Lovebirds are one of the most popular pet parrot species, due to their attractive colors and small size. But being an owner means you must be willing to spend several hours each day with it. Lovebirds are highly social parrots that demand plenty of one-on-one attention.
A single lovebird requires a bare minimum of 2-4 hours of quality time with you per day. You can spend this time playing with, petting, talking, and singing to your lovebird. You can also walk around with your bird perched on your shoulder. A lack of attention puts lovebirds at risk of loneliness and depression.
A pair of bonded lovebirds will depend on each other for their social needs instead of you. If you’re worried that your lovebird might be lonely, adopting a second lovebird will help.
Do Lovebirds Need a Lot of Attention?
Lovebirds (Agapornis) are popular parrots to keep as pets. They’re small birds, reaching a maximum length of 7 inches, and requiring only 1m³ of cage space. They’re also highly affectionate towards humans, and easy to tame.
One aspect of keeping lovebirds that may seem daunting at first is how much attention they need. Lovebirds are highly social parrots: they thrive on interaction with their owner and with other birds.
The ideal friend for a lovebird is another lovebird. Their deep devotion towards their mate is how lovebirds got their common name. A pair of bonded lovebirds will spend almost all of their time sitting, grooming, and playing together. They’ll even feed each other, transferring food from beak to beak.
Getting another lovebird will fulfill all of your bird’s social requirements. A pair of lovebirds will keep each other occupied almost all day long. You can still play, pet, and talk to your birds as often as you like. But they won’t need much attention from you to be happy, provided they’ve got each other.
However, a lovebird without a mate can quickly become lonely and depressed. This can have a devastating effect on the bird’s mental and physical health.
If you own a single lovebird, you have to spend lots of one-on-one time with it. This is the only way to make up for the social deficit resulting from not having a mate.
Do Lovebirds Have to Be in Pairs?
Lovebirds are happiest when they are part of a bonded pair. This is because, in the wild, lovebirds are social birds and interact with others of their own species every day. When they’re not together, they call to each other over long distances to communicate and keep the flock together.
All lovebird species live in small flocks, which can range in numbers. For example, according to the University of Michigan, Fischer’s lovebirds live in flocks of 10 to 20 individuals.
It’s unnatural for a lovebird to be completely socially isolated from its own kind. When a wild lovebird’s mate dies, it will ‘pine’ for its mate, and show signs of depression.
The same behaviors are often seen in captive lovebirds that are housed alone, without any avian companions. This is why most parrot owners keep lovebirds in pairs or small same-sex groups. Keeping its social needs fulfilled is the easiest way to keep a lovebird happy.
That’s not to say, however, that you can’t keep a lovebird alone. But if you’re going to do so, you must be willing to devote lots of time and attention to it. Lonely lovebirds often show signs of poor mental health and can develop unhealthy habits such as feather picking.
Do Lovebirds Bond with Their Owners?
Lovebirds can form strong bonds with their owners, as do most other species of pet parrots. But a lovebird’s bond with a human is never going to be quite the same as with another lovebird.
A pair of bonded lovebirds can understand all of each other’s movements, mannerisms, squawks, and chirps. They can communicate perfectly with one another, in a way that you and your parrot can’t. As much as you may love your avian companion, you’ll never be able to truly speak its language. After all, you’re a completely different species.
While lovebirds do enjoy human company (particularly if they’re hand-reared), they’ll always prefer their own kind. So, if you want to satisfy your lovebird’s need for social interaction, you’ll have to work hard at it.
You must be willing to devote several hours each day to one-on-one time with your lovebird. The more time you spend with your bird, the happier and less lonely it will be. There are many ways to keep your bird entertained.
How to Entertain Lovebirds
If you’ve never spent time with a parrot before, you may be wondering how to keep it entertained. There are plenty of ways in which you can interact with your bird.
- Let your lovebird out of the cage to fly around in the same room as you. Ensure that the room is parrot-proofed, and always supervise your bird while outside its cage.
- Hand-feed your lovebird.
- Sit next to your lovebird and talk to it while it’s in its cage or using a climbing tree.
- Sing songs to your lovebird.
- Provide your lovebird with puzzle feeders, things to shred (such as balls of paper with treats inside), and other foraging opportunities.
- Encourage your lovebird to play with toys, such as climbing apparatus, chew toys, and small balls. You can even throw the ball for your lovebird to chase.
- Play hide-and-seek. Hide behind something and call your lovebird to come and find you.
- Teach your lovebird tricks, such as how to place a ball through a small hoop.
- Allow your lovebird to perch on your shoulder or hand while you walk around the house.
- Pet your lovebird.
As long as you’re giving your lovebird your attention, it will appreciate any kind of interaction with you. If you talk to your bird regularly, it may even learn to mimic your speech eventually.
Do Lovebirds Like to Be Handled?
Most lovebirds will enjoy moving around on your shoulder or forearm while you walk around the house. But the question of “do lovebirds like to be held” depends on how tame your bird is, and whether it trusts you.
The more time you spend interacting and socializing with your bird, the tamer it will become. If your lovebird seems reluctant to perch on you at first, don’t force it. Never grab your bird or attempt to pick it up from above. Let your lovebird decide when to hop onto you.
