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Black-cheeked lovebirds are the forgotten gems of the lovebird species. They are a part of the group known as the "eye-ring" lovebirds (which includes the masked, fischer, black-cheeked, and nyasa species) because of the white flesh that encircles their eyes. They are, however, a separate and distinct species. Black-cheeks are smaller and lighter than their masked and fischer counterparts, weighing between 40 and 45 grams. The feathers are a bright, shiny, grassy green instead of the darker emerald green of the masked and fischers. As their name implies, black-cheeked lovebirds have very dark cheeks. The forehead is a chestnut brown color, fading to green as it goes down the back of the head. The ideal black-cheek will have a small, almond shaped apricot patch under its throat. This color should not be spread out or contain any yellow at all. The rump color should be the same grassy green as the wing coverts and their beaks a bright red.

Black-cheeks are on the endangered species list. In the wild, they are found only in two small locations in Africa -- a river valley in southwest Zambia and the Victoria Falls area of Zimbabwe. Due to habitat destruction and the exportation of black-cheeks in the early 20th century, there is only a very small population of black-cheeks still in their natural habitat. The number of black-cheeks being bred in the United States is still limited, but growing. It is very important to serious breeders of black-cheeks to avoid inter-breeding these birds with lovebirds from the other eight species. The goal is to breed the purest line of black-cheeks in order to ensure the survival of this beautiful bird.

Breeding black-cheeks is more challenging than breeding some of the other lovebird species. Black-cheeked lovebirds seem to be more sensitive to their surroundings when breeding. It is unknown whether this is due to a species difference or the fact that they have not been bred in captivity as long as their peachfaced or masked counterparts. It has been our experience that once a pair is established and proven, success rates are higher when the pair is not moved and remains in familiar surroundings during future breeding attempts. Clutch size typically ranges between four and six eggs. If given the appropriate resources, female black-cheek lovebirds can create intricate nests for their babies. Perferred materials include palm fronds and willow tree branches.

As pets, black-cheeked lovebirds are great companions. They are small, sweet, and sassy. They aren't as aggressive as the peachfaced lovebirds or nervous as the fischers. As always, a handfed lovebird baby will produce the best pet. Most breeders do not sell black-cheeked babies to pet owners for the reason of preservation. In the future, when this species is more established in the United States, black-cheeks will become available in the pet trade.
These are Love 'n Let Aviary's two established breeding pairs of black-cheeked lovebirds. It is our hope to add one or two more breeding pairs to our collection, so that we can offer more than two distinct bloodlines to other potential black-cheeked lovebird breeders.

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