Black-winged Lovebird (Agapornis taranta)

Although the Black-winged Lovebird (Agapornis taranta) mainly has a green plumage, it is an incredibly beautiful bird, as the green colour changes in the sunlight, here an adult male bird. Photo from the internet.

Who can resist the beauty of this bird?

“A dear child has many names”, as you know, and therefore the Black-winged Lovebird (Agapornis taranta) is also called Abyssinian Lovebird, "Emerald of the forest" (cf. later), or simply Taranta Lovebird. Compared to most other Lovebird species, it is remarkably quiet, and in addition, it is the epitome of a calm and almost majestic bird, despite its modest size. It has some beautiful, dark – irresistible – eyes.


In 1814, Sir Henry Stanley discovered - and named - the Black-winged Lovebird after the scenic Taranta Pass in the Massawa Mountains, located in Ethiopia (which until 1941 was called Abyssinia). And no, it was not the world-renowned Welsh journalist Henry Morton Stanley who was responsible for this feat. Henry Morton Stanley, who became best known for his discovery voyages in Africa and his search for the missing missionary, David Livingstone (cf. the famous words: "Dr. Livingstone, I presume?"), lived later (from 1841 to 1904).


As the only country in Africa, Ethiopia, home of the Black-winged Lovebird, was never fully colonized by Europe. However, the northern province on the Red Sea, Eritrea, managed to be colonized by Italy, which later paved the way for the province's independence in 1993, after which Ethiopia lost access to the 1,000 km long coastline on the Horn of Africa. Among other things, on that basis, it is generally believed that it was Italian bird traders who introduced the first Black-winged Lovebirds to Europe in 1906, but it was not until 1909 that the species was bred in human care, and this took place in Austria.


With its weight of up to 66 grams for the male and up to 63 grams for the female (usually the female weighs 8 - 10 grams less than the male), the Black-winged Lovebird is considered to be the largest Lovebird species, although the Peach-faced Lovebird (Agapornis roseicollis) for the male can grow up to 175 mm, i.e. approximately 1 cm longer than the Black-winged Lovebird.

Taranta Pass in Ethiopia. Copperplate of the “Pass of Taranta”, from 1811 (so made 3 years before The Black-winged Lovebird was discovered in this pass by Sir Henry Stanley, who named the species after the place). The copperplate is engraved by J. Greig after a picture by H. Salt and, despite the poor picture quality, gives a certain impression of this mountainous area.

Colour description

The late Dane, J. L. Albrecht-Møller, describes the Black-winged Lovebird (Agapornis taranta taranta) as follows in his magnificent work, "Papegøjebogen" (“The Parrot Book”, not published in English), from 1973:

"The male: Dark green upper side, green underside; narrow red eye ring; forehead, half the crown and lores dark red; upper tail coverts lighter than the back; wing coverts green, outermost secondaries, primaries and primary coverts black or black-brown with narrow green seams on the outer vane. Underwing coverts black; tail-feathers green, all with a broad black transverse band a little from the tip, the outermost tail-feathers yellow on the inner vane at the base. Iris dark brown, beak crimson; cere greyish black; tarsus black-grey; claws black.

Length: 155 - 165 mm.


Female: Missing the red areas on the head, eye ring apple green. Underwing coverts blackish brown, the small ones partly green. Slightly smaller than the male.

Juveniles: Like female, but lighter, bill yellowish brown with lighter tip. At the age of 3 months, red feathers can be seen on the head of the male chicks, but they are not fully coloured until they are barely a year old. The sex can be determined at the earliest by the colour of the underwing coverts.


In the same book, a subspecies called Little Black-winged Lovebird (Agapornis taranta nana) is described as follows:


"Both male and female like Agapornis taranta taranta, but is far more shiny, significantly smaller, also beak and wings.


Length: 145 - 162 mm”.


Additionally, it can be mentioned that the Black-winged Lovebird's emerald green colour on the upper side of the body and wings almost has a metallic sheen in sunlight. The colour of the breast is slightly paler and has a velvet sheen. Therefore, the Black-winged Lovebird is sometimes also called "Emerald of the forest" in English.


