The Rainbow Lorikeet, Trichoglossus haematodus is a species of Australasian parrot found in Australia, eastern Indonesia (Maluku and Western New Guinea), Papua New Guinea, New Caledonia, Solomon Islands and Vanuatu. In Australia, it is common along the eastern seaboard, from Queensland to South Australia and northwest Tasmania. Its habitat is rainforest, coastal bush and woodland areas. Several taxa traditionally listed as subspecies of the Rainbow Lorikeet are increasingly treated as separate species (see Taxonomy).
The Rainbow Lorikeet is very colourful - almost every colour of the rainbow can be found on their feathers. They are not large birds, with a Rainbow Lorikeet's length ranging from 25–30 cm (9.8-11.8 in) in size, and have a wingspan of about 17 cm (6.7 in). The markings of the best known subspecies T. h. moluccanus are particularly striking. The features distinguishing a Rainbow Lorikeet include a dark blue or violet-blue head and stomach, a bright green back, tail and vent, and an orange breast and beak. Several subspecies have darker scalloped markings across the orange or red breast.
Rainbow Lorikeets often travel together in pairs and occasionally respond to calls to fly as a flock, then disperse again into pairs. Rainbow Lorikeet pairs defend their feeding and nesting areas aggressively against other Rainbow Lorikeets and other bird species. They chase off not only smaller birds such as the Noisy Miner, but also larger and more powerful birds such as the Australian Magpie.
The Rainbow Lorikeet has often included the Red-collared Lorikeet (T. rubritorquis) as a subspecies, but today most major authorities consider it separate. Additionally, a review in 1997 led to the recommendation of splitting off some of the most distinctive taxa from the Lesser Sundas as separate species, these being the Scarlet-breasted Lorikeet (T. forsteni), the Marigold Lorikeet (T. capistratus) and the Flores Lorikeet (T. weberi). This is increasingly followed by major authorities. With these as separate species, the Rainbow Lorikeet includes the following subspecies (in taxonomic order); most of the common names listed below are only used in aviculture.
- Rosenberg's Lorikeet, T. h. rosenbergii - Biak Island, Indonesia.
- Blue-faced Lorikeet, T. h. intermedius. - north coast of New Guinea. Not always considered distinct from T. h. haematodus.
- Green-naped Lorikeet, T. h. haematodus - southern Maluku, West Papua islands and western New Guinea.
- Dark-throated Lorikeet, T. h. nigrogularis - Kai Islands, Aru Islands and southern New Guinea. If T. h. caeruleiceps is recognized, T. h. nigrogularis is restricted to the Kai and Aru Islands.
- Brook's Lorikeet, T. h. brooki - Spriti Island in the Aru Islands Not always considered distinct from T. h. nigrogularis.
- Pale-head Lorikeet, T. h. caeruleiceps - southern New Guinea. Not always considered distinct from T. h. nigrogularis.
- Southern Green-naped Lorikeet, T. h. micropteryx - east New Guinea.
- Ninigo Lorikeet, T. h. nesophilus - Ninigo and Hermit Groups, west of Manus Island, Papua New Guinea.
- Olive-green Lorikeet, T. h. flavicans - New Hanover Island, St. Matthias Islands and Admiralty Island.
- Massena's or Coconut Lorikeet, T. h. massena - eastern New Guinea, Louisiade Archipelago, Karkar Island, Bismarck Archipelago, Solomon Islands and Vanuatu.
- Deplanche's Lorikeet, T. h. deplanchii - New Caledonia and Loyalty Islands.
- Swainson's Lorikeet, T. h. moluccanus - eastern Australia and Tasmania.
Images of subspecies
Rainbow Lorikeets feed mainly on fruit, pollen and nectar, and possess a tongue adapted especially for their particular diet. The end of the tongue is equipped with a papillate appendage adapted to collecting nectar from flowers. They are also frequent visitors at bird feeders that supply lorikeet-friendly treats, such as store-bought nectar, sunflower seeds, and fruits such as apples, grapes and pears.
In many places, including campsites and suburban gardens, wild lorikeets are so used to humans that they can be hand-fed. The Currumbin Wildlife Sanctuary in Queensland, Australia, is noted for its numerous lorikeets, which number in the thousands. Around 8am and 4pm each day the birds gather in a huge, noisy flock in the park's main area. Visitors are encouraged to feed them a specially-prepared nectar, and the birds will happily settle on arms and heads to consume it. Wild Rainbow Lorikeets can also be hand-fed by visitors at Lone Pine Koala Sanctuary in Brisbane, Queensland, Australia. Semi-tame lorikeets are common daily visitors in Sydney backyards, often by the dozens.
