Red-faced Lovebird (Agapornis pullarius)

Many consider the Red-faced Lovebird, here the Western Red-faced Lovebird (Agapornis p. pullarius), as the most beautiful representative of the Lovebird genus (Agapornis), which is due to its intensive, beautiful colours on the male bird, which can be seen in this photo. The species is called Red-faced Lovebird in English; however, the top scientific English species designation is Red-headed Lovebird, but since the first designation is most accurate (it is only the "face" and not the whole head that is (orange)red), then the English designation Red-faced Lovebird will generally be used here at

The Lovebird species, Red-faced Lovebird (Agapornis pullarius), consists of the nominate subspecies, Western Red-faced Lovebird (Agapornis pullarius pullarius), which is the one we know from the aviculture, and the subspecies, Eastern Red-faced Lovebird (Agapornis pullarius ugandae) that I never have seen alive among aviculturists. With a few exceptions, this article deals exclusively with the Western Red-faced Lovebird, and often the terms "Red-faced Lovebird" or "Agapornis pullarius" is used as a synonym for the Western Red-faced Lovebird (Agapornis pullarius pullarius).

A Danish world sensation

The Red-faced Lovebird (Agapornis pullarius) has over the years given rise to many frustrations among aviculturists who unsuccessfully have tried to breed this species for years. It has a very special breeding biology, as it naturally breeds in termite nests. The title of the section alludes to the fact that it was the co-author of "Papegøjebogen" ("The Parrot Book" (1973), not published in English), the Dane, Aage V. Nielsen, from Vanløse (Copenhagen), who, way back in 1960, succeeded in the world's first - fully controlled - breeding in human care of this species. I remember that a few years later, as a boy, I read the breeding report in the magazine, "Stuefuglene", (popularly called "the green magazine"), which was published by the bird association, "Foreningen for Fuglevenner", which was known as the gathering place of Denmark's leading aviculturists. Over several pages, Aage V. Nielsen described how he had tested several different types of nest box options and materials, and how he finally succeeded in parentraising two chicks in an ordinary budgerigar nest box. However, this was not the first breeding in human care, as few other aviculturists had bred it previously, e.g. in Germany (first time with Neubert in 1868), in Great Britain (where the best known is A. A. Prestwich's breeding in 1957) and in South Africa (with Dale in 1958), but either these breedings were not properly controlled by impartial authorities, or usually the chicks went dying after a few days or weeks. Aage V. Nielsen's two chicks lived for many years. It is thus directly wrong when Dirk Van den Abeele in his book "Lovebirds - Owner’s manual and reference guide" from 2005 (ISBN 1852792469) writes that the only breeding of Red-faced Lovebirds in Denmark took place in 2004, but this book does not distinguish itself by going in-depth with the wild-coloured Lovebirds, as the focus of the book is colour mutations.

Although the Red-faced Lovebird has by far the largest distribution area of the genus in the wild, in human care it is undoubtedly the rarest of the total of 8 Lovebird species that we see among aviculturists. It is known to be extremely difficult to breed, although the trend in the last decade gives rise to some optimism. It is therefore definitely not a bird species for beginners or amateurs, but it can be recommended to very experienced breeders and experts.

The Red-faced Lovebird differs in several ways from the other Lovebird species, i.a. its body posture is very upright and straight, its voice is weak and significantly different, almost a little melodious, and the beak is somewhat more elongated and may remind a little of the beaks of the South American parakeet genus Brotogeris, where - oddly enough - several of these species also breed in termite nests.

Ghana is one of the more than 20 African countries where the Western Red-faced Lovebird is found in the wild, and the country has issued this stamp with a fairly lifelike motif of the species.

Colour description

In the "Papegøjebogen" (“The Parrot Book”, not published in English) from 1973, the late J. L. Albrecht-Møller describes the nominate subspecies (Agapornis p. pullarius) as follows:


"The male: The forehead, the crown till above the eye, the lores and the front part of the cheeks and the upper part of the throat orange-red; upper side of body green; upper rump light blue; underside lighter green; wings green; primaries and secondaries dark with green edges on the outer vane. Underwing coverts black; edge of wing blue; middle tail feathers green with blue tips, the others from the inside black-red, black-green and blue. Iris brown; upper bill maroon red, lower bill paler; tarsus grey.

