The Rare Lovebirds ... A Future Focus: The Black-cheeked LovebirdThe Black-cheeked Lovebird


The Black-cheeked Lovebird from
southwestern Zambia, formerly Rhodesia,
has the most limited range of any of
the lovebirds. It inhabits lowland river
valleys, with local seasonal movements.
Its range approaches that of the Nyasa
Lovebirds, the species it is most closely
related to, however, does not overlap or
form a cline.
The pure Black-cheeked is a small pretty
bird. It is sometimes confused with the
Masked Lovebird from East Africa, and at
first glance, there are some similiarities.
The Black-cheeked is distinguishable by
its smaller size, paler beak, "brownish"black
face and green rump. The iris is
lighter colored, ·and the small throat patch
is "pinkish-orange," replacing the broad

yellow collar and chest of the Masked. The Black-cheeked has been hybridized with all of the other eye-ring lovebirds and pure stock has often been difficult to locate. Even among imports I have received from Rhodesia there were specimens which were obviously crossed with Nyasas. They have also been frequently crossed with the Masked.

In early aviculture (the thirties), large shipments of Black-cheeked Lovebirds were imported from Rhodesia and commenced breeding rather quickly. Because of their more subdued coloring they never gained the popularity of some of the other species, and subsequently became scarce. Rhodesia cut off exportation of native birds some years ago, so

breeders interested in this lovebird were left scrambling with virtually no stock left in the country. In 1973 Lee Horton of Agapornis Acres in Vista, California brought in 26 Black-cheeked. The birds began breeding the next year and, initially, the offspring looked good. However, the major problem was that the young raised would die during the first major molt between eight to 10 months of age. I received some Black-cheeked and Nyasas the same year as Lee and had the identical problem. Even with the complications with the young birds, Lee persisted in working to establish them, devoting years to line breeding to build a healthy strain whose offspring would survive. I believe that from the late seventies and on through the eighties Lee was the only person in the country who still had a large enough quantity, as well as the patience and interest to work with them.

A few pairs did "trickle in" through quarantine from Europe. Finally in 1993 Mark Roberts of Georgia and I contacted Mr. Kloosterman in Denmark, probably Europe's foremost breeder of Blackcheeked. We arranged to import 30 birds. We came in just under the wire before the new laws took effect and we actually got the last quota issued for lovebirds.' Lee Horton and Janice Pritchard both anxiously agreed to participate in forming a breeding consortium with us for Black-cheeked. There were no losses in quarantine and as Mr. Kloosterman had promised us, the birds commenced breeding very quickly. Also at this time, Lee began trading birds with the San Diego Zoo which had a completely different strain they received from Vogelpark Zoo in Germany. Mark "rounded up" some birds from the previous importations of one dealer which we also thought were unrelated. So now, in 1994 the Black-cheeked Lovebird, previously one of the rarest species, has an excellent prognosis for becoming established in the United States. In addition to our breeding consortium, I know of several other groups in the country. We would invite those aviculturists to work with us.