The Rainbow Lorikeet (Trichoglossus haematodus) is a parrot species found in Australia, Indonesia, Papua New Guinea, the Solomon Islands, New Caledonia and Vanuatu. There are a number of subspecies across the range that have differences in their plumage, though all are brightly coloured.
In Australia, it is commonly found along the eastern seaboard from Queensland to South Australia and Tasmania. It lives in the rainforest, in coastal bush and woodland areas and has been introduced to Perth as well as in Auckland, New Zealand and into Hong Kong.
This parrot is usually 25-30cm in length, including its tail and has a deep blue head, green-yellow collar at the back of the head and green on the upper areas of the wings, back and tail. The chest is red with blue black barring and the belly is a darker green with yellow on the rump and thighs. There is little to sex the birds visually so an examination or a DNA test is the best sure-fire method.
In captivity, their lifespan can reach 30 years.
In the wild, these birds live in pairs and occasionally gather together in flocks. Due to this, they are best kept as a single pair in an enclosure without any other birds around as they will aggressively defend their feeding and nesting areas. They will chase off larger birds as easily as smaller or comparative sized ones.
Because of their diet, they have soft and messy droppings so for this reason may not be a perfect house bird or will need plastic covers around the cage to help minimalize the mess. They are best in an outdoor aviary with room to fly and will enjoy a climbing tree in their aviary, though other plants will be destroyed. They do like to chew though, so bird-safe perches are a good idea to be chewed as well as branches from trees that have not be exposed to any chemicals. Fruit trees can be an excellent option for this if you know their source.
They also need a nest box in place at all times, as this is where they sleep, even when not breeding. These birds are relatively hardy so can survive outside with a frost-free night house in which to sleep.
These lorikeets are very active birds that are curious about their surroundings and can become quite tame with patience. Some are excellent mimics and can ever learn to speak a few words. However, their other calls can be quite loud and they are not the best bird for those living close with their neighbours.
Rainbow lorikeets enjoying bathing so as well as drinking water, fresh water to bathe in should be provided every day.
Rainbow Lorikeets are fruit, pollen and nectar feeders and have a tongue that is specially adapted for this. The end of the tongue has a papillate appendate, a brush almost, that is designed to gather the pollen and nectar from flowers. One important source of this nectar is from the flowers of the eucalyptus as well as plants such as the Pittosporum, Grevillea, African tulip-tree and the sago palm. In other parts of their range, coconuts are an important food source and the birds are an important pollinator of the plants.
Fruits such as papaya and mangoes that are opened by fruit bats are favourite along with the fruits of Ficus, Trema and Mutingia trees. They will raid orchards for apples and fields for maize and sorghum. They will also visit gardens when commercial nectar is offered along with sunflower seeds and fruits.
In some areas of their natural range, they are so tame they will take food from a person’s hand. The Currumbin Wildlife Sanctuary in Queensland has thousands of lorikeets and at 8am and 4pm daily, the birds gathered in a huge flock to be fed by visitors, sitting on their arms and heads to get treats.
In captivity, special food mixtures for lorikeets and lorys can be bought from many pet food wholesalers as well as commercial produced nectar. Fresh fruit is important and you can also give them oats, edible flowers and green vegetables to vary their diet. There are dry pellets available that are designed for lorikeets but the problem with them is that the bird’s natural diet contains a lot of water, hence their watery droppings. By feeding them a dry food, their droppings may dry up but this isn’t healthy and can lead to constipation.
Some breeders have found that baby food is a good addition to their diet as it contains pureed fruit and vegetables. However when purchasing this, beware of artificial additives and the amount of sugar added to the food as this can cause weight problems amongst other issues. Often, the fresh fruit option with pips or seeds removed can be the best and most successful diet.
Their natural breeding cycle is to breed from September to December but this can be affected by food availability and the weather conditions. They will nest in hollows of tall trees such as the eucalyptus or palm trunks as well as on overhanging rocks. In areas where there are no ground predators, such as the Admiralty Islands, they will even nest in holes on the ground. They will share sites with other birds and other species.
In captivity, a hollowed tree stump is the best bet to get them to breed with a diameter of at least 12 inches and a height of 18inches. An entrance hole should be cut to 3 inches wide and a layer of peat moss added to the bottom. The eggs will be laid straight onto this, usually up to three and incubated by the female.
They hatch after 23-26 days and fledge at around 50-60 days old. The parents continue for feed them for a time until they are full weaned, usually around four weeks after fledging. Once they are weaned, it is best to move them to their own enclosure as the parents may become aggressive with them.