Rainbow Lorikeets


Above: Photo of a Rainbow Lorikeet

Rainbow Lorikeets would have to be one of Australia’s most beautiful birds. They are aptly named. As they fly overhead in a flash of colour they light up their little patch of the azure blue sky. Their feathers are a brilliant blend of bright reds, greens, blues and yellows. As they screech overhead – and that is an accurate description of their harsh calls – their stunningly red underwings are like a blood-streak across a blue backdrop.

Rainbow Lorikeets are widespread along the northern, eastern and southern coastal regions of Australia. Their preferred habitats include woodlands, rainforests and wherever eucalyptus trees are numerous. They are easily seen in parks and gardens throughout many of our towns and cities.

Despite being quite common I have had some difficulty getting reasonably clear photographs of this species. When flying they seem to be going too fast to focus on them. When feeding they are often well hidden in the thick foliage of a eucalypt tree as they search out nectar from the flowers.

A single tree, if heavily in flower, can be host to twenty or thirty of these stunning beauties, their contact calls a never-ending chorus of murmurings and chattering. Yet, despite the numbers, most remain hidden amongst the leaves, usually near the top and out of sight – but not out of earshot. In large numbers their screeching can be deafening, especially near sunset as they squabble and jostle for roosting spots.

Update:

Since writing this article I have managed to take several good shots of this beautiful bird, so I ‘ve added one of them below. Click on the image to enlarge it.

Update:

This article was further updated in July 2015.

Rainbow Lorikeet, Royal Botanic Gardens, Sydney

Rainbow Lorikeet, Royal Botanic Gardens, Sydney

 

50 Responses to “Rainbow Lorikeets”

  1. Belinda says:

    Hi, I just wanted some information on how I can attract these beautiful birds into my yard/garden. I have a fairly high up bird feeder, which currently accommodates the usual cockies and galah’s, I also get rosellas and the odd king parrot. I am also looking to attract more of the colourful native parrots, like the king parrot.

    If you could provide me with some information on how to attract the lorikeets into my garden, I would really appreciate it. We have HEAPS of eucalypts out the back which are in flower and there are thousands of rainbow lorikeets around, but despite my best efforts of mixing some bread and honey, they have not come down to our yard…..

    • Kate says:

      Plant some Bottle brush birds love them. I know cockatils and rosellas do

    • Anita says:

      Hi Belinda, from my experience birds are quiet picky of their food. Buying seeds from Norco is the one they liked most. Black sunflower seeds are the favourite of the Kings, so mix in some. We had about 14 Kings feeding daily in our garden. In that garden, previous owners have fed the birds though. My challenge is to attract them in our new home.

  2. Trevor says:

    Thanks for your comments and questions. All those Rainbow Lorikeets must be noisy! You are so lucky to have all those parrots nearby, especially the King Parrot – such a beautiful bird. I assume you are putting out parrot mix seed for the galahs and cockatoos. The king parrots will eat that too, I think, but putting out fruit might encourage them to stay.

    I am no expert at suggesting what to do to attract the Rainbow Lorikeets, but if there are so many flowering eucalypt trees nearby, they have a feast there readily available to them. Why would they go elsewhere?

    I think I have read in a number of publications that putting out honey is not a good idea – I can’t remember the reason why. There are a number of publications that might be helpful. Try the following bibliography

    http://www.anbg.gov.au/bibliography/wildlife.html

    I also came up with a great list of resources by typing in “Birdscaping your Garden” in Google. There is a book of that name published in 1981 but still relevant.

  3. sunali says:

    Hi Trevor – I’m trying to figure out what to grow to attract these georgeous birds into my garden – my neighbour had about 20 of them on their very sparse little tree – amazing! I wish I’d had my camera. Is it any flowering eucalypt they like, or is there species I should be looking for?
    PS. I got a georgeous front-on close up of a couple of them eating bread in my garden – they let me come within about 2m of them! If you’d like to use the pic I can send it to you.

