Lovebirds are small, brightly coloured Old World parrots, native to Africa, with a reputation for being fiercely loyal, loving companions once they have found their “soulmate”. They are commonly kept as pets in family homes, both in cages and aviaries, and can also form strong bonds with their human owners.
These sociable birds are known to pine desperately when separated from their partner. But how long do lovebirds live and does losing a much-loved mate affect their lifespan?
In the wild, lovebirds usually live from 5 years to a maximum of 15 years. Habitat loss, severe weather events, and predation can cut short their lives. In captivity, it is not uncommon for lovebirds to reach 20 years of age, with individual birds recorded as living into their 30s on rare occasions.
There are nine species of lovebird, all with different life expectancies in the wild and in captivity. Most of the data we have relates to lovebirds kept as pets, which have a typical lifespan of between 12 and 15 years. In the wild, this is thought to be considerably shorter.
But what affects the lifespan of a lovebird, and does living in captivity always guarantee an extended life? If you’re interested in finding out, please keep reading!
Captive lovebirds usually live for between ten and twenty years
For captive lovebirds, the average lifespan is between 10 and 20 years, with between 12 and 15 years being typical. The oldest lovebird on record is claimed to have reached 34 years of age.
The average lifespans of different lovebird species, when kept as pets, are as follows:
The life expectancy of wild lovebirds is often – but not always – shorter than that of those living as pets. Detailed research is lacking into the lifespan in the wild of individual lovebird species.
Wild lovebirds may live for anywhere between 5 and 15 years, with factors such as availability of food and water, predation and weather events having a major impact on their survival potential.
A pair of Fischer's Lovebirds in the wild
Lovebirds thrive on company and need plenty of attention and stimulation in order to live healthy lives. Even in pairs, captive lovebirds should not be left for longer than 12 hours at a time and they demand a great deal of social interaction.
In the event of losing a mate, a lovebird will typically demonstrate deep grief, although contrary to popular belief, there is no guarantee that they too will soon be shuffling off their perch.
“Widowed” lovebirds will continue to have the same life expectancy as any other bird of their species, provided they are monitored for physical signs of distress and loneliness, such as excessive feather plucking.
In the wild, predation and habitat loss are key factors that may end a lovebird’s life prematurely. Lovebird population numbers may be affected by unusual and extreme weather events, as well as illegal capture for the pet trade.
Captive lovebirds are susceptible to malnutrition, and common avian diseases, including beak and feather disease and self-mutilation through excessive feather plucking.
Close up of a perched Lilian’s lovebird
Both in the wild, and in captivity, nesting lovebirds lay a clutch of 4 to 6 eggs within a week of mating. The eggs are then incubated by the female for on average 21 to 23 days.
Young lovebirds are ready to fledge after around 43 days, but continue to be cared for by parent bids for a further two weeks. They undergo their initial molt at around 5 months, after which their feathers become more vibrant.
At 10 months old, lovebirds are considered to have reached sexual maturity, and many breed for the first time at around a year and a half, forming a strong, monogamous bond with a partner.
Close up of a pair of Fischer Lovebird chicks
In their native habitats, Lanner falcons are one of the lovebirds’ main predators. Humans also pose a major threat to wild lovebirds, with the illegal capture for the pet trade being a persistent and serious issue in many parts of their native habitat.
Anecdotal records state that a peach-faced lovebird lived to over 34 years of age, and a Fischer’s lovebird reached 32. However, it’s not possible to verify these claims.
Close up of a Black-winged Lovebird
Like all birds, both wild and captive lovebirds need to eat and drink regularly to remain in good health. Birds can become dehydrated quickly if they do not drink, and need access to clean water on a daily basis.
If a lovebird has not eaten for more than 2 days, its health can rapidly and noticeably decline. For captive lovebirds that suddenly go off their food, advice from a specialist avian veterinarian should be sought.
There are nine species of lovebird. In the wild, six of these are listed as being species of least concern. Of the three remaining species, Fischer's and Nyasa lovebirds are classed as near-threatened. While not yet classified as endangered, numbers of black-cheeked lovebirds are in severe decline and they have been named as a vulnerable species on the IUCN Red List.
Black-cheeked Lovebirds are in severe decline
Young lovebirds are born with black splodges on their bills, which disappear once they reach around 6 months of age. Another telltale sign of a relatively young lovebird is its eyes – fully mature lovebirds have brown, or on rare occasions red, eyes, while the eyes of younger birds are much darker.
Birds undergo their first molt at around 5 months of age, after which their feathers become brighter and more intensely colored. Beyond the first year, it becomes almost impossible to tell a lovebird’s age based on appearance alone.
While it’s true that lovebirds thrive with company, they can live alone provided that the owner is prepared to devote a significant amount of time and attention to keeping them occupied and stimulated.
In the wild, lovebirds are social birds, living closely together, preening each other, and foraging in small flocks. They will select a mate from their flock.
Two Fischer's Lovebirds in the wild
There is no research available that supports the theory that male lovebirds live longer than females, or vice-versa.
As lovebirds age, their energy levels begin to drop and they gradually become less active and increasingly sedate. Lovebirds need between 10 and 12 hours of sleep a night in optimum conditions, but senior birds may be observed to rest for even longer periods.
With good nutrition, safe and stimulating living conditions, and access to specialist medical care, it is not unheard of for a lovebird to live 20 years or even longer in captivity. In the wild, however, it would be far less likely.
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