Immediately after hatching, the chicks are flesh-coloured with whitish down on the upper side. The feet are also flesh-coloured at first, but soon become dark and the beak takes on a brownish colour. The eyes open at the age of 11 days, and by the time the chick is 13 days old, the second down coat begins to become visible, although it is not fully developed until the chick is 20 – 22 days old. This down coat appears blackish at first, but appears greyish when fully developed. The green plumage is already well on its way when the young is approximately 28 days, and the plumage is finally fully developed at the age of nearly 50 days.


The plumage of the fully developed young is generally duller than that of the adults, and the entire front of the head is green. The beak is yellowish brown, blackish at the base and whitish yellow at the tip. As stated above, the young males get their first red feathers on their foreheads at the age of 3 – 4 months. Some aviculturists remove individual feathers from the foreheads of the chicks before the first moult, thereby speeding up the time when it can be established that it is a male with red forehead feathers. However, experienced breeders of the Black-winged Lovebird can already tell the sex of the chicks based on the young bird's plumage, as the young males have dark black underwing coverts, where the corresponding areas on female chicks are grey. The first moulting is over at the age of 8 – 10 months.


Therefore, some aviculturists want wait with buying Black-winged Lovebirds until they are approximately 9 - 10 months old to be absolutely sure that you know what you are buying, which is a trend that is also known from e.g. the Nyasa Lovebird (Agapornis lilianae).


As something quite unique, it can be mentioned that the front thumb feathers of the Black-winged Lovebird are unusually long, as they reach right down to the tip of the primary coverts, whereby this species purely anatomically differs from all the other Lovebird species. As a result of this special characteristic – and certain other things - in relation to the other Lovebird species this led to, that the Germazoologist, Hans von Boetticher, who worked on ornithology and entomology, in 1946 proposed that the Black-winged Lovebird should be reclassified in a completely new genus with the designation "Donkorella" after the natives' name for the bird "Donkoro". However, the amendment did not catch on in scientific circles, which is why the Black-winged Lovebird is still found as a species under the genus Agapornis.

A few weeks old Black-winged Lovebird chick, which is completely irresistible with its big beautiful dark eyes.

Is there a subspecies of the Black-winged Lovebird?

In 1931 the German ornithologist and naturalist Oscar Rudolph Neumann (1867 - 1946) discovered what he thought was a subspecies of the Black-winged Lovebird. It was a similar bird in every way, but a little smaller, which is why it was given the species name Agapornis taranta nana (today the grammatically correct name would be nanus). Oscar Rudolph Neumann also pointed to the presence of an intermediate form (measured in size) between Agapornis taranta taranta and Agapornis taranta nana, which was found in Shoa, near the upper part of the Sobat River.


In 1934, the German Lovebird guru, Helmut Hampe (1896 - 1939), published the first photograph of the subspecies Agapornis taranta nana in the epoch-making book, "Die Unzertrennlichen", where at the same time the following was written about this subspecies:


"... Agapornis taranta nana (Neumann), which we will call the Omo Lovebird (in German Omo Unzertrennlicher, named after the river Omo in southern Ethiopia, which originates in the Kaffa Province) or Dwarf Taranta (nana is the Latin word for dwarf). It was named in 1937, and has a smaller beak and shorter wings of 96 to 98 mm in length. According to Neumann, as already mentioned, there must also be an intermediate form between Agapornis taranta taranta and Agapornis taranta nana in Shoa, which should have a wing length of over 100 mm. The Omo subspecies somewhat resembles Agapornis roseicollis in size and weight. Schuetze has measured an egg of 23 x 18 mm".


The subspecies should occur in both Eritrea and Ethiopia, with the nominate subspecies occurring in Ethiopia. This supports the information that there is a subspecies and an intermediate form, but for unknown reasons only Agapornis taranta nana was considered a subspecies, which was not the case for the intermediate form. Whereas the nominate subspecies occurs from southern Eritrea southward across central and eastern Ethiopia as far as Harar and south to Lake Abaya, the subspecies should occur in southwestern Ethiopia in the region around the middle and lower reaches of the Omo River and the upper parts of the Sobat River.