  4. Trevor says:

    They are spectacular birds – especially in numbers. I’m not the expert in the family on plants – that is my wife’s area (see her blog about Australian native plants at
    http://www.malleenativeplants.com.au/ )

    Any flowering eucalyptus tree seems to be attractrive to the Rainbow Lorikeets. Possibly the best would have to be Euc. torquata, Euc. leucoxylon, Euc. caesia Euc. eremophila, Euc. stricklandii. My advice would be to visit your local native plant nursery and discuss your needs. Whatever you plant make sure that the species is not too big for your garden and not too close to the house. Some gum trees have a habit of dropping limbs! Before going to the nursery take a walk around the neighbourhood and look for trees that are doing well in your locality. Ask the resident what they are and buy that for your garden.

    Thanks for the offer of the photo. I have taken several more since writing this article. See my photo gallery for more pics.

    Good luck, good gardening – and happy birding.

  5. Sulphur Crested White Cockatoo says:

    We have a tree in our Brisbane backyard the gardener referred to as a “cork tree” (it has very soft and spongy bark). It is a tropical species apparently. Its pretty sparse and not much to look at. However in January it comes out in many small pink flowers and the rainbow and scaley-breasted (to a lesser extent) loris go completely nuts over it. Pairs will alight on the tree and defend it from all comers for hours at a time.

  6. Trevor says:

    The flowers of that tree sound rather nice – obviously the Lorikeets think it is rather special too. The flowers must taste nice to them. I have not yet seen the Scaly Breasted Lorikeet but they certainly look lovely in my field guide. I expect they are just as noisy as the Rainbows.

  7. Kerri Lee says:

    Hi Trevor,

    I am a wildlife foster carer and currently have a rainbow lorikeet in my care, i am trying to determine what sex it is and seem to not be having much luck with research. Can you give me any tips with the difference between the males and females?

    I look forward to your response.

    Thanks

  8. Trevor says:

    Hi there Kerri Lee,

    My reference books all say that the sexes are identical as far as colouration is concerned.

    The only sure way would be to examine the reproductive organs – I have absolutely no idea how you go about that! Try to find someone in your neighbourhood who keeps parrots in aviaries and ask for their help.

    One website I found suggested that the only sure way is to take the bird to a vet for DNA testing – at a cost of about $40.

    Sorry I couldn’t be of any help.

  9. Michelle says:

    Hi all,
    Like Belinda, I too have lots of rainbow lorikeets and other cockatoos in the area (galah, sulphur crested). I put out two bird feeders, one with nectar mix and the other with seeds and fruit, as well as a bird bath. They’ve been out for weeks. Initially, some kind of bird was coming and eating the grapes and shelling and eating the sunflower seeds first thing in the morning before I wake. Does anyone know what kind of bird this would be?
    How can I get them to come during the day?
    Also, the rainbow lorikeets aren’t interested in the nectar i’m putting out.
    Help??
    The birds that were coming first thing in the morning are no longer coming. Not sure why.
    Any advice would be great.
    Michelle

  10. Trevor says:

    I’m not sure what is coming in so early, Michelle. The fact that the sunflower seeds are going indicates that it is a parrot of some sort. They will also eat grapes.

    Generally it is not in the best interests of the birds to artificially feed them. For a discussion on this issue, and for alternatives, read the relevant page on the Birds in Backyards site here:
    http://www.birdsinbackyards.net/spaces/bird-needs-resources.cfm

  11. jordie says:

    I am looking at two lorikeets which occasionally come into our garden and eat seed off the bird tray on our back deck. They just had breakfast and one was engaging in some very randy behaviour towards the other one, so assume one is the male and other female. The male then has brighter red on his chest and the female has a little less red. They appear to be a pair, because we only ever see these two, so I would have to say that there is some difference between male and female.

    We live in the Dandenongs by the way.

