We recently spent a few days in Victor Harbor on the south coast of South Australia. We stayed in the caravan park close to the beach. The park boasts many fine mature trees, including some eucalyptus trees which were heavy in flower. The local Rainbow Lorikeets were flocking in large numbers to feed on the nectar in the flowers, making a constant racket as they fed. During the day this was not much of a problem, though it did get on the nerves a little as it went on hour after hour.
The main problem came at first light, just when one is trying to get that last few minutes of sleep. A Rainbow Lorikeet screeching to his friends a few metres above your caravan is an unsettling alarm clock.
While staying with my daughter in Clare in the mid-north of South Australia last weekend I was aware of the large numbers of Musk Lorikeets in and near her garden. Just over the fence in a neighbour’s back yard is a tall Eucalyptus citriodora (Lemon Scented Gum). It is about 10 metres high and covered in flowers. These are clusters of creamy stamens several centimetres long. And don’t the lorikeets love these flowers!
Lorikeets in the garden
While I was doing some gardening in the back yard on Monday morning I stopped a number of times to observe these raucous creatures. As they are feeding there is the constant contact calls, a relatively quiet screech – if that is not a contradiction in terms. They scramble all over and through the foliage seeking the next flower for its nectar. After a few minutes of this two or three of them would suddenly take off towards another tree, perhaps a few houses away or in the next street. Sometimes they would head arrow-like towards the park a block away, or towards the trees lining Lake Inchquin or the golf course next to it. As they fly they frequently emit high pitched screeches. You would have to be totally deaf not to be aware of these noisy birds zooming overhead.
As I watched one bird in particular I was aware that it was feeding on the outer foliage closest to where I was working. Of course the camera was inside. Would this flighty bird stay long enough for me to take a photo? I raced inside, grabbed the camera and crept as unobtrusively as I could back to my spot. The lorikeet in question must have been very hungry; he was still there. Over the next five minutes I managed to take some photographs, mainly of the foliage! Eventually I did manage a reasonable shot of the bird on the outside of the leaves and in full sun. The brilliant colours show up quite well, especially the bright grass green of the back and sides and the brilliant red forehead.
Lorikeets in South Australia
Lorikeets are widespread throughout southern South Australia. There in the Clare Valley the Musk Lorikeet seems to be the dominant species, but I have also recorded Rainbow Lorikeets from time to time. The Purple Crowned Lorikeet may also be found in this area. In Murray Bridge where I live, however, the latter species is the most common, followed by the Rainbow Lorikeet. The Musk Lorikeet is not observed nearly as much in our area.
UPDATE: for related articles and more photos click on these links:
This article was updated on October 3rd 2015.
Today I attended the Thursday sessions of Writers’ Week in Adelaide. This is a regular feature of the Adelaide Festival of Arts which is held every two years. Prominent writers from all over Australia and selected writers from overseas are invited to be guest speakers. Previously I have been unable to attend because of work commitments.
Writers’ week is held in a beautiful section of Adelaide’s parklands, about 200 metres across the road from the Festival Centre and about five minute’s walk from the CBD. While I primarily attended to hear the speakers talking about their writing and books, birders like me are naturally always on the lookout for birds flying around. As the tents where the sessions are held are open sided, the birds are easy to observe.
The most conspicuous species was the Rock Dove. Groups of three to five flew overhead or around the nearby buildings every minute or so. The next common species was the Rainbow Lorikeet. Small flocks of up to six or eight went screeching from tree to tree at least every five minutes. Noisy Miners squabbled and carried on in nearby trees all day. I was surprised none came down to the lawn to search for dropped food. Perhaps the large crowd was too intimidating even for them. I also observed two Sulphur-Crested Cockatoos over the Torrens River, several Adelaide Rosellas (a sub-species of the Crimson Rosella) flying nearby and a single Magpie Lark. Surprisingly, I also saw only one Crested Pigeon all day. They are a very common species in the parklands.
The most unexpected sighting was a Brush-Tailed Possum. It came scampering across the grass from the back of the Governor’s residence, through the chairs of about a dozen attendees, and disappeared up one of the beautiful palm trees in that part of the garden. These mammals are essentially nocturnal, so that makes the sighting even more interesting.
- Rainbow Lorikeets – at Wittunga Botanic Gardens
- Great Birding Moments – Noisy Miner (a species of honeyeater).
- Great Birding Moments – Crested Pigeons
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.
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.
This article was further updated in July 2015.