Emu Emu Society
Journal of BirdLife Australia

The Black-cheeked Lovebird (Agapornis nigrigenis) as an agricultural pest in Zambia

L. S. Warburton A and M. R. Perrin A B
+ Author Affiliations
- Author Affiliations

A Research Centre for African Parrot Conservation, School of Biological and Conservation Sciences, University of KwaZulu-Natal, Private Bag X01, Scottsville, Pietermaritzburg, 3209, South Africa.

B Corresponding author. Email: Perrin@ukzn.ac.za

Emu 106(4) 321-328 https://doi.org/10.1071/MU04037
Submitted: 20 July 2004  Accepted: 21 July 2006   Published: 16 November 2006


This study investigated the status of the Black-cheeked Lovebird (Agapornis nigrigenis) as a pest of agricultural crops by quantifying flock-size, the crops on which they foraged and the level of damage to the crops. Lovebirds fed on two agricultural crops, Millet (Eleusine coracana) and Sorghum (Sorghum bicolor), in village areas of Zambia that practice subsistence agriculture. Lovebirds preferred feeding on ripening crops, in early morning and late afternoon. Feeding bouts were longer and flock-size larger when Lovebirds fed on Sorghum rather than Millet. Analysis of transect data showed <30% of the total Millet crop was damaged, with 18% of seed-heads suffering >20% damage. Local farmers perceived the Lovebirds as a serious agricultural pest and attempted to protect their crops in a variety of ways but these were largely ineffective and rarely lethal to the Lovebirds. As the long-term survival and conservation of the endangered Black-cheeked Lovebird is closely allied with local people, particularly in relation to water sources during the dry season, the importance of elevating local tolerance to the species through education programs is highlighted.


The project was predominantly sponsored by a grant from the Loro Parque Fundacion. Other funding was contributed by: the National Research Foundation (South Africa), World Conservation Society, Society for the Study of Populations (ZSCP, Germany), World Parrot Trust, Zambezi Society (UK), International Federation for Animal Welfare, British Ornithologist’s Union, Lovebird (1990) Society, Parrot Society, San Diego Zoological Society, and the Conservation in Aviculture Society. British Airways Assisting Conservation and Station Africa also contributed. We are greatly indebted to volunteer field assistants, Alex Mwenda, Aaron Muchindu and the headman and villagers of the region and the Zambian Wildlife Authority. Mike Bingham, Lusaka, assisted with plant identification and Lynn Fish from the National Botanical Institute, Pretoria, identified grass seeds. We thank most sincerely the anonymous referees who contributed their time and minds to improving the quality of this paper.


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