  12. Trevor says:

    Hi Jordie, welcome to my birding blog.

    The birds you describe certainly sound like a pair, but until you actually see them breeding (copulation, nest building or sitting on eggs) that is just speculation.

    What I suspect you have seen is a juvenile nearing breeding plumage. He/she is just about ready to breed. Immature R. Lorikeets are a duller colour than the adults.

    Another possibility is a colour mutation of some sort. This happens more frequently in the wild than most people realise.

    Thanks for your observation and comments.

  13. Leanne W says:

    Kerri Lee, I am no expert of Lorris but if you want to “guess” the sex a rule of thumb for many birds is to feel just above their vent (bottom)you should be able to feel their pelvis, if it’s narrow you’ve most likely got a boy and wide a girl. Obviosly an egg needs to be able to fit through a girls pelvis hence being wider. Sometimes it can be hard to tell but hey it’s cheap! If you need to know for sure it would be best to have the a proper test done. =D

  14. Trevor says:

    Thanks for that advice Leanne. I didn’t know that – but it makes a lot of sense.

  15. LEANNE D says:

    DO THE BRISTLES ON THE RAINBOW LORIKEETS GROW BACK IF THE ARE LOST?.

  16. LEANNE D says:

    I WAS REFERING TO THE BRISTLES ON THE TONGUE.

  17. Trevor says:

    Hi Leanne,

    I’m sorry – I don’t know the answer to your question. My reference books don’t say anything about this happening. Look in your phone book for a local bird club. People who keep birds in aviaries might be able to help you.

  18. kelsey says:

    hi

    what do the rainbow lorikeets like to eat

  19. Trevor says:

    Hi there Kelsey,

    The Rainbow Lorikeet mostly forages on the flowers of shrubs or trees to harvest nectar and pollen, but also eats fruits, seeds and some insects.

    You can find out more about them here:

    http://birdsinbackyards.net/bird/97

  20. brooke says:

    hi how do you tell the difference between a female and a male rainbow lorikeet ????

  21. Trevor says:

    Hi there Brooke,

    Male and female Rainbow Lorikeets look the same in the wild.

    You actually have to be holding one to tell the difference (see Leanne W’s comment above).

  22. Raquel says:

    I have had our rainbow lorikeet for a couple of years now, we have recently given him/her a friend. They are the funniest, and most affectionate little birds, I just love them. I have been told avocado is toxic to them, do you know if this true?

  23. Joy says:

    Hey just a quick comment about attracting lorrikeets to your garden or just if you have lorrikeets in general they absolutely love ribienna juice! I’ve got one that will get through a box of ribienna a week! I’ve decided to leave it as just treat food though now, although it makes their poos really easy to clean up.

  24. Adrian says:

    Hi,

    So I was just wondering if there were any behavioural characteristics that could give me a hint as to the sex of my Rainbow Lorie. I understand the whole not being able to tell visaully thing, but having bred other parrot species I have found that the young birds will typically behave in ways that make it easier to tell. I was hoping that there may be something similar for Lories.

  25. sal says:

    hi i had 2 lorries( one has just past away reason unknown) and was wondering why one would have a shorter beak and no tail feathers. we have thought maybe the person we bought them from has plucked the tail feathers for some reason but not sure. any advice would be welcome thanks

  26. Trevor says:

    Hi there Sal,

    Thanks for visiting and for leaving a question. Sorry I can’t help you because my interest is in birds in the natural environment. I have no expertise in keeping pet birds.

    Can I suggest that you search the internet for pet parrot sites. You could also check out your local phone directory for pet shops or bird clubs. Members might be able to help you.

  27. Trevor says:

    Hi there Adrian,

    Thanks for visiting and leaving a question. I do not have any experience in keeping parrots in captivity.

    Can I suggest that you search the internet for pet parrot sites. You could also check out your local phone directory for pet shops or bird clubs. Members might be able to help you

  28. Kristina says:

    Hi i have a 5 week old rainbow lorikeet and am i able to bath it? do i just fill a bowl of warm water? will it know what to do?