There have been stories that Agapornis taranta nana, which is especially found in mountainous areas, does not use nesting material and has 2 or even up to 3 clutches of chicks per year, in contrast to Agapornis taranta taranta, which only has one clutch, and that hybridization between these 2 types in human care should therefore be instrumental in the sometimes fluctuating success in breeding the bird. In addition, it can only be stated that a number of aviculturists have experienced that you have to remove the nest box or shield the nest hole to prevent Agapornis taranta taranta from continuing to breed. Regular brood with 2 clutches per season has become significantly more widespread over time, which may also be due to the increasing “domestication” of the species over time.


The subspecies, Agapornis taranta nana, has since appeared in much specialist literature, e.g. - as mentioned above - also in J. L. Albrecht-Møller's "Parrot Book", whereas Joseph M. Forshaw in the work "Parrots of the World" from 1973 (ISBN 0 7018 0024 0) does not mention a subspecies at all. Since is based on the "Parrot Book", this article provides a colour description of both Agapornis taranta nana and Agapornis taranta taranta.

However, since the taxonomic starting point for is the top scientific English publication, "Howard & Moore's Complete Checklist of the Birds of the World", Vol. I, from spring 2013 as well as the latest version 4.1 (August 2018), "Errata and Corrigenda to Volume I", the remaining sections of this article will assume that the Black-winged Lovebird has no subspecies, which is why the bird is only called "Agapornis taranta" and in English, Black-winged Lovebird. in the article's title and in the following sections. For many years, science has thus not recognized that the Black-winged Lovebird has any subspecies. Personally, I am skeptical as to whether such a bird actually existed, or whether it is a natural species variance. It must also be stated that it has not been possible for me to verify how many skins or live birds in its time there have been the basis for the determination of Agapornis taranta nana.


The scientific status is also emphasized by the fact that Agapornis taranta nana does not appear in the CITES registers either, where a number of other Lovebird subspecies otherwise appear.

The female of the Black-winged Lovebird lacks the red forehead colour of the male, which also surrounds the eye. The underwing coverts are also black-brown and the small ones are partly green, whereas on the male they are black. Here one of my own birds.

In the wild

The home of the Black-winged Lovebird is the countries of Ethiopia (primarily the northern, central and eastern part) and Eritrea, located on the Horn of Africa in the northeastern part of Africa. This area has for many years been marked by religious, political and social unrest as well as armed uprisings and wars. As already mentioned in the introduction of the article, Ethiopia was formerly called Abyssinia, but the earliest historical name was actually Ethiopia, which comes from the Greek word "aith", which means dark or burnt, and the word "-ops", which means face, and it may give some associations about how the landscape in the Black-winged Lovebird's homeland also looks.


Birdlife International estimates the Black-winged Lovebird's range to be approximately 572,000 km2, corresponding to 5 % of Europe's total area.


In the wild, The Black-winged Lovebird lives in small groups of up to 20 individuals, and it can be found in forests as well as in mountainous areas in southern Eritrea and the southwestern highlands of Ethiopia at altitudes between 1,300 and up to 3,200 m above sea level (by the way, Ethiopia's highest point is the mountain, Ras Dashan, which is 4,533 m above sea level in the Simien Mountains National Park). However, the species can also be found in lower lying savannah areas. The Black-winged Lovebird is very hardy, which can only be seen from the fact that the air temperature in the mountain areas in which it lives can fluctuate from as high as 40 degrees Celsius during the day and down to several freezing degrees at night. Presumably as a result of the harsh climatic conditions in the mountains with large temperature fluctuations and a lot of rainfall, it likes to spend the night in hollows in extinct trees.