Length: 130 - 150 mm.

The female smaller than the male; upperside lighter; face colour lighter and less extended; underwing coverts green; beak shorter and more pale.

The young birds look like the female, but the face colour is yellowish and the males have black underwing coverts”.

About the subspecies, Eastern Red-faced Lovebird (Agapornis pullarius ugandae), it says:

"The male: Essentially like Agapornis p. pullarius, from which it differs only in having a somewhat lighter blue colour on the lower back.

The female: The upper rump is sometimes green, but with a blue tinge. Furthermore, it is not possible to separate the females of these 2 subspecies if you cannot directly compare some specimens".

What many do not know is that the Red-faced Lovebird actually has a very narrow eye ring made up of tiny - almost micro small - feathers. This eye ring can vary greatly in individual specimens and has nothing to do with the bare white eye rings seen in certain other Lovebird species. Sometimes the eye ring feathers are whitish or yellowish and blue and are generally smaller in females and can be very difficult to see.

As can be seen from the colour description above, it is easy on adult Red-faced Lovebirds to tell the difference between the sexes, as the male's facial mask is generally more intensively coloured and clearly marked. Occasionally, however, females are also seen with an intensively coloured face mask, so the absolutely sure way to separate the sexes is therefore to look at the colours of the wings. In males, the underwing coverts are black and the bend of wing blue, whereas in females the underwing coverts are grey-green and the bend of wing yellow.

Up to the age of barely 25 days, the beaks of the young become almost completely black, but when they fledge the nest, the upper beak of the young has black spots at the root, somewhat in the direction of what is known from the Peach-faced Lovebird (Agapornis roseicollis). The moulting into adult plumage starts at the age of 4 months.

It should be noted that in human care it is extremely difficult to separate the nominate subspecies from the subspecies, unless you have a group of birds available, which is usually not the case. As a result, in human care it will probably be a case of a mixing of the two different subspecies in certain cases.

I have been fortunate enough to be allowed to see the Natural History Museum of Denmark's (University of Copenhagen) collection of skinned specimens of the Red-faced Lovebird, which also includes the subspecies Eastern Red-faced Lovebird (Agapornis p. ugandae), which differs from the nominate subspecies, Western Red-faced Lovebird (Agapornis p. pullarius) by having a significantly lighter (or none) blue upper tail coverts or only a tinge of blue in the females. The two skins on the left are the subspecies, of which the specimen on the far left is extremely large when held in the hand.

In the wild

The distribution area of the Red-faced Lovebird is calculated by Birdlife International to be as much as 8,360,000 km2, corresponding to approximately 80 % of the total area of the European continent!!!

In contrast, Birdlife International has no estimates of the total population in the wild, which is related to its huge range.

The Red-faced Lovebird's range is primarily central Africa, from the Ivory Coast in the west to Ethiopia in the east. It occurs in a large number of countries, especially in Angola, Benin, Burundi, Cameroon, Central African Republic, Chad, Congo, Ivory Coast, Equatorial Guinea, Ethiopia, Gabon, Ghana, Guinea, Kenya, Mali, Niger, Nigeria, Rwanda, Sierra Leone, Sudan, Tanzania, Togo and Uganda. The species was also found on Sao Tome and Principe and on the Fernando Póo islands, both located in the Gulf of Guinea. Since the bird comes from equatorial Africa, it is not used to large temperature fluctuations, either from day to night or from season to season.

More specifically, the nominate subspecies, Western Red-faced Lovebird, is found in western Africa from northern Angola northwards to Guinea, and central Africa eastwards towards south-western Sudan and Lake Albert on the Congo-Uganda border.

The subspecies, the Eastern Red-faced Lovebird's range goes from south-west Ethiopia and south-east Sudan southwards across Uganda and Kenya towards the Kigoma region of Tanzania.