    How long do i have to hand feed it? i gave it a grape and it licked it didnt know how to bite it. Sorry all new to this!

  29. Trevor says:

    Hi there Kristina.

    I am sorry that I didn’t get around to answering your question at the time. I’ve been very busy in recent months finishing off my Masters degree.

    And I’m also sorry that I can’t help you as I know very little about keeping birds or caring for them. In situations like this I usually tell people to contact their nearest vet clinic or pet shop for advice (check in phone directory).

  30. Les Kent says:

    I have been feeding Rainbow Lorikeets for the past 40 years.

    I dissolve 9 Cup of Raw Sugar to 9 litres of hot water, allow to cool and add 1 ml of Pentavite per 1 litre of mix and add one Cup of Rolled Oats per Litre when putting it into the feeding Bowl.

    I have stacks of photos I can add which have been taken over the years.

  31. mum says:

    This recipe, can you freeze it? as i have only one gorgeous lorikeet.

  32. Les Kent says:

    The Raw Sugar, Pentavite & water mixture can be frozen in Ice Cube Trays and thawed out if only small quantities are required

  33. leeann says:

    My parents have about 15 to 20 of rainbow lorikeets(adults & babies)come round about 10 times a day to feed.They love bread soaked in honey.My parents would like to know how to tell the difference between the males and the females.Oh yes they are very loud,they wake my parents around 6am to be fed.The baby ones my mother can feed by hand and they also sit on the chairs right at the back door.

    • Trevor says:

      Les Kent sent me this email, just beating me to reply:

      Males and Females are identical in Colours and are hard to Identify
      Extract from Burkes Backyard,

      Appearance
      Lorikeets are considered a small to medium parrot and range in size from 150mm (6″) to 400mm (16″). The colour of the bird depends upon the species and the variation with in that species, however bright colours are common and popular. In most species it is very difficult to determine the sex of the bird as both males and females look the same.

  34. Yvonne says:

    Hi
    I have just recently moved to Australia from NZ, absolutely loving the bird life. We had over 60 different birds in NZ including Red Collared Lorikeets (similar to Rainbows but the neck is red not green), the only definite way to sex is by DNA, although during mating the iris of the male turns from orange to red. Our birds acted the same in many ways, and it has been known for birds to lair up with the same sex, thus making it more difficult to sex. Their diet when kept, is a wet or dry nectar mix that is mixed with honey, also plenty of fresh fruit and veg. The problem with putting out a mix like this to wild birds is it does go stale so needs changing reguarly especially when it is hot.
    Hope this helps out some.

  35. Jason Norris says:

    I just brought a rainbbow lorikette an I am wondering how to tell the sex of it

  36. Libby says:

    I have an injured lorikeet, in wondering how to tell if his/she is a baby or not. Also if it’s a baby/adult what’s the best to fees it. Oh and another thing how can I tell if it’s a girl or boy?

  37. tish says:

    Hello, I understand you don’t keep pets but do you have any experience with rainbow lorikeets whose wing and tail feathers have not grown? He also has a gammy foot, so goes splat whenver he tries to walk on grass etc, finds it hard to grasp branches, perch, and cannot fly due to the short length of his feathers. I thought he was a baby at first but talking with another carer it appears he has possibly had some nerve damage due to a hawk attack or something which delayed his development. He is definitely over 4 months from pictures i have seen. Any ideas?

  38. Trevor says:

    Hi Tish, Your theory is probably correct. Birds of prey (hawks, eagles, owls) and other predators like ravens, currawongs and magpies can inflict damaging injuries on young birds of many species. In many cases these predators actually kill the young.

  39. tish says:

    Thanks for your prompt response. I am also starting to look into Psittacine Beak and Feather disease, as it looks like it could also be a possibility for this lorikeet.

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