The Fischer’s Lovebird (Agapornis fischeri) is a small parrot of the lovebird family that was discovered as late as the later 19th century and bred for the first time in the US in 1926.
They are native to just a small area of east-central Africa, south and southeast of Lake Victorian in northern Tanzania, though occasionally found in Rwanda and Burundi in drought years. They live in small flocks at altitudes of 1100-2200m and occupy small copses of trees with grassy plains between them. The species has suffered in the wild due to capture for the pet trade and export licenses were suspended in 1992 to help them recover.
The wild colour of the bird has a green back, wings and chest, golden yellow on their neck then darker orange feathers on the head. The very top of the head is dark olive green and their beaks are bright red. Tail feathers have a purple or blue sheen to them and the birds have a circle of white bare skin around their eyes. They cannot be sexed visually apart from the female bird is usually slightly larger otherwise a pelvic exam or DNA sexing will be needed. They are around 14cm in length and numerous startling colour mutations have been bred in captivity, including light green, sky blue, Lutino and albino.
In a spacious aviary, you can keep either a pair of these birds or a small group. There may be some arguing amongst the group but this is never anything that needs to be worried about, simply normal group behaviour. They don’t have particular heat requirements during the winter when outside, simply access to a frost-free night house in which to roost.
A pair of the birds will also live happily in a spacious cage in the house. If you have one bird, you should never introduce another bird to their enclosure but let them get to know each other from adjoining cages and on neutral territory or the new bird will be viewed as an invader and attacked.
Fischer’s are lively and active birds that make use of the whole of their home. Like other lovebird species, they are also chewers so their home needs to be made from sturdy materials to avoid them chewing their way out of it. Because of this, there is also little point in adding plants to their enclosure, as they will simply chew them to pieces. Branches made from a variety of non-toxic wood however are a useful part of their home for them to chew and also for foot health with different widths of perches being available. They also enjoy chewing up paper and other similar textured materials that they carry back to the nests to line it with.
These birds love to bathe so as well as fresh drinking water, they should also have access to water to bathe in and a suitable bath bowl. They will even do this during the winter, as it is crucial for feather maintenance and general health.
Whilst not as cuddly as some lovebird species, the Fischer’s is described as charming and affectionate by owners. They need regular interaction if they have been raised around humans and it is good for them to spend time out of their cage for emotional as well as exercise purposes. Some people say that females are more aggressive than males but others say they are friendlier; so much depends on the individual birds.
Fischer’s are typical lovebirds, in so far as they are noisy and have a shrill call that they use for a lot of reasons, including be frightened or excited. They are not as loud as the larger parrots but still can be surprisingly vocal for their size. They are rarely ever completely quiet either, chatting and calling during most of the day. They are also much louder than normal when they are preparing to breed.
Like many other species of captive birds, Fischer’s can suffer from feather plucking if they get stressed or are bored. This is most common in birds that are kept alone and have a greater reliance on their humans as once the problem starts, it can be difficult to stop again.
Fischer’s are also on the list of birds affected from a mysterious disease that causes brownish or creamish patches on the legs and feet, believed to be an infection due to obsessive biting. The exact cause is not known though it may be related for hormone changes caused by lighting levels and the inability to do things they would normally do in the wild, such as building a nest. Antibiotics are used to treat the problem as well as putting them off from biting the area. An Elizabethan collar is an extreme way to retrain them to stop.
These lovebirds can also be prone to egg-binding, which can be fatal and is often caused by a lack of calcium in the diet. Females should be given a calcium supplement if they do not naturally take in plenty of calcium in their diet.
There are a number of good quality lovebird mixes available for these birds that will give them a good basis for their diet. They will also need greens, fruit and vegetables for additional vitamins and minerals and will also enjoy egg food. Grit should be available for them to eat as they need it.
It is not advisable to allow these birds to breed until they are at least 12 months old for long term health reasons. In the wild, they breed from January to April then June to July and use a hole in a tree anywhere from 2 to 15metres above the ground.
In captivity, the next box around 10 inches square is ideal with a height of around 12 inches. As mentioned, they will chew up paper and twigs to make the lining for the nest where 3-5 eggs are laid. The female bird does the incubating for around 18-22 days and the chicks will fledge when they are six weeks old. The parents will continue to feed them for a few weeks more than after this it can be advisable to remove them from the enclosure. This is because the parents may see them as a threat to future broods.