The term “Love Bird” refers to the nine species of Agapornis. Eight of these species are native to Africa, with the ninth hailing from the island of Madagascar.
The Common Species
In captivity, three species of Love Bird are rather common: Peachfaced, Masked, and Fischer’s.
- Peachfaced Love Bird (Agapornis roseicollis)
- Masked Love Bird (Agapornis personata)
- Fischer’s Love Bird (Agapornis fischeri)
The following species are either uncommon or unknown in aviculture, and are referred to collectively as “the rares.”
- Nyasa Love Bird (Agapornis lilianae)
- Black-Cheeked Love Bird (Agapornis nigrigenis)
- Madagascar Love Bird (Agapornis cana)
- Abyssinian Love Bird (Agapornis taranta)
- Black-Collared Love Bird (Agapornis Swindernia)
The enormous diversity of color mutations that have been created is one of the most interesting elements of raising and breeding Love Birds. The Peach-faced Love Bird has at least 17 different mutations, perhaps more than any other species of captive parrot save the budgerigar. More information on the presently known Love Bird mutations may be found below.
For our more advanced breeders, you can try out Rasek’s Genetics Calculator for more mutations and combinations.
- Blue, Whitefaced Blue, and Seagreen.
Not surprisingly, individuals are perplexed by Blue and Whitefaced Blue (WFB). The main reason for this is because they are so closely related that many breeders just do not grasp the distinctions. Many Blues are marketed as WFBs at bird fairs, while Seagreens are often sold as Blues, and so on. Some of this is due to unscrupulous breeders lying about what they’re selling, but the majority is due to the breeders themselves not knowing.
The blue mutant is the oldest of the two, having originated in Holland in 1963. A bird with this mutation lacks the majority of the red and yellow pigments seen in a typically colored Peachfaced. A Blue Peachfaced, unlike the Masked lovebird’s “full” blue mutation, still contains some red and yellow pigment in its feathers, most notably in the somewhat creamy hue of the face and the solid orange band across the forehead. Because of the “incomplete” absence of yellow and red pigments, this mutation is frequently referred to as “semi-blue.”
Whitefaced Blue first appeared in the early 1980s. It, too, is not a “genuine” blue mutant. A genuine blue would remove ALL of the red and yellow pigment from the bird, but WFB retains remnants of both colors, although less of each than the Blue. A Whitefaced Blue’s face is completely white, with the exception of a little orange suffusion on the forehead. For show purposes, this suffusion is considered a flaw, and top WFB show birds exhibit little or no orange. If a genuine blue mutation occurred in the peachfaced, coupling it with the lutino mutation would result in a real albino, a pure white bird with no yellow. WFB and Blue both yield birds with obvious yellow when crossed with lutino. The Creamino (A Blue Ino) is more entirely a yellow/cream hue than the WFB Ino (Sometimes incorrectly referred to as an Albino), however the WFB Ino does have some yellow color in its feathers.
The fact that WFB and Blue are “alleles,” which means they exist on the same gene of the same chromosomal pair, adds to the misunderstanding. Thus, a bird may have two WFB genes, two Blue genes, or one of each, but not both. When a bird has one WFB gene and one Blue gene, the two interact to create what is known as a “seagreen.” This bird is sometimes misidentified and marketed as a Blue, although it is really half Blue and half WFB. The seagreen’s face and forehead are almost similar to those of the Blue, but its body color is closer to that of a typical green bird. When you compare a Blue with a Seagreen, the body of the SG will be noticeably more green.
On the left is an Orangefaced Lacewing, while on the right is an Orangefaced Lutino. Lacewing mutations occur between Ino and American Cinnamon or Australian Cinnamon and American Cinnamon. The Lacewing below is a Lutino as well as an American Cinnamon. Lacewings are very uncommon birds, with just a 3% chance of generating a Lacewing crossover. Because the female bears the sex-determining chromosome pair in lovebirds (unlike humans), there is generally just one sex-linked mutation. When the crossover happens, both sex-linked mutations end up on the same chromosomal pair. The male bird must carry (either visibly or split to) American Cinnamon and Lutino in order to create a lacewing (or Australian Cinnamon).
Unlike the American Dilute, the feathers have no lacing or edge, contrary to what the name implies. Lacewings have cinnamon-colored flights, a light blue rump, and cinnamon stripes across the tail feathers, with the rest of the body looking similar to the Ino (notice the red eyes).
- American Yellow (Dilute) and Japanese Yellow (Imperial Golden Cherry)
- Australian Recessive Pied (dark-eyed clear)
The Peachfaced Lovebird has three sex-linked mutations (the Opaline mutation did not yet exist at the time this article was written): Lutino, American Cinnamon, and Australian Cinnamon. Though the Lutino mutation is extremely frequent and probably widely known to most lovebird lovers, the cinnamons are less common and hence less well recognized.
The Lutino mutation works by eliminating all of the bird’s Melanin, which is a dark pigment. The yellow and red hues we perceive are created by several pigments known as carotenoids, which are unaffected by the Lutino gene. In fact, the vivid yellow and red hues represent the pigments that were “left behind” after the Lutino gene destroyed all of the Melanin from the bird.
The Australian Cinnamon is a pale yellow-green that is somewhat darker than a lutino but lighter than an American Cinnamon. Australian Cinnamons, which were formerly expensive and difficult to buy, are now widely available. Cinnamon newborns of both types are easy to spot in the nest because their eyes are whiter than the black eyes of typical chicks, but not as red as the lutino’s. The chicks’ eyes darken as they age, and although they are presumably still “redder” than a regular eye, they seem black, much like a typical peachie. Young Cinnamons have a dark marking on their beak, but it is considerably lighter in shade than the profound black mark on a Normal Green Peachfaced baby’s beak. There is no black mark on the beak of a Lutino infant. The Australian cinnamon on the left has constructed a lavish nest for her family.