Just as it is known from the Grey-headed Lovebird and its subspecies (Agapornis c. canus and Agapornis c. ablectaneus), so it also applies to the Red-faced Lovebird and its subspecies that the distribution areas of the two types overlap, which is why it is assumed that there must be an intermediate (crossbred) population in nature.

Certain parts of the Red-faced Lovebird's distribution area also overlap the distribution area of other Lovebird species, but there are no reports of hybrids with other Lovebird species from the wild. For example, its distribution area overlaps the area in which the Black-collared Lovebird (Agapornis swindernianus) lives, but the two species live in very different biotopes. Where the Red-faced Lovebird lives in open countryside, the Black-collared Lovebird lives in dense and high forest, and the two species therefore hardly come into contact with each other.

The Red-faced Lovebird is a distinctive lowland bird, which mainly lives at altitudes of up to 1,400 m above sea level. They live in sparse forest and savannah woodland as well as grasslands with scrub and scattered trees, especially near cultivated areas or by rivers or lakes. It avoids dense forest unless there are grassy clearings.

The bird is rare in i.a. northern Angola, but continues to occur in the coastal areas of Ghana, except for the area around Accra. It is also rarely found around Lagos in Nigeria, but on the other hand there are many on the Niger floodplain in the Benin district, where savannah and forest meet. The Red-faced Lovebird is also very common in southwestern Sudan. In Uganda, where they also are native, it has been observed that the birds move locally depending on where they can find food.

Uganda is home to the nominate subspecies, Western Red-faced Lovebird, as well as the subspecies, Eastern Red-faced Lovebird, so on this stamp they have (perhaps unconsciously) guarded themselves by not writing the full Latin species name, so that both forms are covered.

In the wild, you can sometimes observe large flocks gathering to "attack" fields with ripening crops, but generally the Red-faced Lovebird lives in small social units either comprising a single pair or in smaller flocks of 15 - 20 birds. When there are several birds gathered together, they may well behave aggressively, as is also known from the Grey-headed Lovebird (Agapornis canus). During the day the birds wander far and wide to forage, and at dusk they return to their favorite resting places, which are usually found in low trees. When the herd needs to calm down, it often happens amid a lot of noise and unrest. The Red-faced Lovebird spends a large part of the day on or near the ground, where it feeds on grass seeds (primarily Sorghum halepensi, a wild grass species from which Durrah millet, Dari and other crops have been developed), nuts, berries, leaf buds, figs and other fruits and occasionally by insects and their larvae. Its beak is strong, and the bird uses it when handling nuts with hard shells. The birds are often seen "clinging" to the seed pods of various grasses and cereal plants, where they nimbly move up and down the stems to very often sit with their heads down in an attempt to reach the seeds. The Red-faced Lovebird is perceived as a problem in areas with cultivated crops, where they attack both immature and mature grain such as e.g. millet. They have also been observed to attack fields with Guava, which is the fruit of the Guava tree (Psidium guajava), as well as banana plantations.

Field studies from nature about the Red-faced Lovebird are still sparse, and this applies not least to knowledge about its breeding behaviour. However, it is known that it is important that the habitat can also offer different termite species, as the Red-faced Lovebird digs (gnaws) a nest chamber in termite nests. The termites find themselves both in the bird's digging and in its continued presence, as the bird probably chooses to establish its nest on the side away from the living termite nest, whereby the two different creatures can coexist without conflict. The termites feed on cellulose, which is contained in wood and other vegetation, and they thereby do not harm the birds. In fact, the termites can be said to provide the Red-faced Lovebird with protection against any natural enemies. Inhabited termite nests are often used in trees that can be found at a height of a few meters, but nests can also be found in high-lying termite nests of up to 12 m. In contrast, ground-based termite nests are rarely used as nests. The use of well-insulated termite nests has the advantage that the temperature of the nest chamber fluctuates only slightly. The female digs a round entrance hole and then a, if possible, 20 - 40 cm long tunnel with a diameter of approximately 5 cm to finish excavating a spherical nest chamber inside the termite nest. The female digs for 4 - 5 minutes at a time and then comes out. The bottom of the cavity itself is lined with grass and pieces of bark. When the Red-faced Lovebird has dug openings in the termite nest, it can happen in inhabited termite nests that the termites close this again, which is why a new entrance must be dug. As the bird's range is concentrated along the equator line across Africa, there can be a constant temperature of just under 30 degrees Celsius in the nest chamber, which enables the female bird to leave the nest quite often for up to a few hours without harming the eggs. For the first two to three weeks of the chicks' life, they are fed exclusively on insects and larvae. After the flight, the young are fed by the parent birds for approximately two weeks.

