Scientific name: Trichoglossus haematodus moluccanus
Adult length: 30cm.
Potential lifespan: 25-28 years
Status in wild: common.
Origin: eastern Australia and South Australia. Introduced to the Perth area of Western Australia.
Suitability as pets
Although they are charming, playful and affectionate, their liquid droppings do not endear them to most home-owners. Their inquisitive nature means constant vigilance is necessary. One drowned in a toilet because someone had not foreseen this danger. Wing-clipping these active birds should not be considered.
As aviary birds
They are active and entertaining and many are extremely friendly. When you watch a pair displaying to each other, bowing and hissing, arching their necks and nuzzling into each other’s neck feathers, you cannot help falling in love with them. It is difficult to pass their aviary without being spellbound by their antics. They are bold and cheeky, with big personalities for their small size.
Find lots of great cages here.
Are you a suitable owner?
You need to have sufficient time to care for Lorikeets properly. Unlike seed-eating birds in aviaries, their accommodation needs to be cleaned on a daily basis due to the liquid droppings. In the summer these, and their food, will attract ants and wasps. Cleanliness is essential. Also, you must renew their nectar at least twice daily and they should not be without this.
Lori Nectar Food is available here.
Most wild Parrots have two main feeding periods during the day; Lorikeets need to forage constantly. Their rapid metabolism and the nature of their food means that it passes through them very quickly.
Lorikeets are extremely enthusiastic bathers, choosing to give themselves a thorough soaking, perhaps three or four times a week – and especially when the sun is shining. Large shallow containers of stainless steel or plastic make good baths. They can be placed on the floor away from the perches or they can be hung from the roof.
Baths are available here.
Simply drill three holes in the lip of the container, insert a key ring and then attach a length of chain (bought by the metre in a hardware store). There is nothing that Lories enjoy more than rain-bathing in wet leaves. Some lorikeets do not destroy foliage but most are quite destructive. To test this, don’t buy expensive plants. Just dig up elder and plant them in tubs!
Swainson’s Lorikeets are remarkable for their beauty, the intricacy of the markings, the depth of colour and the contrasting shades. No wonder they are also called Rainbow Lorikeets!
This bird is unique in having more sub-species than any other Parrot -- twenty-one, in all, although the nominate form, the Green-naped Lorikeet, is not the name by which the species is generally loosely described. For example, if a bird dealer did not know which sub-species he had, he would use the term ‘Rainbow’, not Green-naped, to refer to it.
Rainbows are the easiest of all Lorikeets to keep and breed. They mature before the age of two years. The clutch size is two and the incubation period is about 23 days. Young remain in the nest for about eight weeks.
Feather-plucking of chicks is not uncommon. In warmer weather the problem might be solved by leaving the nest-box open or even by making a wire partition in the nest-box through which the parents must feed the chicks. A careful watch should be kept to ensure the young are being fed. In cold weather the only solution is to remove the chicks for hand-rearing. The feathers soon grow again, as they do when chicks are allowed to fledge with their parents, despite their plucked state.
Pluck-No-More helps with feather plucking.
If these Lorikeets are hand-reared they could have behavioural problems that render them unsuitable for breeding or difficult to pair up. They need to be socialised with other Lorikeets as soon as they are weaned. If possible they should be reared with another Lory (any species). They are then less likely to become over-dependent on human company.
Whenever possible young should be parent-reared for future breeding stock and left with their parents for as long as possible. However, I knew of one male who would not tolerate his young for more than three days after they left the nest.
Although their shrieks are not quite so ear-piercing as those of the larger Lories, some people find them too noisy. If you plan to buy, be sure to listen to the adult of the species first! When kept in close proximity to people, their ability to mimic becomes apparent. Many repeat words without the owner having attempted to teach them “to talk”.
Their partly or mainly liquid diet results in liquid droppings – and a lot of cleaning. Accommodation that can be cleaned easily, ie, aviaries with lightweight aluminium framework, are essential. Trying to adapt wooden aviaries for their use is a mistake as they are too difficult to keep clean.
Lorikeets love to fly and can become overweight if denied the opportunity. Cages only 6ft (1.8m) long are inadequate. They need a flight with a minimum length of 12ft (3.6m) and a height of 6ft (1.8m). Walk-in aviaries provide a better quality of life. Gravel (large stones) on the aviary floor is cleaned using a pressure washer; grass and other weeds can grow up between the stones, creating a pleasant environment. So-called suspended cages are also used in warmer climates.
These all-wire cages are about 4ft (1.2m) high resting on a pipe or metal framework that is usually about 3ft (1m) from the ground. Lorikeets should be fed in indoor quarters, otherwise the nectar on which they feed can freeze in winter or become filled with flies and wasps in summer. All-wire inside cages are easier to keep clean. The area below can be concrete (with drain) or tiled for ease of cleaning.
Pick from an excellent choice of cages here.
A number of commercial Lorikeet mixtures are available, to which one adds water. However, their quality varies. My ‘nectar’ mixture consists of honey and malt extract (bought in bulk from a wholefoods company) and CeDe lory food. Lori food is available here.
To make one litre I dissolve 1½ dessertspoonfuls of malt extract and two of honey in near-boiling water, add a little cold water, then two rounded dessertspoonful of CeDe, and make up to one litre, and serve warm. (Malt extract can also be bought from a pharmacy.) When birds are breeding, I add one teaspoonful of bee pollen. This should be fed fresh twice daily.
Lorikeets also need fruit (grapes, pear, apple, pomegranate, sweet orange, soaked sultanas and soaked figs) on a daily basis. I offer two or three of these items daily. Some will also eat carrot (raw or par-boiled), celery, spinach and chickweed. All enjoy the most natural food for its pollen content: branches of fruit trees in blossom and flowering dandelion heads.
Rainbow Lorikeets can be very long-lived. Females can breed until they are into their twenties and males can retain their fertility even longer. In Australia, a female Red-collared was 35 and breeding until 12 months previously.
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