Agapornis roseicollis


Photograph by Pete Moulton.

Photography contest, Honorable Mention.


Agapornis roseicollisRosy-faced Lovebirds. A. roseicollis have established a large and growing feral population in the Phoenix metro area. The Sonoran desert habitats serve them very well, and they’re thriving on a diet composed largely of mesquite beans and nesting in cavities in the saguaros or in the spaces under roof tiles.


But its still just a birds!!111!!!eleven!!

What was the starting population size. Are people releasing more into the wild or can they do some population genetics on initiation of a population?

Good questions, Ron, and I’m afraid I don’t know the answer to any of them. Given that Rosy-faceds are popular in captivity, certainly birds are escaping–or even being released–on a pretty regular basis; but there’s no easy way to be sure how many because nearly all the captives and virtually all the established feral birds are the phenotypic ‘wild type’, and so look very much alike. Occasionally a bird bred for some special color variation will attach itself to a feral flock, and we can more reliably consider these to be new recruits from domesticity; but the associations last only a few weeks, whereupon the oddly colored bird disappears. It could be that avian predators are selectively taking the odd jobs, or it could be that their fitness in other regards doesn’t measure up to that of the more established birds; or, maybe the oddball just moves on.

I can’t comment on ongoing research (presumably at Arizona State University) because I simply don’t know. The Arizona Field Ornithologists have instituted an annual census, to measure both population size and expansion to previously unoccupied areas.

If there is constant new releases there might not be much interest, but it could turn into a long term project for someone interested in such things. There probably isn’t very many examples where someone can get in early and look at the population genetics of an expanding invasive population. What used to eat the mesquite beans before the love birds and what adaptations do they need to metabolize the new food source that likely has some anti-herbivore defenses?

If there is a good enough story here someone can likely get at least initial NSF funding to study them.

During the summer, we grow wild sunflowers in our yard. We regularly attract three or four pairs of the birds, who wake us up between 5:30 and 6:00 every morning. Some of them nest in the tall palm trees on our neighbor’s property. Mostly Rosy-faced as shown, we have one that is mostly yellow. We will see if it shows up next year.

Ron: actually, a lot of birds and mammals (including humans) eat the mesquite beans. The mesquite seed pods constitute one of the major wild food sources in the Sonoran desert. The lovebirds don’t eat them exclusively, as pointed out by drdave. They’re aridland birds in their native habitats, and like most desert-adapted species they can’t afford to be too particular about the kinds of seeds they eat.

drdave: do you live in the Phoenix metro area too, or are you seeing the lovebirds in some other location?

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This page contains a single entry by Matt Young published on September 6, 2010 12:00 PM.

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