It should be noted that some field observers refer to the Red-faced Lovebird as a colony-breeding bird that breeds in large groups, but this does not match the behaviour most often described from the wild.

The use of termite nests as a nest is completely unique to the Red-faced Lovebird within the genus Agapornis. Several other species such as the Masked Lovebird (Agapornis personatus) and the Nyasa Lovebird (Agapornis lilianae) build dome-shaped nests with a side-facing entrance, whereas the Peach-faced Lovebird (Agapornis roseicollis) builds a more cup-shaped nest. The Grey-headed Lovebird (Agapornis canus) and Black-winged Lovebird (Agapornis taranta) build simple nests consisting of small amounts of nesting material in the bottom.

In the wild, the Red-faced Lovebird is shy and difficult to approach, and its direct flight is very fast, during which it can use its voice, which can seem almost like melodically chirping.

Due to the huge distribution area of the Red-faced Lovebird, the breeding season extends over a large part of the year, as the distribution area covers the different climatic conditions during the year, including the rainy season. In Uganda and Tanzania, the breeding period is in May - July, whereas it has been found breeding in Nigeria and Congo in early October. In general, you can say that the Red-faced Lovebirds that have their range in eastern Africa breed from May - July, whereas the Red-faced Lovebirds that live in western Africa breed from the beginning of September.

The Western Red-faced Lovebird is usually a shy bird in human care, but there are specimens that have become accustomed to human contact and appear calm.


The Red-faced 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 of a "Least Concern" species.

As stated above, the species has a huge range and therefore does not approach Birdlife International's threshold values for vulnerable species based on the size of the range. Despite the fact that the trend for the population of Red-faced Lovebirds in the wild seems to be decreasing, fortunately this decline is not found to have occurred sufficiently quickly for Birdlife International's threshold values for vulnerability due to demographic development to apply.

By EU regulation 2551/97 the import of parrots into the EU was severely restricted, but for some years it was still possible to export Red-faced Lovebirds from 10 of the countries where it belongs, which has been used sporadically. After the introduction of the general ban on the import of parrots at the beginning of 2007, it will be almost impossible to obtain new blood from wild-caught birds in the future. Even in recent times, when this species was imported, it often happened that the birds were tied, as they were very shy and nervous. It was thought that in this way the birds could be better accustomed to human contact. However, the result was that many Red-faced Lovebirds were disabled upon arrival and did more harm to themselves when approached while tied. Incidentally, during these transports the birds were primarily fed Paddy rice.

Western Red-faced Lovebird lever også i det afrikanske land, Togo, som har udgivet dette frimærke med et - ikke særligt vellignende - motiv af denne fugl.

Nature protection measures


The Red-faced Lovebird is, like 7 other lovebird species (genus Agapornis), listed on CITES, list II.

In human care

The Red-faced Lovebird, like the Grey-headed Lovebird (Agapornis canus), is a rather shy bird, and it has difficulty getting used to contact with people. At the same time, it is known to be very sensitive to changes, e.g. when you move it to a new aviary or if you put it together with other birds. However, some specimens have become accustomed to human contact over time. As a distinctive lowland bird, the Red-faced Lovebird is also quite sensitive to cold, indeed some describe it as very sensitive to cold, and must not be kept below 18 degrees Celsius in the winter.

It is said that in human care it can often rest hanging with its head down, as is known from the Hanging Parrots genus (Loriculus), but I have never experienced that myself in the nearly 12 years that I have kept this species.

