© Rare Visitation by Avian Escapee – Peach-Faced Lovebird

on 28th September 2014

“Unfamiliar, intermittent chirping calls of a bird alerted me to do an inspection of my driveway. The ‘cheep…cheep…cheep-’ calls sounded kind of a bird feeling lost and in search.

“I scanned branches off my mango (Mangifera indica) tree to locate its source. At eye level and upon turning right, my eyes caught a small, green looking bird perched on my vehicle’s wind wiper (above).

“It wasn’t a Malaysian resident or a migratory that I would recognise but a parrot of some sort- a Lovebird (above).

“Ample photographic opportunities were had for species identification as the escapee was left to take refuge and rest.

“Lovebird subsequently crawled up the windscreen, rested on roof of vehicle and took a short nap (above).

“I identified this escapee to be a Peach-faced aka Rosy-faced Lovebird (Agapornis roseicollis) – a popular pet readily available on the pet market.

“An origin of SW Africa, this Lovebird species is frequent breeders with capacity of producing several egg clutches per year.

“While claws were sharp, Lovebird was actually resting on the fleshy palm of its feet, claws off contact with surface of my vehicle and while preening (above).

“More sleep followed (above).

“Eventually after half an hour passed from time of visit, the well rested bird scurried further up end of vehicle’s roof top, fluttered its wings and hung onto the edge.

“Perhaps the bird was injured or unwell as it kept dozing off earlier. It was time to do a check (above).

“As I reached out, Lovebird suddenly took flight; flew over the gate, crossed the road and landed about 5 metres above, on horizontal branch of a commemorative, Yellow Poinciana (Peltophorum pterocarpum) tree – planted a decade ago.

“What is the survival rate of bird escapees?

“For bird pets that had been caged for long duration, had enjoyed the pampering of pet owners or their eventual disenchantment be released or escaped to freedom …

“Like a lost child, left to survive in unfamiliar, hostile environment, Lovebird had to fend for itself from predation especially from its own avian kind and to relearn survival skills….

“In the established pet trade of Indonesia, I had the opportunity to chat with a bird trader who shared his skills. I learnt that selected chick species were raided by poachers at nestling stage, sold to professional bird traders who raised the chicks by hand and conditioned their purchase to sing using repetitive playback recorded bird calls from their computers.

“Such birds would stand little or no chance to survive as an escapee in the wild.

“In less than a minute, resident House Crows (Corvus splendens) were sending out signals to one another.
“One territorial bird was quick to check Lovebird out by descending onto and confronting the latter 30 cm away.

“I hurried to retrieve my Digiscope for more observation, returned only to find Corvus alone on tree without Lovebird. The unwelcome escapee had been frightened off – had taken flight.

“What is keeping the long established parrot trade alive and vibrant?

“Their colourful plumages, good variety of choice to add to avid pet collectors’ list, trainable and talking intelligence and longevity in some species perhaps are some contributing factors?

“It will be welcoming to hear what pet owners of parrots and aviculturists have to say about parrots’ behaviours and what keeps their hobby ticking.

“One cannot deny saying the pet trade had not helped replenish bird stocks in Bird Parks to justify its commercial activities. So do bird parks to say it is an alternative form of recreation and education for visitors to justify its pricey entry charges in high maintenance of its avian collections.

“Conservationists would say continuous poaching and selling of bird species will render its rarity and eventual extinction. And so, protection is the order of the day.

“Caging of all kinds of wild birds in Germany I was informed by visiting citizens I’ve met in my birding travels – is totally outlawed.

“Would short term or hard up pet traders care what comes tomorrow if they can make a fast buck today to feed their families?

“Or/and sail with poachers/bird trappers’ attitude, “If I don’t catch it now, someone else will…so better I get/eat first!””

Avian Writer Daisy O’Neill
Penang, Malaysia
21st September 2014

Copyright article and all copy images – Courtesy of Daisy O’Neill Bird Conservation Fund

If you like this post please tap on the Like button at the left bottom of page. Any views and opinions expressed in this article are solely those of the authors/contributors, and are not endorsed by the Lee Kong Chian Natural History Museum (LKCNHM, NUS) or its affiliated institutions. Readers are encouraged to use their discretion before making any decisions or judgements based on the information presented.

YC Wee

Dr Wee played a significant role as a green advocate in Singapore through his extensive involvement in various organizations and committees: as Secretary and Chairman for the Malayan Nature Society (Singapore Branch), and with the Nature Society (Singapore) as founding President (1978-1995). He has also served in the Nature Reserve Board (1987-1989), Nature Reserves Committee (1990-1996), National Council on the Environment/Singapore Environment Council (1992-1996), Work-Group on Nature Conservation (1992) and Inter-Varsity Council on the Environment (1995-1997). He is Patron of the Singapore Gardening Society and was appointed Honorary Museum Associate of the Lee Kong Chian Natural History Museum (LKCNHM) in 2012. In 2005, Dr Wee started the Bird Ecology Study Group. With more than 6,000 entries, the website has become a valuable resource consulted by students, birdwatchers and researchers locally and internationally. The views and opinions expressed in this article are his own, and do not represent those of LKCNHM, the National University of Singapore or its affiliated institutions.

Other posts by YC Wee

One Response

  1. As I write this reply, our 2 month old cockatiel is climbing up my table and all over me and trying to make some sense of what is this thing in front of me that is getting all the attention.

    Cocktiels and lovebirds alike do not normally survive if they are released in Singapore.

    I found a cockatiel last year that was very tame, but had lots of battle scars probably birds attacking it.

    Several years earlier, at my mum’s condo, there were a few lovebirds that were probably released and lived within around the condo and still depeneded on handouts. They visited our unit frequently and we also gave them some food. When their normal source of food dried up (owner shifted out) they visited us more frequently.

    In the end they too disappeared, maybe eaten by visiting raptors or were caught.

    But in all my years of being both a birdwatcher and a pet bird owner, I have never seen lovebirds or cockatiels surviving and breeding in the wild in Singapore.

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