was kept in a white wooden cage of size 80 x 50 x 50cm. The conventional horizontal nestbox had been hung  from outside. It was a standard lovebird nestbox with one extra partition inside which made a little room at the entrance hole. Birds received fresh branches every day. The pair started peeling them soon and took the bark inside of the nestbox. I also added a layer of wood shavings to the bottom of the nest. They built a rounded nest in the nestbox and from that time spent most of the day inside. They were very quite and each time I came in, birds were staying in the nest.



Two weeks later, I could not help myself and looked at the nest. Birds were very nervous and stayed in the nestbox. I saw three little eggs. Unfortunately, when I inspected the nest a week later, all disappeared.

After the first nesting, birds started peeling the branches again. I did not want to disturb parents again and therefore the nest inspection was made after a month and half when two chicks were found. I guess that their age was about a week. Unfortunately, their destiny was the same as in case of the previous clutch – they both disappeared. These two nestings occured in autumn and winter 2007 in a room where Black-winged Lovebirds and Lilian’s Lovebirds were also kept. Temperature was about 17-20°C with humidity 60%.

This failure convinced me about difficultness of this species to breed. That’s why I sold the pair to my close friend.


Incubation Handraising Asiatic parrots Cockatiels soft


In 2009, I had a chance to buy two females of Grey-headed Parrot again. I really wanted to get through this challenge and therefore I took them both. They were two years old, not in perfect feather condition. My friend helped me to get two beautiful males from Netherlands so I had two pairs. This time I was really serious about breeding of this species so I bought three more birds from one Czech ZOO. Adult birds were paired randomly and placed to adjacent aviaries of size 2 x 1 x 1,2m which were separated by double mesh. It was surprising to see that females were fighting while males stayed calm. I hung conventional horizontal nestboxes inside the aviaries. All birds loved unripe grass spikes. They also consumed apples and commercial eggfood.



author: Oldrich Siska


Title photo: (c) Grey-headed Lovebird in the wild (c) Frank Vassen. This file is licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic license.



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