Mystery Bird: Peach-faced Lovebird, Agapornis roseicollis

tags: , , , ,


[Mystery bird] Feral Peach-faced Lovebird, Agapornis roseicollis, photographed in Arizona. [I will identify this bird for you tomorrow]
Image: Richard Ditch, 2008 [larger view].


Rick Wright, Managing Director of WINGS Birding Tours Worldwide, writes:
It was a cold, windy day at New Jersey’s Sandy Hook, and our teeth chattered and our eyes teared as we stood knee-high in snow, taking turns at the scope that held the image of a juvenile Gyrfalcon. Suddenly there came a jeering scream from the sky above us, and an Aratinga parrot shot overhead, finally disappearing in the haze and mist over Staten Island.
A classic psittacid encounter: unexpected, fleetingly fast, and ultimately frustrating. Had we been in the sultry wilds of a tropical continent, it might have been easier; we might at least have eliminated some possibilities. But in northern New Jersey, and in any urban area in North America, at any time of year, anything is possible. Well-known established populations of such birds as Monk Parakeet are joined all the time by escapes of dozens of other parrot species, and it requires experience and real presence of mind to identify any given individual as it streaks across the sky.
North America in 2008 has more parrot species than it has ever had before. With the extinction of Carolina Parakeet almost a century ago, and the apparent extirpation of the nomadic Thick-billed Parrot, we should be down to zero. But any modern field guide tells the truth: they’re everywhere now, birds from Mexico mixing with birds from South America, Africa, Australia, the far east. And so we have to cast our identification nets wide if we are going to diagnose this stubby little bird, photographed, I suspect, at a famous birding spot in Arizona.
“Stubby” is our first clue. Starting at the rear, we find this bird almost tailless; at the other end, the neck is thick, the head bulky, and the bill hugely swollen. That structural observation rules out a large number of slimmer, long-tailed parrots, and combined with the “shielded” plumage pattern — an orange half-hood against the green of the body plumage — points us to the genus Agapornis, rendered straightforwardly in English as “lovebird.”
This plumage pattern is shared by two species, Nyasa Lovebird and Peach-faced Lovebird. Nyasa has an orangish bill, a teardrop-shaped eyering, and a green rump, while our quiz bird shows the dull horn-colored bill, narrow eyering, and turquoise rump of a Peach-faced Lovebird.
This charming and scrappy little parrot is most easily seen in Angola, Namibia, and Phoenix — or try your local pet shop, where you can probably find artificially bred color variants and hybrids, too. This species is a frequent escape throughout the US, and has established persistent breeding populations in Arizona over the last 25 years or so. Nearly as strange as my Gyrfalcon experience was watching a small flock of Peach-faced Lovebirds feed on the ground with a Harris’s Sparrow at Gilbert Water Ranch a couple of years ago.
No merely regional field guide is going to help in identifying exotic parrots in the US. Instead, you will need one or both of the two most important identification guides to these colorful birds (review here) — and a fast eye as they career through your neighborhood.
Review all mystery birds to date.

Advertisements

About GrrlScientist

grrlscientist is the pseudonym of an evolutionary biologist and ornithologist who writes about evolution, ethology, and ecology, especially in birds. After earning a degree in microbiology (thesis focus: virology) and working at the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center in Seattle, she earned her PhD in zoology from the University of Washington in Seattle, where she studied the molecular correlates of testosterone and behaviour in white-crowned sparrows. She then worked a Chapman Postdoctoral Fellow at the American Museum of Natural History in New York City, where she studied the speciation and distribution of lories and other parrots throughout the South Pacific Islands. A discarded scientist, she returned to her roots: writing. Formerly hosted by The Guardian (UK), she now writes about science for Forbes and for the non-profit think tank, the Evolution Institute and she writes podcasts for BirdNote Radio. An avid lifelong birder and aviculturist, she lives with a flock of songbirds and parrots somewhere in Germany.
This entry was posted in Mystery Birds and tagged , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

0 Responses to Mystery Bird: Peach-faced Lovebird, Agapornis roseicollis

  1. JPS says:

    An escaped pet, a peach-faced lovebird?

  2. Haha. Yup, a peach-faced lovebird. (By the way, I realize it’s been a few days, but I wanted to say how happy I am that we’re finally off those darned terns. 🙂

  3. Lloyd French says:

    Definitely non-indigenous to the US…Peach-Faced Love Bird.

  4. Selasphorus says:

    Peach-faced Lovebird (or Rosy-faced Lovebird), one of the feral population in Arizona. (I’ve seen photos of them nesting in saguaro, which just amuses me to no end.)

  5. Carrie says:

    Agapornis roseicollis

  6. Tziporah says:

    OMG! It’s a peach-faced lovebird! I have four of them at home. The hen, Thelma, is known as The Beak o’ Death!™

  7. Bill says:

    It’s unanimous; Peach-faced Lovebird. We saw one in Forsyth, MT, in Aug 2005 at the top of a tree. So, even at that early date the AZ population was expanding its range probably at the expense of the California Condor and several species of mystery terns.

  8. Hilary says:

    I’m sure everybody’s right. I was looking at Sibley’s for “some kind of lorikeet” – but as soon as I saw the name I knew what it had to be, even though I’ve never seen the bird in life or even flashed on that page before. Talk about a descriptive name!

  9. Hilary says:

    I’m sure everybody’s right. I was looking at Sibley’s for “some kind of lorikeet” – but as soon as I saw the name I knew what it had to be, even though I’ve never seen the bird in life or even flashed on that page before. Talk about a descriptive name!

  10. Hilary says:

    I’m sure everybody’s right. I was looking at Sibley’s for “some kind of lorikeet” – but as soon as I saw the name I knew what it had to be, even though I’ve never seen the bird in life or even flashed on that page before. Talk about a descriptive name!

  11. Hilary says:

    OHMYGAWD!!! I creep. The posting engine SAYS not to repost, but then it says to check back and see that the message is there, which it wasn’t…. Is there any way to get rid of the multidupes????
    Please beef up the warnings – it’s never taken more than a few seconds to post before.

  12. JohnB says:

    I admit having to look at my Sibley’s to confirm it, and there it was on page 266: Peach-faced Lovebird

  13. Richard Simons says:

    When I worked in Namibia, these birds used to come to steal grain.
    In Canada, we caught an escaped bird and for a while had it living with two budgerigars. The lovebird liked to be near to the others but the female budgerigar liked to be right next to the lovebird so they were always jostling around. The lovebird seemed more intelligent. When we were doing things it liked to sit very close by and watch carefully. We gave it away before long because of its loud screeches early in the morning.

  14. Firebyrd says:

    Finally one I can identify at a glance! As has been said, Peach-faced Lovebird.