Rainbow Lorikeets can also be fed in many zoos and animal parks outside Australia.
In Australia, breeding usually occurs during spring (September to December), but can vary from region to region with changes in food availability and climate. Nesting sites are variable and can include hollows of tall trees such as eucalypts, palm trunks, or overhanging rock. Pairs sometimes nest in the same tree with other Rainbow Lorikeet pairs, or other bird species
Overall, the Rainbow Lorikeet remains widespread and often common. It is therefore considered to be of Least Concern by BirdLife International. The status for some localized subspecies is more precarious, with especially T. h. rosenbergii being threatened by habitat loss and capture for the parrot trade.
As a pest
The Rainbow Lorikeet was accidentally released into the southwest of the state of Western Australia from the University of Western Australia in the 1960s and they have since been classified as a pest. Rainbow Lorikeets can also be found in New Zealand, particularly around the Auckland area. New Zealand's Department of Conservation has declared them a pest and is using similar methods to control and eradicate them.
Many fruit orchard owners consider them a pest, as they often fly in groups and strip trees containing fresh fruit. In urban areas, the birds create nuisance noise and fouling of outdoor areas and vehicles with droppings.
In Western Australia, a major impact of the Rainbow Lorikeet is competition with indigenous bird species. This includes domination of feeding resources, and competition for increasingly scarce nesting hollows. Birds such as the Purple-crowned Lorikeet Glossopsitta porphyrocephala and Carnaby's Black-Cockatoo Calyptorhynchus latirostris are adversely affected or displaced.
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As with any parrot, ownership of lorikeets must not be taken lightly. Captive lorikeets have a long lifespan, often in excess of 20 years. Their diet makes them particularly messy; they are well-known in aviculture for their liquid droppings and energetic and playful nature. Captive-bred Rainbow Lorikeets are legal to own in Australia.
Lorikeets are very amusing and affectionate as pets, but much more demanding than other parrots. They do not easily eat seeds, so all the usual bird-feeding regimens are useless. Lorikeets in captivity are best fed a custom mixture composed typically of baby cereal, rice flour, breadcrumbs, glucose powder, skim milk powder, semolina (wheat hearts), pollen mixture and, optionally, other ingredients such as powdered whole egg and crushed whole-wheat biscuits. This is given in dry form, alongside a dish of water, and also mixed with water and lightly cooked into a thin porridge.
A mixture of honey and water will also be welcome. Be aware that after this mixture the birds will want to rinse their mouth with clean water and, if more than one at a time can feed on the mixture, water to bathe in because they spray their feed about a lot. The area around their bath needs to be waterproof for a diameter of at least a metre (three feet).
Fresh fruit of course should be available, and you will probably be compelled to share some of whatever you yourself are eating. This represents a lot of time and trouble, which means that caring for a lorikeet is a very big and long-term commitment. The reward for this is a playful and devoted companion. Rainbow lorikeets are excellent mimics, and are quite capable of speaking clearly and performing tricks, although ability varies from individual to individual.
Other things to be concerned with if considering a lorikeet as a pet are: they are very prolific with their droppings, which aren't too bad if wiped up immediately, but this is nearly impossible due to the frequency; they are very rambunctious birds and not easy to put up with inside a home; an angry or happy lorikeet has an extremely powerful bite.
- ^ BirdLife International (2008). Trichoglossus haematodus. In: IUCN 2008. IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. Downloaded on 16 April 2009.
- ^ a b Department of Agriculture WA declared pests
- ^ a b Rainbow Lorikeet pest
- ^ Birdlife Species Factsheet (additional data)
- ^ a b Dickinson, E. C. (editor) (2003). The Howard and Moore Complete Checklist of the Birds of the World. 3d edition. Christopher Helm. ISBN 071366536X
- ^ a b Gill, F., M. Wright, & D. Donsker (2009). IOC World Bird Names. Version 2.1. Accessed 20-06-2009
- ^ Schodde, R. & I. J. Mason (1997). Zoological Catalogue of Australia, Volume 37, Part 2: Aves (Columbidae to Coraciidae). Australian Biological Resources Study. ISBN 0643060375
- ^ a b c d e f Tamra Chapman. "The status and impact of the Rainbow Lorikeet (Trichoglossus haematodus moluccanus) in South-West Western Australia" (PDF). Wildlife Branch, Department of Conservation and Land Management. http://www.agric.wa.gov.au/pls/portal30/docs/FOLDER/IKMP/PW/VP/BIRD/LORIKEETMISCPUB.PDF. Retrieved 2007-11-08.
- ^ Juniper, T., & M. Parr (1998). A Guide to the Parrots of the World. Pica Press. ISBN 1-873403-40-2