In the wild, the Black-winged Lovebird breeds from the beginning of April until September, but nests have been found with eggs as early as March, and with chicks being reared as late as early November. During the breeding season, the Black-winged Lovebird is very territorial in relation to the area surrounding its nest site. Should another pair of birds come near the nest, the female will defend it vigorously, if necessary to the death. In nature, it always seems to be the female who chooses the nest site, which is usually a small crevice between rocks or hollows in dead branches of a tree. Once the nest is in use, it will not only be used for breeding, but also as accommodation for many years. During the breeding season, the female builds a nest of small pieces of grass, bark, wood and leaves, which she transports under her feathers on her upper rump, back and neck and even under her wings. In the nest, this material is shaken off the plumage and used as a bottom layer. Only a little nesting material is used to build a flat "dish-shaped" nest, and the female also lines the nest with feathers plucked from the chest area. However, it should be noted that some females do not use any kind of nesting material at all.


Once a male and female have found each other as a sympathetic pair, mating will begin with the male continually jumping over and around the female. The male constantly shakes his head and scratches his head near the beak with one foot. When the female finds the male's "performance" satisfactory, she begs food from him. The male acknowledges by regurgitating already ingested food from his crop and using his beak to pass it down into the female's open beak. There can also be heard a strange sound from the birds that you do not hear with other Lovebird species.

The Black-winged Lovebird's homeland, Ethiopia, already back in 1967 - in contrast to the species' other "new" homeland Eritrea - issued a stamp with an - admittedly not very similar - motif of this bird. At the same time, the Black-winged Lovebird has the dubious honour of being pictured together with a similar photo of Ethiopia's world-famous and stone-rich ruler, Haile Selassie I, who was the country's emperor for over 43 years in the period 1930 – 1974. Haile Selassie I, was by the Rastafari religion regarded as the reborn Jesus, which says something about his status.

The size of the clutch is between 3 - 6 white eggs, which are laid two days apart, and the incubation period, which is overseen by the female alone, is the longest among all Lovebird species, namely up to 25 days. The young also leave the nest as the last among the Lovebird species, corresponding to 7 - 8 weeks, and they continue to be fed by the parents for at least 2 weeks. After the young have left the nest, they will stay close to their parents as they continue to feed the young for several weeks. In contrast to most other Lovebird species, the young are often accepted for a longer period of time by their parents, and they thus form a kind of family group.

Except in Ethiopia's capital, Addis Ababa, the Black-winged Lovebird is rarely seen near human habitation, and it almost seems as if the species generally avoids human civilization. It lives in open woodland, which is characterized by Hagenia (trees of the rose family), Juniperus (in English, Juniper, which is a genus of evergreen coniferous trees, and they live in their crowns) and Hypericum (in English, St. John's wort, which is a genus of perennial plants with opposite, entire-margined leaves). They have also been observed in Acacias (among other things also known as Thorn Trees) on lower grass savannas, and in Euphorbias (succulents). Juniper berries have a very high content of B vitamins, which are necessary for the birds' health, but it must also be emphasized that consuming large amounts of Juniper berries is toxic to certain species of birds and mammals.


The Black-winged Lovebird feeds on various varieties of grass seeds, fruits and berries, not least juniper berries, as well as the seeds and the ripe fruits of a certain species of fig, Sycamore (Ficus sycamorus).


In nature, there appears to be an order of rank between the two sexes when foraging, with the male consuming food first.


The flight, which most often takes place at a certain height, is straight and spinning, and the males can often emit sharp beeps in this connection. In Ethiopia's capital, Addis Ababa, it is common to see this species in parks and gardens that especially have trees that bear seeds. According to local residents, it flies in noisy flocks of usually 5 - 10 birds and sometimes up to 50 - 80 birds. The Black-winged Lovebird flies fast and makes sharp turns in the air at high speeds. It moves its wings with quick, short strokes, during which you can clearly observe the black colour under the wings of the males (hence the English species name Black-winged Lovebird).


As already stated, the Black-winged Lovebird spends the night in tree holes, possibly in woodpecker holes, which are used all year round, and therefore also used as nests. Every morning, they fly in flocks to search for food, and then - shortly before darkness falls - return to their roosts.

One of my first Black-winged Lovebirds, a male, back from the 1970’s, when I had 3 pairs going at the same time. The image is scanned from a colour slide, which is why the image quality definitely not is the best.