Breeding of the Red-faced Lovebird is reserved for experienced breeders or experts. It is very "picky" in terms of choosing a suitable nest box option. You should therefore ideally be able to offer it various nesting options where it can dig a cavity in the form of a nesting chamber. Trampled turf, compressed peat litter or cork blocks are often accepted as "nest filling", and some breeders have also used clay lined walls inside the nest box.

In human care, it is also primarily the female who digs the nest, but the male is often eager to help, but it is not very efficient. The bottom of the nest chamber is typically lined with seed chaff or small pieces of bark, grass or leaves, which are carried to the nest by the female in the body feathers that she can reach, i.e. in the same way as the Black-winged Lovebird (Agapornis taranta), but not on the upper rump, as it e.g. seen in the Grey-headed Lovebird (Agapornis canus).

Several aviculturists have invested a lot of time and effort over the years in trying to breed the Red-faced Lovebird. One of those who tried to imitate Aage V. Nielsen was another Dane, Erik Thomasen, from Rødovre. As one of the first members of the newly started association, DAK (Danish Agapornis Club), from the end of the 1970’s he used many resources to get a group of Red-faced Lovebirds to breed in a huge outdoor aviary, where the birds were offered many different nesting possibilities.

It is thus characteristic of aviculturists who have the Red-faced Lovebird that they experiment with different types of nesting options. Although breeding can also take place in an ordinary budgerigar nest box, some breeders have tried to make copies of wooden termite nests from nature to stimulate the birds' desire to breed. With a mixture of sand, lime, plaster and cement, some aviculturists, e.g. the world-renowned German Lovebird expert, Helmut Hampe (author of the classic work, "Die Unzertrennlichen", from 1934), built artificial termite nests, which were painted on the outside to appear even more realistic. The artificial termite nest contained a nest chamber, which was accessed via an approximately 30 cm long access tunnel filled with cork, which has proven to be the most ideal filling as it does not collapse. It is believed that cork, which allows the bird to dig, stimulates the nesting behaviour of the Red-faced Lovebird in human care. Others have filled the nesting sites with peat, which had previously been made wet and then dried up hard before being pressed down into the chamber and tunnel of the nesting site. It became groundbreaking when, in the early 1970’s, a German breeder equipped the nest chambers of his Red-faced Lovebirds with thermostatically controlled heaters, as this ensures a higher and more constant temperature inside the nest chamber itself during the breeding season. Temperatures of 23 to 25 degrees Celsius have been used until the first egg hatches, and then the temperature is raised to 25 to 27 degrees Celsius. During summer periods, when the outdoor temperature has been consistently at 25 degrees Celsius, artificial heating has been avoided.

While the female digs the nest, the male can sit outside the nest hole on the perch, where he sits and "chats". Mating can take place in the same place. When the male approaches for mating, he sits erect and with inflated plumage and outstretched tail feathers, while he continuously shakes his head. He does not scratch his beak with one foot, as e.g. known from the Lovebird species with the white eye rings. You neither see that the female Red-faced Lovebird spreads its wing feathers before and during mating, as is otherwise seen among several of the other Lovebird species.

In this photo of a Western Red-faced Lovebird, you can also see the characteristic upright straight posture of the species, here represented by a male bird.

If the Red-faced Lovebird finally takes up the offered nest box opportunity, it can lay up to 7 eggs, which are incubated by the female alone, and which hatch after 22 - 23 days. The female comes out of the nest a few times a day and is also fed by the male. Compared to the chicks of other Lovebird species, the Red-faced Lovebird's chicks appear very naked immediately after hatching. At first the chicks still have their beak tooth, and at the age of 11 - 13 days they start to open their eyes and it is now time to ring the birds. However, one must be extremely careful with unnecessary disturbances, since, as already mentioned, the species generally is shy. A few days later the first feather pouches appear, and then the first feathers appear. Approximately 35 days old, the chicks are almost fully feathered, and nearly a week later they leave the nest. Barely 9 weeks old, the chicks are independent. Unlike the chicks of other Lovebird species, the Red-faced Lovebird's chicks typically do not return to the nest once they have fledged. If the birds feel threatened, you more often see than with other Lovebird species that the parent birds try to protect the young by letting them sit between them on a branch or perch. Some breeders describe the fledglings as extremely shy, while others describe them as surprisingly calm. As previously mentioned, the young begin the change to the adult plumage at the age of approximately 4 months.

