The Rainbow Lorikeet would have to be one of the most well known birds associated with Australia. These active, noisy and conspicuous feathered creatures are native to Australia and are mainly found in the northern and eastern parts of the country. Interestingly, they can also be found in small selections around Perth in Western Australia and also in Tasmania and this is likely due to aviary escapes or releases, since these parrots are a popular pet bird.
The Rainbow Lorikeet is unmistakable with its vivid plumage and bright red beak. The head is a deep blue-purple colour, the wings are a deep green, as are the back and tail, and the breast is an orange-yellow colour. Underneath their wings is coloured red-orange which can be seen when the bird is in flight.
These lorikeets can be extremely noisy, even when there are only two or three of them, and the noise can be quite deafening when in large numbers, especially where food is concerned. The birds chatter noisily while feeding and squawk loudly when fighting other birds over food. They also screech loudly during flight.
The Rainbow Lorikeet has a brush-like tongue which allows it to feed on nectar and pollen from the eucalypt blossoms by opening its beak and placing its tongue into the receptacles to get the nectar, then the bird rubs its beak across the stamens to get the pollen. They prefer the flowers of the eucalypt, grevillea, callistemons and banksia. They also eat fruit, sunflower seeds, berries, and occasionally insects found in the blossoms, and have been known to eat raw meat.
These birds can sometimes be seen with the smaller Scaly Breasted Lorikeets, feeding together or hanging out in the same tree, although they will also exclude the Scaly Breasted Lorikeets from any feeding station which often breaks out into loud arguments between the species. The Rainbow Lorikeet always comes out the winner in these situations. They also chase away much bigger birds, such as magpies and cockatoos, away from their food source.
The parrots are very agile and can entertain you for hours with their antics and acrobatics in the trees while feeding on flowers. The lorikeets aren’t very good on landing or take off but they can fly really really fast. When you watch them, it is nothing short of amazing to see them twist and turn around trees and over fences at breakneck speed.
Rainbow Lorikeets live in rainforest, open forest, woodlands, mangroves, along watercourses, parks, orchards, camping grounds and suburban areas with plenty of trees. Often the birds will become semi tame and become a regular visitor to a feeding station. If you want to feed these parrots you should only use the special lorikeet mix available in the shops and not put out honey and jam for them beacuse of the lack of nutrition these sugary treats have and which can lead to serious health problems for the birds.
Here’s some footage I took of two Rainbow Lorikeets enjoying a morning meal, you can hear other lorikeets chattering away in the tree close by.
A great way to hand feed a wild lorikeet is to go to a wildlife park, like Currumbin Wildlife Sanctuary on the Gold Coast in Queensland. There, for a small fee, you can gather in the feeding area twice a day with a dish of nectar and the lorikeets will happily land on your arms and head to eat it. This is a fantastic experience, I’ve done it several times myself, and it’s a “must do” if you’re in the area.
Here’s some more footage I took of a pair of Rainbow Lorikeets with a juvenile having a feed. The young one is the bird on the right and you can hear it making a high pitched noise almost all the time. You can also hear some other Rainbow Lorikeets screeching away in the background who are sitting in the tree nearby.
Trivia Bit – Rainbow Lorikeets can live up to 20 years in the wild and up to 30 years in captivity!