With recent decades of civil wars and famine in the areas that are the natural home of the Black-winged Lovebird, it is not known how large the natural population is, and Birdlife International has not estimated this number either, but it is not close at all of the threshold values for vulnerability to population size in the wild. The Black-winged Lovebird has a large distribution area, and thus it also does not fall under BirdLife International's threshold value for geographic distribution, where "vulnerable" is linked to a distribution area of less than 20,000 km2 combined with a decreasing or e.g. a fluctuating distribution area. Remarkably, BirdLife International states that the trend for the natural population of the Black-winged Lovebird appears to be increasing, which has been the trend over the past 10 – 20 years.


Therefore, the Black-winged Lovebird is assessed by BirdLife International - the official "Red List" authority for birds on behalf of the IUCN (International Union for Conservation of Nature) - to belong to the category "Least Concern" species.


Nature protection measures



The Black-winged Lovebird is, like 7 other Lovebird species (genus Agapornis), listed on CITES list II.

The Asian country of Laos once again distinguishes itself by also having issued a stamp with a lifelike motif of the Black-winged Lovebird (top left a male and bottom left a female).

In human care

It is characteristic of this species that among aviculturists there are many different experiences with - and attitudes towards - how the Black-winged Lovebird behaves in human care and thus how it should be looked after most optimally.


Where European aviculturists, not least in Germany, the Netherlands and Belgium, have been very successful in breeding the Black-winged Lovebird, the situation has been different in the USA, where the species is only found in limited numbers in human care. In recent years, American breeders of the Black-winged Lovebird have therefore begun to focus on maintaining the species in human care and spreading its presence among aviculturists. It happens i.a. by spreading bloodlines and minimizing inbreeding, in addition to collaborating to get the Black-winged Lovebird to thrive in human care as best as possible. In this connection, two cooperative breeding programs ("CBP" for Coorporative Breeding Programs) for this species have been approved on a federal basis in the USA. Approval has been obtained to import Black-winged Lovebirds to the USA, and at the same time a coordinator has been appointed for the breeding programs, something that is also known from Zoos that collaborate across national borders and coordinate the breeding work with, not least, endangered animal species.


The background to the success of the European aviculturists in breeding the Black-winged Lovebird must not least be seen in the context of the fact that people in Europe are quickly - and very willingly - ready to share knowledge and experience across national borders.


Some breeders are of the opinion that if the beaks of both the male and the female are deep dark red, then both the birds are in optimal breeding condition. In order to achieve the best breeding results with the Black-winged Lovebird, it is generally important that it feels comfortable with its surroundings. Some breeders do not believe that they can get the Black-winged Lovebird to breed when there are other Lovebird species nearby, as they are apparently not keen on being placed near other birds that are noisy, thereby arousing them. The fact is, however, that many breeders of the Black-winged Lovebird also have other Lovebird species, some even keep different species in the same aviary, which I would strongly advise against, e.g. due to a high risk of violent fighting. At first glance, the Black-winged Lovebird may seem a bit sluggish and slow, but make no mistake, it can also be lightning fast if it wants to attack another bird in the aviary.


The Black-winged Lovebird is known to be aggressive during the breeding season and it has always been considered dangerous to place them together in aviaries where they come into contact with each other as they are territorial with their nests, food and mate. They even do not hold back, if necessary, to attack – and to kill - parrot species that are larger than themselves, such as e.g. Rosella parakeets (genus Platycercus). The Black-winged Lovebirds' combative nature makes breeding in flocks difficult, but some breeders have succeeded in keeping several pairs together in an aviary and carrying out colony breeding without significant problems. However, the best breeding results are achieved when the Black-winged Lovebird is kept in pairs, either in aviaries or in spacious box cages, as it is not a social being during the breeding season. Some breeders believe that it is best when the pairs can only hear each other, but are unable to see each other. It seems that if two females can see each other, they would much rather spend their time fighting each other, e.g. by trying to stick its beak through the wire mesh from one aviary to another. Conversely, other breeders believe that it is stimulating for the bird's breeding if several pairs of Black-winged Lovebirds can see and hear each other, but always remember to use double wire mesh with a good distance between the aviaries. There are also reports of a completely alternative way of keeping the species, as individual aviculturists with homes in park-like settings have successfully kept paired Black-winged Lovebirds free-flying, which i.a. applies to the famous Lord Tavistock from Great Britain.


