Bio Facts: Lorikeet, Rainbow
Parts of Australia, Indonesia and New Guinea, Solomon Islands, Vanuatu and New Caledonia, the East Indies and Polynesia
Rainforest, coastal lowlands, woodlands, city gardens, parklands, mangroves and orchards
Rainbow lorikeets have brightly colored, glossy feathers in rainbow hues and coral-red beaks. They are slender birds, with long, tapering tails. Each is about 11 inches in length, with a wingspan of up to 7 inches, and weighs approximately 5 to 6 ounces.
20 years or more in the wild
18 to 24 months
In the wild, they eat nectar and pollen mainly from eucalyptus and melaleuca trees, and fruits, especially apples, pears, berries, seeds, and small insects and grubs. They also enjoy the unripe ‘milky’ grain of corn and sorghum crops. In the Zoo, they are fed nectar mix in the AM and fruit flavored pellets and cut up fruit in the PM.
During the day, lorikeets travel in flocks of 15 to 20 birds. Sometimes flocks fly together, and there may be hundreds of birds combing the countryside for fruit.
Lorikeets nest in the hollow of a tree trunk or in a cavity at the end of a broken branch. Breeding season is from May to December. Females lay two eggs. Incubation takes 24 days and is usually done only by the female although the male roosts in the hollow at night. Both parents feed and take care of the young once they are hatched. At 7 to 8 weeks, the young fly away from the nest during the day but return each evening to roost. By 9 to 10 weeks, they leave the nest and are completely independent.
Lories usually bathe on a daily basis.
Most species of lories rarely become “screamers”. They are frequently at their loudest in the morning just after sunrise, and in the evening shortly before sunset. During these times, a flock can rival Amazon parrots in consistency and quality of their noise output. Generally, their vocalizations range from loud, piercing whistles and metallic “pings” to soft high-pitched warbles and chattering. Lories are master mimickers, imitating various everyday sounds such as ringing telephones, beepers, sirens, car alarms, dripping faucets, squeaky drawers, and video game noises. While they imitate sounds with clarity, imitating human language is not as distinctive as language produced by African grey and Amazon parrots.
Rainbow lorikeets are “wandering” birds and go wherever they can find food. Very fast birds, they are capable of traveling long distances. They can be found from the costal lowlands to the mountainous areas in the northeastern parts of Australia. Lorikeets have even been seen flying out over the oceans.
The rainbow lorikeet has zygodactyl feet - two toes face forward and two toes face backwards on each foot. It is an excellent adaptation for climbing, gripping, and holding food. Using these feet, lorikeets have even been known to hang upside down in order to get at a flower’s nectar.
Weak ventricular (gizzard) muscles are typical of this group of birds and are perfectly suited to their soft diet of nectar, pollen, flowers, fruits, and unripe grains. These foods are easily digested without much preliminary grinding from the gizzard.
The interdependence between lories and their food source is well documented. Lories fill the ecological niche of flower pollinator that bats and bees fill in other habitats. In fact, some lory species are primary pollinators on the small islands they inhabit.
The male and female rainbow lorikeets usually mate for life. Males are bigger than females and have a longer beak. Otherwise, one cannot tell male from female based on plumage. Both males and females are brightly colored.
Lorikeets are very noisy birds. In flight, they have a sharp, rolling screech that is repeated at regular intervals. While feeding, they make a shrill chattering noise. When roosting, soft twittering notes are uttered.
The tips of their tongues have hair-like papillae used to soak up juices and nectar when they feed. When the tongue is extended these papillae are erect, giving the tongue a pom-pom like look. This gives the lory a popular common name, the “brush-tongued parrots”.
Rainbow lorikeets are popular pets in Australia and are a constant source of amusement for their owners. They are constantly playing with behavior at times more reminiscent of a kitten than a bird. One of their favorite tricks is to go to sleep lying on their back with feet up in the air, looking rather dead, until the scream of horror wakes them up, and they bound to their feet!
There are 53 living species of lories and lorikeets found from the island of Sulawesi and parts of Australia, in the west, to Henderson Island, located north of lonely Pitcairn Island, in the east.
Evidence suggests that one described species of lory is extinct, and subfossil evidence reveals that at least two more species are extinct. Currently, at least 13 species, particularly those found exclusively on small islands, are considered to be either endangered or vulnerable to extinction. Intense human activities such as habitat destruction from logging and agriculture, the introduction of exotic pest species such as rats, domestic cats, dogs, mongooses, and mosquitoes, the accidental introduction of exotic diseases such as avian malaria, and the collection of wild lories for the pet trade threaten this group of birds’ survival.
Rainbow lorikeets are abundant throughout the northern Australian coast, but less common in the south.
Jacksonville Zoo History:
Red Lory: The first Red Lory found on Jacksonville Zoological Garden’s inventory arrived during July 1970. Blue-Streaked Lory: Ja