Look closely, and you will see Pippin peeking out from under a curtain of raffia. She is ready to pounce as a prelude to playing “attack the T shirt” game. I throw a small part of an old T shirt over her and she has huge fun finding her way out from under the shirt. She cheeps, she “giggles” in her lovebirdy way, she emerges and wants more!
Lovebirds are very misunderstood, especially when they bite. They are so small that someone unfamiliar with the breed would think they would be always be cuddly. They are cuteness personified, but they are so full of life and energy that they can appear to be quite aggressive at times. When Pippin is fully engaged and ready for action, her body quivers with energy and anticipation. And as small as they are, lovebird bites are more painful than a cockatiel’s!
Their metabolism is set on high all the time, and they require food constantly at hand in order to replenish reserves.
Though they come in small packages, they are every bit as smart as a larger parrot and need just as much stimulation and interaction. They are easily bored and need things to do. They are bursting with life and want to share it with you!
Lovebirds are territorial, as most parrots are. They like their spaces and, unless a game is in session, they consider anything else an invitation for target practice – which can be intentionally aimed to give warning. Or, they may lunge and try to bite, simply because they want to play and are irritated that you aren’t getting the idea, and they don’t have any other way of making their needs known when their humans are being really dense.
Amongst all of my birds, including Sam, the Jardine’s parrot, she has the most intelligence.
Because of lovebirds’ keen intelligence, they are extremely curious and fearless in exploration of their surroundings. This is a good thing but it can also be fatal, especially in a house with multiple birds of larger size. I nearly lost Pippin a couple years ago when, during a few seconds’ lapse of my attention, she flew over to Sam’s cage to say hello. Sam was startled and lunged, out of instinct, and took away half of Pippin’s upper beak. She bled profusely. I drove as fast as I could to my avian vet 15 miles away, with one hand applying pressure to her beak and the other on the steering wheel, flying along country roads like a bat out of hell. Even so, Pippin assured me during the ride that she was OK and appreciated my help by giving me one of her cheerful cheeps during the drive.
Pippin was very fortunate. Her beak has grown back almost to the point of forming a new tip (not all such injuries have happy endings). It has required regular trips to my avian vet to keep the bottom beak trimmed to allow the top beak to curve over it. I also paid for my lapse in the terrible feelings of guilt I had for quite a long time. (Even now, thinking of the accident, I shudder inside.)
It took me this long even to write about the experience! So perhaps my experience can provide a cautionary tale to anyone who has small birds living with larger ones. Needless to say, I learned my lesson and watch my flock with “hawk eyes.”
By the way, lovebirds rarely talk. I’ve never heard of female lovebirds being able to talk. But Pippin, my wonder lovebird hen, does. She can say – in a very fast, high-pitched voice – “Whatcha doing, Pippin?” and “You be!” (shorthand for “You be good!”). She also says, “Chipper!” when she’s insecure, and “Chipper-choo!” when she’s really pleased and excited about something. She’s such a love.