The Black-winged Lovebird seems to have a predilection for breeding in the colder months, and when it is not breeding, it likes to use the nest box to roost in. In addition to the nest box, some aviculturists set up sleeping boxes near it, so that the adults or the young birds can spend the night in these when the nest box is not in use.


When a nest box is set up, the male will first inspect it to make sure it is safe for the female before she enters the nest box herself. However, this is in stark contrast to the experiences of other breeders, according to which it is the female who always inspects the nest box first and then entices the male to look and enter.


Since the Black-winged Lovebird does not build a large nest, you can advantageously fill the nest box with some bottom material, e.g. dust free sawdust. When the female is finally ready to lay eggs, she may decide to remove the nesting material. Therefore, it is best to use a nest box with a concave bottom, so that the eggs do not roll around in the nest.


There are many different recommendations regarding the Black-winged Lovebird's choice of nest box. Some breeders believe that they prefer nest boxes with two chambers, while others have experience that they have a preference for nest boxes with a tunnel tube as an entrance. However, other aviculturists have good experience of using large budgerigar nest boxes for breeding the Black-winged Lovebird. You can therefore advantageously set up several different types of nest boxes for the pair, who then can choose the type they prefer. Several different types of nesting material are used and even newspaper (it is strongly advised against giving the birds access to newspaper, as the printing ink contains toxins). They also like to line the nest with soft materials such as their own feathers. The female thus pulls feathers from her chest to line the nest, and sometimes she also wants to pull feathers from the male. As a result, the female can often be seen with a bare spot on her breast during the breeding season.

A pair of Black-winged Lovebirds (female on the left and male on the right), where you clearly can see the male's black wing feathers, which in English have given the species the name Black-winged Lovebird.

It is the female that clearly dominates in the relationship, but there does not seem to be any pronounced order of rank among unpaired birds, as in my experience both sexes will, for example, consume food in the order in which they arrive at the feed bowl. The female seems to let the male know when she wants to be fed or wants to be mated by bobbing her head up and down while constantly chirping at him. During mating, she makes a remarkable chirping sound. The male mounts the female for longer than any other Lovebird species and actively moves from side to side while she shakes her wings and chirps loudly.


You can see a different behaviour pattern in the Black-winged Lovebird than you see in other Lovebird species. One observation is that when the female gets ready to lay the first eggs, the male - as you know it in e.g. pigeons - constantly chasing her back to the nest. This is probably the only time when you can observe aggressive behaviour in the male. Another observation is that this species really enjoys bathing, even in cold weather, but only in clean water. It can almost seem as if the birds are sitting and waiting for you to come and change their bath water. In addition, the Black-winged Lovebird enjoys soaking some of their fruits and vegetables in their drinking water.


The female lays 3 - 5, and sometimes even up to 6 eggs. However, 4 eggs seem to be the most common. While the female incubates, she does not allow her mate into the nest where she lies. Therefore, one can advantageously use one of the previously mentioned nest boxes with 2 chambers, so that the male can feed the female from the antechamber at the same time as he spends the night there. It takes approximately 24 to 28 days to hatch the eggs, and the chicks grow more slowly than the other Lovebird species chicks. You can easily follow the development of the young, as the Black-winged Lovebird is relatively unaffected by nest control.


The newly hatched chicks are quite vocal and active in the nest. It is quite common to see the chicks pushing themselves all the way up into the corners of the nest box. The chicks can be closed ringed at the age of 10 to 12 days. The Black-winged Lovebird's chicks seem almost insatiable, so if there are chicks in the nest, it is important that there is constant access to full feed bowls. Many Black-winged Lovebirds seem to start plucking feathers of their chicks from about 2 weeks of age. It is not uncommon for a very young female to lose several clutches of chicks until she learns to feed them properly, but once you have a breeding pair of this species, she is very stable and never abandons her chicks or physically assaults them.


