While in Phoenix, Arizona right smack in the heat of July of 2011, I
lectured at the Arizona Seed Crackers Society meeting. I am always
honored to be able to talk with club members about birds. My only hope
is that I can add something to their understanding of birds. With a
room full of avian experts, aficionados and fanciers, it’s not an easy

The turnout and the audience were great. By all accounts, the meeting
was a success (which for me means I also got some great food).

However, there was something else that made this particular
trip…special. Dr Todd Driggers an excellent bird veterinarian,
colleague and owner of Avian and Exotic Animal Clinic of Arizona wanted
to show me a taste of the local Pheonix wildlife. Of course, I was
ready and willing.

Dr Todd Driggers with a gila monster

Dr Driggers showed me some amazing reptile life at the Pheonix
Herpetological Society and guided me on a wetland walk to see some of
the local bird life. Don’t get me wrong, this was all fantastic but
what he told me next came as the biggest surprise… ‘Do you want to see
wild peach faced lovebirds?’ he said. I had no idea Phoenix had a
colony of lovebirds and my answer was ‘YES!’.

So off we went and sure enough we found peach face lovebirds nesting in
palm and other trees in a trailer park…in Phoenix! ‘Wow’ I said ‘I
have been in multiple countries in Africa and have never once seen a
wild parrot up close and here I am in Phoenix looking at lovebirds no
more than 10-15 feet away?!?!?’. I guess I can go to San Francisco
to see wild conures, San Diego to see the Amazons, many major cities to
see quakers and now Phoenix for lovebirds. Oh, and Florida for
everything else.

So how do peach faced lovebirds fare in Phoenix? Well, it’s hot and
the birds looked it! Just take a look at this video of a young
lovebird panting. Otherwise, they seem to be prospering quite nicely.

Young peach faced lovebird panting in Phoenix, Az

While seeing the birds was a thrill, there was the reality of what this
could mean. My two biggest concerns are these are invasive birds
taking up nesting sites for native species and the issue of disease
introduction and spread. Possibly the most notable problem is
psittacine beak and feather disease (PBFD) which lovebirds commonly
carry (sometimes with no signs).

Adult peach faced lovebird with beak and feather abnormalities in Phoenix

While watching and filming the lovebirds, I noticed one with an
overgrown beak and evidence of feather damage (see the video above). As a
veterinarian, I know these are non-specific findings but they clearly
indicate some type of problem. Of course, my biggest concern is PBFD.
This could have been a recently released pet bird that has
non-infectious issues related to the abnormalities noted. However, my
suspicion is that this bird has been out long enough to procreate
(based on the fact it was with several immature lovebirds) and is part
of the established population. If this bird has an infectious disease,
it is likely sharing the problem with the community.

Seeing how these lovebirds were in close proximity to native species
(most notably white winged doves) I have to be concerned about disease
spread and not just with PBFD. Unfortunately, this is how exotic
diseases get introduced. The introduction of West Nile virus in New
York in 1999 is a great example. Each year thereafter, the virus
marched westward killing countless bird species especially birds of
prey and corvids (crow family). Now the virus is endemic throughout
the Americas.

The PBFD virus primarily affects African, Asian, Indonesian and
Australian parrots but has infected and caused disease in other
psittacines. Who knows if some of our native (non-parrot) species can
be affected by PBFD- I guess we may find out. Don’t forget the
endangered thick-billed parrots which range into northern Mexico. And
then there is a collection of other infectious agents lovebirds can

In summary, I was fascinated by the colony of lovebirds and at the same
time concerned by their presence. I love seeing wildlife and
understand that animal species and populations are in a constant state
of change. However, introduced species have the potential to greatly
alter native populations and ecology. Please don’t release animals in
non-native habitats.

Dr. Scott Echols

About BirdDoctor

7 Responses to “The Feral Lovebirds of Phoenix”

  1. Ludwig A. Konopka

    There is a colony in my neighborhood; recently this disease has manifested. Anything I can do?

    • spotdvm


      While I do not know the local laws in Phoenix or Arizona, I would recommend contacting Fish and Game officials to discuss the issue. Scott Echols

  2. Lynda

    A colony? As in one? Oh no no no my fine feathered friend, they have taken over Phoenix and the surrounding cities. They number in the thousands if not hundreds of thousands in Tempe at the ASU campus alone! They are literally in every neighborhood in the valley. And the more date palms there are with nice green trees and a water source, the greater the number. They are in the Arcadia area, they are in the Biltmore area, ASU and old town Tempe, they are in Paradise Valley and Scottsdale, they are in Glendale and Peoria. Well, you get the picture. I have lived here since 1968 and way back then you could occasionally see the NATIVE parrots along the open canals. They have been gone from the Phoenix area for years and years now, though I do believe they can still be found in Tucson. I have heard many stories of how the love birds got here. One story is a semi turned over and they got loose that way, one story tells of a pet store owner or was it a love bird breeder went out of business and let them all go. But however they got here they have multiplied like crazy. You don’t find them in desert-y places where there isn’t any green or water too much though so the native birds are good as long as they stick to the more desert areas. I like seeing them as well, but I like you, wonder about the native species. The native parrots of Phoenix are long gone, I would hate to see the doves go the same way. I don’t know the answer and apparently no one else does either, or they just don’t think it is very high up the priority list of city duties. I like to think of them kind of like snow birds (retirees from back east) visiting Phoenix. There here for the winter and then go back home for the summer.. Maybe we could capture and round up all the love birds and take them back to their home countries they are from too? Its a thought……

  3. julie

    I just heard of this couple that is shooting and killing the lovebirds that come into their backyard. Isn’t that illegal or something? I love watching them in our yard.

    • BirdDoctor


      Unfortunately most invasive species are exempt from being humanely killed. Most states have laws prohibiting animal cruelty. however, the specifics for invasive species is not always clear. There are few if any protections in place for invasive parrots. To find out more, you would need to consult with the department dealing with wildlife/natural resources in your state and possibly county/city.

      M. Scott Echols, DVM, DABVP (Avian Practice)

  4. Karen Young

    Just as a point of clarification, I live in Sun City and there are flocks here with bird numbers in the thousands. I have a food and water station for them and at a time I can count 50 of them on my patio. Of course they also talk with my lovebird and cockatiel through the window which is a big draw. They are everywhere out here. Such a beautiful sight to see!!!

  5. Mark Altman

    The most interesting is that the feral lovebirds are very chatty, and have loud, high-pitched voices. They make noise throughout the day, especially in the early morning and late afternoon.

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