Red-headed lovebird -- 红脸牡丹鹦鹉 (Agapornis pullarius)

Red-headed lovebird
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Red-headed lovebird fact file

Red-headed lovebird description

GenusAgapornis (1)

The lovebirds are a group of nine species of diminutive parrots (4) favoured by bird keepers for their attractive colouration and strong pair-bonds (5). The red-headed lovebird has a small, yet stocky, body with a short tail (4), a bright, coral red bill and brown eyes (2). Both sexes are mainly bright green, but can be distinguished by the colour of the face, which in the male is reddish-orange, and orange in the female. The male also has a bluish lower back, a black underwing, and a tail which is greenish-yellow above, with bands of red and black underneath. The red-headed lovebird’s call is a relatively weak, high-pitched twittering, interspersed with occasional whistling notes (2).

Inséparable à tête rouge.
Length: 15 cm (2)
43g (2)

Red-headed lovebird biology

While many parrots form long-term bonds, the lovebird has attained its romantic reputation because the pairs form exceptionally close associations, roosting together and preening one another for hours at a time (5) (7).

Outside the breeding season the red-headed lovebird can be found in large, fast-flying flocks of up to 30 individuals which, during the day, forage over great distances, consuming grass seeds, fruit and some cultivated crops, before returning at night to communal roosts (2). Remarkably, while roosting the red-headed lovebirds may hang upside-down, bat-like, from branches and engage in mutual preening (7).

The Red-headed lovebird’s breeding season commences with onset of the rainy season, at which time the birds pair-off and build nests. Incredibly, these are constructed within ant and termite mounds located above the ground in trees. Nest building materials include seed husks and shredded grasses and leaves (2), which the female ingeniously transports by tucking them between her feathers (7). A clutch of five small eggs is laid and incubated for 24 days, with brooding taking a further seven weeks before fledging (2).


Red-headed lovebird range

The red-headed lovebird has an extremely wide distribution, with populations found in a broad band covering much of sub-Saharan Africa, from Guinea, east to Ethiopia in the north, and from Angola, east to Tanzania in the south (6).


Red-headed lovebird habitat

The red-headed lovebird occupies a range of habitats, from lowland savannah to patches of forest and woodland up to elevations of 1,500 metres. It also frequents cultivated land, pasture and abandoned plantations (2).


Red-headed lovebird status

Classified as Least Concern (LC) on the IUCN Red List (1) and listed on Appendix II of CITES (3).

IUCN Red List species status – Least Concern


Red-headed lovebird threats

The population status of the red-headed lovebird is currently not well known, and while its range is very large, it appears to be uncommon in some parts (6). Although the main threat to this species is likely to be trapping for the wild bird trade (2), it is not as popular as some other lovebird species due to difficulties in replicating its unusual nesting conditions (5).


Red-headed lovebird conservation

The red-headed lovebird is currently listed on Appendix II by the Convention on Trade and Endangered Species (CITES). This means that international trade in this species is strictly regulated, with quotas set for the maximum number of birds that trading countries are allowed to export (3). While currently there appears to be little concern over the abundance of this red-headed lovebird, its population has not been properly assessed (6), and therefore trade may be affecting this species more significantly than is realised.

View information on this species at the UNEP World Conservation Monitoring Centre.

Find out more

To learn more about parrot conservation and how you can help visit:

For more information on this and other bird species please see:



This information is awaiting authentication by a species expert, and will be updated as soon as possible. If you are able to help please contact:


  1. IUCN Red List (December, 2008)
  2. World Parrot Trust (December, 2008)
  3. CITES (December, 2008)
  4. Burnie, D. (2001) Animal. Dorling Kindersley, London.
  5. Appleyard, V. (2001) The Lovebird Handbook. Barron's Educational Series, New York.
  6. BirdLife (December, 2008)
  7. Burton, M. and Burton, R. (2002) International Wildlife Encyclopedia. Marshall Cavendish Corporation, New York.

Image credit

Red-headed lovebird  
Red-headed lovebird

© Robert Harvey/SAL /

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