An American Cinnamon is the bird on the right (this is a blue Am. cinnamon; it is also whitefaced).
When two sex-linked mutations are combined, several highly intriguing outcomes result. Because each of these mutations occurs on the sex-determining chromosomal pair, a female may only carry one of these mutations at a time; nonetheless, a rare genetic “crossover” will occur when an American Cinnamon and Lutino father bird contains one gene each. Because of this crossing, the American Cinnamon Gene and the Lutino Gene end up on the same chromosome. The new combination mutation is known as a “Lacewing.” They are really uncommon (photo not available).
When a male bird possesses one Lutino gene and one Australian Cinnamon gene, he will look like an Australian Cinnamon bird, but significantly lighter in color. This bird is also known as a “Splitcinnamonino.” The Australian cinnamon hen (top) and the orange-faced lutino male (right) might, for example, produce “splitcinnamonino” males. Because both mutations in this coupling on the right are sex-linked, we will know the sex of each infant by its color (splitcinnamoninos will be males, lutinos will be females).
We’ve been talking about these hues in terms of “green series” birds. These sex-linked mutations manifest differently in “blue series” birds. The bird seen below is a creamino, an ino mutation of a blue peachfaced lovebird.
- Lutino, American Cinnamon, & Australian Cinnamon
Opaline is a novel mutation identified in Becky Anderson’s aviary in Michigan in 1997. On January 18, 1997, the first Opaline infant was born. This mutant was created by breeding two apparently common green birds. What a lovely mutant! The green opaline features a hood-like redhead and a red-orange tail. Opalines are also a brighter shade of green than traditional greens. Unlike a conventional green bird, the rump is green like the rest of the body. Babies are readily identified by their thick yellow down and, as they get bigger, the red on the rear of the skull. The red covering the whole head will begin to appear when the babies go through their adult molt. Opaline is a sex-linked mutation that may be paired with a variety of other mutations to create even more stunning birds.
The ALBS membership decided in 2003 to include an Opaline Section in the show categories. Only a few years have passed, yet Opalines are currently being bred all over the globe!!
- Dark Factor
Dark Factor (DF) is a mutation that results in a variety of fascinating color combinations. The DF mutation is a semi-dominant mutation (sometimes termed partial dominant). This implies two things:
- A bird only has to inherit the mutation from ONE of its parents to experience the mutation’s consequences. A bird with a single copy of the mutation is known as a “single dark factor” bird.
- A bird who gets the mutation from BOTH of its parents, known as a “double dark factor,” would have a substantially different appearance than a single dark factor bird.
Dark Factor, unlike most other mutations in the Peachfaced Lovebird, has no influence on the bird’s feather pigments. Rather, the physical structure of the feathers is influenced. (According to Jim Morris, “Notes on the Dark Factor,” Agapornis World, October 1980.) This small alteration in feather structure modifies the way the feathers reflect light, resulting in the bird’s color being both deeper and darker.
The existence of the dark component on most peachfaced may be identified by looking at the color of the bird’s rump. The rump of a regular peachie will be a vivid tourquoise blue. If there is just one dark component, the rump will be dark royal or navy blue. Birds with a double dark component are readily identified because the body is quite black and the rump is truly grey.
Perhaps the most intriguing part of the Dark Factor is the vast array of colors it allows when paired with other mutations. By combining it with the dark component, almost any other color available in the peachfaced may be generated in three separate tones. This has resulted in many gorgeous peachfaced cultivars, but also a large array of names for various pairings, which can confuse the beginner enthusiast. Though most experienced breeders are acquainted with terminology like “jade” and “slate,” many new breeders I’ve talked with have been perplexed by these concepts.
The word “Jade” refers to a single dark factor green, while “Olive” refers to a double dark factor green. “Cobalt” denotes a single dark factor Dutch Blue bird, whereas “Slate” denotes a double dark factor Dutch Blue bird.
When there were only a few Peachfaced mutations to deal with, these words were easy enough, and most experienced breeders still use them informally. However, the commonly used terminology for all single and double factor lovebirds are “Medium” and “Dark.” Thus, the terms “Jade,” “Medium Green,” and “Single Dark Factor Green” are interchangeable. The labels “Medium” and “Dark” have the benefit of being both simpler and more accurately descriptive than the earlier terminology. Whereas “cobalt” can only refer to blue birds and “jade” can only refer to green birds, “medium” may be added to any color descriptor to indicate the existence of a single dark element.
- American Pied
The Longfeather is bigger and stockier than the usual Peach-faced Lovebird, and its coloration is fairly bright. Chicks in a Longfeather pair’s nest may vary in size. Some may be enormous ‘genuine’ Longfeathers, while others may be smaller ‘Intermediates.’
Longfeather Peachfaced Lovebirds have more vivid coloration, a wider upper mandible, are broader across the chest and have bigger feet and stout legs when compared to our other Peachfaced Lovebirds.
Color Changes That are not Genetically inherited
- Red Suffusion
Mutations in the Masked, Fischer’s, Black-Cheeked, and Nyasa
- Yellow (Dilute)
- Dark Factor
Mutations in other Love Bird Species
- The Abyssinian Love Bird (Agapornis taranta)
This is one of the “rares,” since it is the biggest of the Agapornis species and is not often kept as a pet. This species is dimorphic, which means that the male and female can be distinguished visually.
- The Madagascar Love Bird
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