The chicks leave the nest at the age of 8½ to 9½ weeks. The parents tolerate the fledglings staying with them for a longer time than what can be observed in the other Lovebird species. However, one must be aware that if the parents become aggressive when they start with the 2nd clutch, then the young birds from the 1st clutch must be removed immediately. There are known examples of 1st clutch chicks killing newly hatched 2nd clutch chicks, as the fledged chicks from the 1st clutch still want to use the nest.

When you take the young birds from the parents and place them in a separate aviary, you must be aware that they can be quite nervous, and can react spontaneously to movements and sounds by flying with full force towards the end wall of the aviary, whereby they can get seriously injured or even die in the collision with the wire mesh.


The adult Black-winged Lovebird has a somewhat different behaviour compared to the other Lovebird species in several areas. It is perceived as fearful or indifferent to its surroundings. One can read in early literature that it is considered a very nervous bird, but instead of flying away in fear and thus attracting attention, the adult Black-winged Lovebird remains seated completely still and is not frightened by sudden movements or loud noises. Therefore, it can immediately be perceived as calm when you see it sitting on a perch in a cage. After being kept in human care for generations, it appears that the Black-winged Lovebird is no longer so reticent and is now much more comfortable in a caged environment. Whether these interpretations are correct, erroneous or simply the experience of certain individual birds cannot be said with certainty, but it is a given fact that both ferocity and fear among wild-caught birds will disappear after generations of breeding in human care, which is a development, which can be enhanced through targeted selection until the birds in principle only resemble their wild-caught ancestors in appearance.


The Black-winged Lovebird exhibits more parrot-like characteristics than any other Lovebird species. It wants to climb, swing on branches and hang upside down. It also likes to keep its food, e.g. peanuts, with one foot, while the food is consumed. It can be quite playful, which is why some aviculturists install different bird toys in the cage/aviary, with which it can entertain itself for hours. However, the Black-winged Lovebird does not seem to have the ability to bond with humans, which is why, unlike a number of the other Lovebird species, they are not seen as tamed pet birds.

Umm al-Qiwain, of whom hardly many have heard, has issued one of the few stamps that exist with the Black-winged Lovebird as a motif (a male on the left along with 2 females). Umm al-Qiwain is one of the 7 emirates of the United Arab Emirates, an oil-rich desert country located in the southeastern part of the Arabian Peninsula. It is in fact a colour photograph taken many years ago by the German bird photographer Horst Mueller, and which, among other places, can be seen in the great American parrot book, "Parrots and related birds", by Henry J. Bates & Robert L. Busenbark, 2nd edition from 1969.

You can sometimes see Black-winged Lovebirds sitting on a perch in the aviary, that suddenly "fall" vertically towards the ground, as if it had fallen dead, but which, a few centimeters from the bottom of the aviary, open its wings to fly at great speed up onto another branch or perch at the other end of the aviary. Like most other Lovebird species, the Black-winged Lovebird also likes to spend a lot of time on the bottom of the aviary.


I am familiar with an aviculturist who, before entering his birdhouse, emits an "access beep" so that the Black-winged Lovebirds know that he is entering. Often each pair of birds will "beep" back until they get attention, such as a treat through the wire mesh of the aviary. Do not give a pair of Black-winged Lovebirds access to the nest box immediately after they have been placed in a new cage or aviary. You must first get them used to the new surroundings, otherwise the pair may flee into the nest box every time you approach their cage or aviary, and this will rarely produce young birds. In the period until they get a nest box, you can then get the pair used to an "access beep", so that they get used to human contact more quickly. In my opinion, it is always a good idea to wait to set up nest boxes for your birds, regardless of the species, as this way you can just look at them and get to know them and their behaviour, as well as the birds can get acquainted to you as a aviculturist. If there is some form of familiarity between the birds and the owner, the birds will feel much more comfortable, and you will get better breeding results.


The males, of which there is an excess, are, for inexplicable reasons, somewhat more delicate than the females. The Black-winged Lovebird has for many decades been linked to the story that if one of the partners in a sympathy pair dies, it will not be long before the longest-lived bird follows the first in death. This has given further fuel to the term "Lovebirds". Personally, however, I have experienced a sympathy pair that had been together for several years, and where the male suddenly died. After some time, the female was paired with a new male, and they quickly became happy with each other. The pair even gave birth to a clutch of chicks already in the first year they were put together.

