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African Lovebird Research Breakthrough to Further Conservation Efforts

Rowan Martin, PhD | Jun 07, 2023


by: Sascha Dueker, WPT Lovebird Conservation Coordinator

A new roadmap to boost lovebird conservation:

We received exciting news from the African Lovebird research front: the scientific conservation review paper (Dueker et al. 2023) has now been published by the leading South African journal Ostrich, which is a major step forward in the work being done for these charismatic birds in the wild. Writing the paper has ever been a priority by the Parrot Researchers Group (PRG) after the review on larger African parrots was published earlier (Martin et al. 2014).


Read the paper online:


Fig. 1 showing the distribution of the 9 different lovebird species. 


Lovebirds are a group of small, colourful parrots, two-thirds of which are considered to have declining populations, that are endemic to sub-Saharan Africa and Madagascar. This new scientific paper will provide a much-needed boost for the conservation and research of lovebirds highlighting the most important knowledge gaps. The paper combines expert knowledge with an extensive review of primary and grey literature to identify what is known and what we need to find out to better conserve this group of birds. The research highlighted how published studies were largely concentrated on lovebird populations in Southern Africa and, to a lesser extent, East Africa. As a result, many species remain poorly studied in the wild, including well-known companion lovebirds such as the Fischer’s Lovebird (Agapornis fischeri) and the Masked Lovebird (Agapornis personatus). For some species, such as the Black-collared Lovebird (A. swindernianus) there is a paucity of even basic information, such as geo-referenced records of presence in much of their presumed range.

The paper also considers what is known about threats in the wild, highlighting how lovebirds have historically been taken from the wild in large numbers for the international pet trade, leading to population declines. Although the trade in wild lovebirds has been greatly reduced compared to historical levels, considerable numbers are still being captured for local and international trade without any monitoring of the wild populations. In recent years Madagascar has issued permits to export thousands of wild Grey-headed lovebirds (A. canus) for commercial trade. Habitat change is also playing a role in population declines, particularly among species considered to be habitat specialists such as the Nyasa, or Lilian’s Lovebird (A. lilianae) and the Black-cheeked Lovebird (A. nigrigenis). However, changing habitat has also driven range expansions and, in combination with trade, has created numerous novel contact zones between species that were formerly divided by natural barriers such as vegetation. Hybridisation has been widely reported, particularly in East Africa, and studies on the implications of this for conservation are urgently needed.


Fig. 2 (images a-h) showing different threats to lovebirds from logging of roosting and breeding trees over capture for the pet trade and hybridization.


The studies’ 19 authors who come from across the African continent and beyond call for more targeted research on lovebirds to inform assessments of their population trends, understand the drivers of these trends and highlight opportunities to leverage existing data and new research tools to advance knowledge to support their conservation. We hope this new scientific paper will be a significant step forward in understanding the conservation needs of lovebirds and be a catalyst for many new initiatives to help protect and preserve these special birds.



Sascha Dueker, Sandi Willows-Munro, Michael R Perrin, Yilma D Abebe, Nathaniel ND Annorbah, Esther W Mwangi, Ireene R Madindou, Wondimagegnehu Tekalign, Emiliano Mori, Tiwonge I Mzumara, Chris Brown, Ursula Bryson, Henry Ndithia, Tim Dodman, Henriette van der Zwan, Rencia van der Sluis, Chaona R Phiri, Abigail Karimanzira & Rowan O Martin (2023) Conservation status and threats to lovebirds: knowledge gaps and research priorities, Ostrich, 94:1, 1-27, DOI: 10.2989/00306525.2023.2206674