As perches, you can use branches with many smaller branches to great advantage, which at the same time give the birds the opportunity to sit on branches and twigs of different thicknesses, so that the musculature of the feet is used in different positions and not locked in a certain position. The birds have a fondness for thin, high branches where they can sit and rest. Although the male and female in a sympathy pair stay together for life, you see that when several pairs of the Red-faced Lovebird are kept in the same aviary, they do not necessarily always sit together and rest. The birds like to sit together in pairs regardless of gender, so two males or two females can also sit and rest together, which is quite remarkable.

Among the Red-faced Lovebirds, unexplained deaths occur more often than among the other Lovebird species. It is not uncommon for aviculturists to have experienced a sudden onset of gasping in the bird without any other prior signs of illness. Once a bird has had this gasp, it does not recover and dies either within a few hours or a few days. Conversely, this species is also known to be over 10 years old. Just as in relation to the Black-winged Lovebird (Agapornis taranta), there are also urban legends about the Red-faced Lovebird, which states that if one party in a sympathy pair dies, the longest-lived mate follows it in death during shortly.

The Red-faced Lovebird must be kept in an aviary where it feels safe and its natural behaviour can come into its own. In a small cage, this species will appear passive and will simply sit still on a particular perch or branch in the cage all day long. Conversely, the Red-faced Lovebird is not a very active bird and prefers to crawl around in the branches rather than fly.

In recent years, a small handful of breeders around Europe, not least in Portugal, Germany, the Netherlands and Great Britain, have succeeded in regularly breeding this species, and finally let's hope that this development continues, so that the species does not completely disappear in human care.

There are most stamps with not very lifelike motifs of the Red-faced Lovebird. Here a stamp from Cameroon, where you see a male bird on the left and a female bird on the right. Notice that the Latin species name of the time has been used on the stamp, namely "pullaria" instead of "pullarius". At the same time, the stamp actually shows the subspecies, "guineensis", which has not been recognized by science for a number of years.

Colour mutations

A yellow-pied Red-faced Lovebird has been found in the wild. In addition, there are reports back in the 1960’s from Portugal of an imported bird that was Lutino. I have had the opportunity to see colour photos of this bird (a male bird) and it was an extremely beautiful bird. In the USA, there has been mention of a blue mutation in the late 1970’s, but I have not been able to confirm this information.

The Western Red-faced Lovebird is a very sociable bird, so if you are lucky enough to have several of them, it is possible to keep them in flocks without any problems.


The Red-faced Lovebird is the most difficult Lovebird species to feed in human care. It can feed on a certain seed mixture for a long period of time and then suddenly not want to consume this feed. A large part of the overall feed plan consists of a mixture of small-grained millet species, sweet apples and pears, carrot and figs. It is extremely fond of millet cob.

During the breeding season, a germinated seed mix is mandatory. During the germination process, the seeds' oils, fats and starch are converted into simple sugars that can be fully absorbed by the bird's organism. The sprouted seed can be added to the grated carrot. The result is a slightly moist mass that can be suitably supplemented with vitamins and powdered minerals. It is important to emphasize that this feed only has a very limited shelf life, and it must therefore be removed after 12 hours at the latest and even sooner if the weather is hot. Some aviculturists have been successful in offering nectar, just as other aviculturists use live feed such as mealworms during the breeding season.

In addition to various fruits, cf. above, dandelion leaves, bird grass, etc. are welcome. as well as seasonal fresh berries. It is also happy with fresh rye grass seeds.

See also the same section under the article about the Masked Lovebird (Agapornis personatus).

Example of a "still life" painting from around 1620/30, "Blumenstilleben", painted by Peter Binoit, which hangs in the Rheinland-Pfalz Staat Museum in Mainz, Germany. It is just one of several contemporary examples of "still life" paintings that illustrate the Red-faced Lovebird, here a pair on the lower right corner of the painting.