The Black-winged Lovebird has proven to be such a stable breeding bird over the past decades that there is hardly any risk that it will become extinct in human care as a result of a lack of access to imports. The Black-winged Lovebird is sexually mature at the age of approximately 1 year, but it can sometimes take up to nearly 3 years before a pair succeeds in raising a clutch of chicks, and it is therefore not a species for beginners.


The Black-winged Lovebird appears quiet compared to the other Lovebird species, as its voice is a quiet chirping ("song") that neither appears "harsh" nor unpleasant.


This species is easy to exhibit, as the adult bird does not react to anxiety by flapping around or hiding, it just sits still (it "freezes up"), which is an advantage in such situations.


Finally, a warning must be issued. Although the Black-winged Lovebird lives under harsh conditions in the wild and has a reputation for being robust in human care, you must be careful with what you offer it during the winter months in the northern latitudes. In various specialized Lovebird literature, you can e.g. read that in northern Europe this species has bred outdoors in the winter (without access to a heated interior), and where chicks have even got on a perch in December, while there were snowdrifts, and it was down to -14 degrees Celcius. I would like to strongly warn against this on the basis of the very severe winters that we occasionally experience here in Denmark; sooner or later this will result in frostbite on the birds' feet and toes, regardless of how much you shield your outdoor aviary. In the winter I therefore also keep this species with access to a heated interior or exclusively indoors.

Black-winged Lovebird, one of my own, a few weeks old chicks from 2010, which has just flown from the nest.

Colour mutations

The wild-coloured Black-winged Lovebird has arisen in several different colour mutations. E.g. a Dark green colour mutation which has a single dark factor (1 SF) and the Olive green colour mutation which possesses 2 dark factors (2 DF). The darkness factor is inherited autosomal dominantly, which is why it is inherited independently of the bird's sex, and there are therefore no split birds, such as e.g. known from the recessive colour mutations.

In the Netherlands there is also a Cinnamon colour mutation, and in both Europe and the USA a Lutino has also appeared, to which is added the semi-dominant "Misty" colour mutation.


Worldwide, two colour mutations of the Pale Fallow type have been bred.


For further information on colour mutations within the Black-winged Lovebird, see separate article on this at



The Black-winged Lovebird is very open to consuming new types of food that you offer it, but at the same time it seems somewhat more sensitive to stomach and intestinal problems than other Lovebird species. It has a reputation for messing with the food a lot, and it can be difficult to keep its perches clean because it constantly wipes its beak for e.g. fruit or fig residue on these.


The diet should ideally consist of a varied seed mixture, including sunflower, as well as sprouted seeds, beans, peanuts and various types of fruit, not least ripe/sweet apples and oranges. There is also green, such as lettuce and carrots. In addition, you can offer it dandelion leaves, bird grass and watercress (which have a high iron content) as well as figs, rose hips (which have a high vitamin C content) and juniper berries (contain high vitamin B vitamin content). As a youngster I saw Black-winged Lovebirds that kept turning their heads, said to be due to a lack of B vitamins in their diet.


While many aviculturists who have other Lovebird species are reluctant to provide many sunflower seeds, the opposite is true for aviculturists who breed Black-winged Lovebirds. The high fat content of sunflower seeds is a central part of their diet, and not least during the breeding season, unlimited feeding with sunflower seeds seems to stimulate the birds' breeding mood. Many aviculturists therefore provide sunflower in a separate bowl next to the bowl containing the regular seed mix. Still others supplement the feed bowl of sunflower with other fatty seeds such as e.g. linseed and hemp. It is less fond of millet cobs.


Some aviculturists offer mealworms, for which certain individuals have a great appetite.


It must have constant access to beach shells (sepia).


In summary, you can say that the Black-winged Lovebird is very pleasant to keep as a cage bird, but you have to be aware that it can get quite dirty.

Jorgen Petersen

Conceived/Updated: 17.04.2010 / 25.02.2024