A good way to earn your bird’s trust is to start by feeding them out of your hand. Place a few treats onto your palm and place your hand flat on a surface. Your bird will likely perch on your wrist, thumb, or the edge of your palm while eating. This is a great way to gain its trust.
Once your lovebird is used to perching on your thumb or finger, you can train them to hop from one hand to another. Slowly increase the distance between your hands until they are flying from one to the other. This is a fun game that most lovebirds enjoy.
Although it’s fine to feed your lovebird treats to help them trust you, avoid overfeeding seeds and nuts. According to Pet Bird Diseases and Care, high-calorie diets can lead to serious heart and liver problems.
Do Lovebirds Like to Be Petted?
Lovebirds enjoy being petted, provided they have a strong bond with their owner. If your bird is comfortable with it, petting is a great way to interact with your lovebird. It helps to strengthen the social relationship between you and your bird.
Petting is akin to grooming – when a pair of lovebirds preen each other with their beaks. For this reason, it’s important not to pet your lovebird in the wrong places. Otherwise, you may inadvertently stimulate your bird’s mating response. You can safely pet your lovebird on its:
Never stroke your lovebird on its back, on or under its wings, or tail region. These areas are only groomed by a bird’s mate (sexual partner).
Touching your bird in these places may cause it to become sexually frustrated, resulting in behavioral problems. In female birds, it may also result in unwanted egg production and problems such as egg binding.
Always take care and be gentle when petting a lovebird. Lovebirds are delicate creatures and can’t withstand rough handling.
How Much Time Should You Spend with Your Lovebird?
The smallest amount of time you should spend interacting one-on-one with your bird is 2 hours per day. However, this is the absolute bare minimum. Ideally, this figure should be closer to 4-5 hours per day, and longer if you’re home all day. The more time you can dedicate to your bird, the better.
Try to give your bird at least an hour of one-on-one time in the morning, before you leave for work or school. You should be able to fit in another hour before dinner, and 2-3 hours after dinner.
Ideally, your lovebird should also spend at least 4-6 hours outside of its cage during the day. Many owners let their birds free-roam constantly in a parrot-proofed room when they’re home. The only time your bird should be locked in its cage is at night, and when you’re not home.
A pair of lovebirds won’t need as much time, attention, or interaction as a single bird would. If it has a lovebird friend, your bird may not want to spend much time with you at all. It may tolerate just an hour or so with you before wanting to go back to its mate.
Use your lovebird’s behavior as a guide. If it’s trying to get away from you, or biting, it may want you to leave it alone. But if it’s showing signs of boredom or stress, you may be leaving it alone for too long.
How Long Can Lovebirds Be Left Alone?
Most people aren’t at home all day, every day. Work and school commitments often mean we have to leave our homes for several hours at a time. If you’ve got a busy lifestyle, you may wonder how long lovebirds can be left alone. The answer varies depending on how many lovebirds you have.
A pair or group of lovebirds usually won’t mind being left alone when you’re at work or school. This is because they’ll have each other for company, entertainment, and social interaction.
To stave off boredom, set your birds up in as large a cage as you can afford. There should be plenty of room for your birds to fly around inside. Provide them with plenty of perches, climbing apparatus, foraging opportunities, and toys.
Ensure your birds have access to plenty of food and drinking water while you’re gone. Let them out of the cage to fly around as soon as you get home.
A single lovebird, however, shouldn’t regularly be left on its own for longer than a few hours. This is because it’ll get extremely lonely without anyone to interact with. This may result in stress, and associated mental or physical health problems. If you’re regularly going to be out for most of the day, consider adopting a friend for your lovebird.
Lovebirds shouldn’t be left alone for longer than 12 hours, whether they’re single or in a pair. If you need to leave your birds for longer, ask a trusted friend to look after them. Ideally, pick someone who your birds already know and trust.
Do Lovebirds Die When Alone?
Because lovebirds are social birds, being left alone for extended periods of time can be extremely stressful. Prolonged loneliness and stress can trigger depression and anxiety. These mental health conditions may result in:
- Lethargy (spending too much time sleeping or resting)
- Lack of curiosity or interest in toys and surroundings
- Aggression and biting
- Decreased appetite and weight loss
- Stereotypical behaviors (e.g. pacing, toe-tapping, head swinging)
- Self-mutilation. According to Applied Animal Behavior Science, this could include feather-damaging behavior (feather picking)
If your lovebird is showing any of the above symptoms, they may be lonely. The rumor that lovebirds can die of loneliness, or of a “broken heart”, is a myth. However, it’s still not good for the bird’s health to be left alone for too long.
In extreme cases, a lonely lovebird may get sick from not eating or drinking enough. It may also develop an infection from chewing or picking at its skin.
Getting a second lovebird is the best way to cure your parrot’s loneliness. If this isn’t possible, dedicate as much time as you can to petting, talking, and interacting with your bird. This should be a minimum of 2 hours per day.
If your bird is still showing signs of stress, take it to a veterinarian. The symptoms of depression and loneliness can sometimes overlap with signs of illness.