The Red-faced Lovebird in (art) historical perspective

When you read in the literature about the Red-faced Lovebird, you learn that it was the first Lovebird species to be described and classified by science, which happened way back in 1758. It was the later world-famous Swedish doctor, botanist and zoologist, Carl von Linnè himself (Carolus Linnaeus), who was responsible for this work. However, our knowledge of the Red-faced Lovebird goes much further back in history, as it has been known in Europe since the year 1603. The first mention of the Red-faced Lovebird appears in the scientific book, "Exoticum Libri decem" from 1605, where the Dutch botanist Charles de l'Escluse (Carolus Clusius 1526 - 1609) describes the Red-faced Lovebird as "Psittacus minimus" (the little parrot).

Already from the beginning of the 17th century, the Red-faced Lovebird was a favorite "pet" among Europe's wealthy, not least among the distinguished ladies of the English aristocracy, who went for walks with the bird on their finger. The birds were imported from Africa and the losses in transporting the birds from that continent to Europe, where they arrived with clipped flight feathers, were considerable. The name "Lovebird", as a family name in English, originates from the wealthy circles of old England, where there was a tradition of showing one's love in the form of presenting such a bird as a gift to the chosen one of one's heart. From the middle of the 18th century, keeping birds in cages became more regular in Europe, and the popularity of the Red-faced Lovebird in Europe is also evident from the scientific species name given to it by Carl von Linnè in 1758, namely "pullaria" (which is a nickname for a small dear parrot, the Latin "pullus" actually means a young or small animal). Pullarius (formerly pullaria) is still its species name to this day, although the taxonomy and nomenclature of the Agapornis genus since has been revised several times.

The popularity of the Red-faced Lovebird can also be documented through contemporary images in the form of paintings.

"Stillleben" (in English "still life" and in Dutch "stilleven", which in both languages means "still life") is the German term for a style within the art of painting, where setups of usually smaller objects, such as e.g. fruits, flowers or instruments placed out of their normal context are rendered decoratively, symbolically and very precisely. It is difficult to accurately distinguish "still life" from portraits, landscape motifs, historical motifs, which is why the precise history behind this style is unclear. However, "still life" can be traced all the way back to ancient Egypt. On the ancient Egyptian tomb paintings, you can often see wall motifs depicting food and utensils, which is believed to have a connection with the needs of the deceased in the afterlife. Ancient Rome also used this style, which i.a. can be seen on the well-preserved friezes in Pompeii. However, it was only in the late Middle Ages and early Renaissance that the concept reappeared as an independent style, where artists made a lot of use of setup, location, design and lighting. It was especially in Northern Europe that "still life" became widespread, and it is considered to be an actual style from around the 1650’s in Holland. Later painters developed "still life" to be a completely lifelike reproduction of the various poses. Paintings of fruit, food and wine symbolized hospitality, which is why such "still life" paintings most often hung in the home's entrance hall. On a previous occasion, the National Museum for Art in Copenhagen held a major special exhibition on "still life", where you could experience an entire department with beautifully composed "still life" paintings.

One of these "still life" painters was the Dutch Peter Binoit. Around 1620/30, he painted the below "still life" painting, which appears so realistic that you can determine the species of the individual flowers in the bouquet. It is even painted so realistically that it has since been ascertained that Binoit has not painted a bouquet that was in front of him, as the different flowers bloom at different times of the year. If you look at the lower right corner of the painting, you will be able to see two Red-faced Lovebirds sitting and pecking at a pomegranate. The reality is that it was probably not a pomegranate that the birds pecked at, as this apple was an expensive import that was unlikely to have been used as bird food.

When the Red-faced Lovebird was illustrated in "still life" paintings it was often in the context of fruit and vegetables, which is probably a reference to the diet of these birds or its status as a valuable exotic bird. At that time, keeping parrots in the wealthy circles was a "noble possession", as the birds were not eaten, but were kept exclusively in cages, usually in the most representative rooms of the home.

Jorgen Petersen

Conceived/Updated: 26.02.2010/ 11.02.2024