Christopher Taylor Bird Nature Wildlife Mammal Photography
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Rainbow Lorikeet Picture @
Location: Broadwater Parklands, Queensland, Australia
GPS: -28.0S, 153.4E, elev=42' MAP
Date: April 7, 2017
ID : B13K2914 [4896 x 3264]

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The Rainbow Lorikeet, Trichoglossus haematodus is a species of Australasian parrot found in Australia, eastern Indonesia, Papua New Guinea, New Caledonia, Solomon Islands and Vanuatu. In Australia, it is common along the eastern seaboard, from Queensland to South Australia and northwest Tasmania. Its habitat is rainforest, coastal bush and woodland areas. The taxonomy is disputed, and it is often split into several species (see Taxonomy).

Rainbow Lorikeets have been introduced to Perth, Western Australia, Auckland, New Zealand and Hong Kong.


The Rainbow Lorikeet is very colourful. Almost every colour of the rainbow is found on the feathers of the rainbow lorikeet. They are not large birds, with a Rainbow Lorikeets length ranging from 25-30 cm (9.8-11.8 in) in size, and with a wingspan of about 17 cm (6.7 in). They vary significantly in colouration between the numerous subspecies. Their markings of the best known subspecies T. h. moluccanus are particularly striking: A dark blue or violet-blue head and stomach, a bright green back, tail and vent, and an orange breast and beak. Several subspecies have darker scalloped markings across the orange or red breast and the Weber's Lorikeet (T. h. weberi) is predominantly green.

Rainbow Lorikeet feather "? photo shows both sides of the same feather

Rainbow Lorikeets travel together as pairs mostly and often pick up calls to fly as a flock, then dispersing again in to pairs. Rainbow Lorikeets pairs dominate their feeding areas against other pairs. They chase off not only smaller birds such as the stealthful Australian Miner, they also chase off larger and powerful birds such as Magpies.

Although individual Rainbow Lorikeets are difficult to distinguish by their plumage they are possible to distinguish by their behaviour, size and eye colour differences at the very outside of the iris.


Rainbow Lorikeets are true parrots, within the Psittacidae family, which are contained in the order Psittaciformes. There are many subspecies of Trichoglossus haematodus, most of the common names listed below are only used in aviculture.

  • Mitchell's Lorikeet, T. h. mitchellii - Bali and Lombok, Indonesia.
  • Forsten's Lorikeet, T. h. forsteni - Sumbawa, Indonesia.
  • Djampea Lorikeet, T. h. djampeanus - Tanahjampea Island, south of Sulawesi, Indonesia.
  • Stresemann's Lorikeet, T. h. stresemanni - Kalaotoa Island, south of Sulawesi, Indonesia.
  • Sumba Lorikeet, T. h. fortis - Sumba, Indonesia.
  • Weber's Lorikeet, T. h. weberi - Flores, Indonesia.
  • Edward's Lorikeet, T. h. capistratus - Timor.
  • Wetar Lorikeet, T. h. flavotectus - Wetar, Indonesia.
  • Rosenberg's Lorikeet, T. h. rosenbergii - Biak Island, Indonesia.
  • Blue-faced Lorikeet, T. h. intermedius. - north coast of New Guinea. Not always considered distinct from T. h. haematodus.
  • Green-naped Lorikeet, T. h. haematodus - southern Maluku, West Papua islands and western New Guinea.
  • Dark-throated Lorikeet, T. h. nigrogularis - Kai Islands, Aru Islands and southern New Guinea. If T. h. caeruleiceps is recognized, T. h. nigrogularis is restricted to the Kai and Aru Islands.
  • Brook's Lorikeet, T. h. brooki - Spriti Island in the Aru Islands. Not always considered distinct from T. h. nigrogularis.
  • Pale-head Lorikeet, T. h. caeruleiceps - southern New Guinea. Not always considered distinct from T. h. nigrogularis.
  • Southern Green-naped Lorikeet, T. h. micropteryx - east New Guinea.
  • Ninigo Lorikeet, T. h. nesophilus - Ninigo and Hermit Groups, west of Manus Island, Papua New Guinea.
  • Olive-green Lorikeet, T. h. flavicans - New Hanover Island, St. Matthias Islands and Admiralty Island.
  • Massena's or Coconut Lorikeet, T. h. massena - eastern New Guinea, Louisiade Archipelago, Karkar Island, Bismarck Archipelago, Solomon Islands and Vanuatu.
  • Deplanche's Lorikeet, T. h. deplanchii - New Caledonia and Loyalty Islands.
  • Swainson's Lorikeet, T. h. moluccanus - eastern Australia and Tasmania.
  • Red-collared Lorikeet, T. h. rubritorquis - northern Australia.

Some of the above mentioned taxa are regularly considered entirely separate species. This is particularly common for the Red-collared Lorikeet (Trichoglossus (haematodus) rubritorquis; monotypic), the Flores Lorikeet (T. (h.) weberi; monotypic), the Marigold Lorikeet (T. (h.) capistratus; incl. races flavotectus and fortis) and the Scarlet-breasted Lorikeet (T. (h.) forsteni; incl. races djampeanus, mitchellii and stresemanni). Additionally, some have suggested that the Ornate Lorikeet should be regarded as a subspecies of the Rainbow Lorikeet, but unlike previously mentioned splits, this has not gained widespread use.

Images of subspecies

Swainson's Lorikeet
T. haematodus moluccanus

Flores Lorikeet
T. haematodus weberi

Marigold Lorikeet
T. haematodus capistratus group

Red-collared Lorikeet
T. haematodus rubritorquis

Rosenberg's Lorikeet
T. h. rosenbergii at Nashville Zoo


Rainbow Lorikeets feed mainly on pollen and nectar, and possess a tongue adapted especially for their particular diet. The end of the tongue is equipped with a papillate appendage adapted to collecting nectar from flowers. They are also frequent visitors at bird feeders that supply lorikeet-friendly treats, such as store-bought nectar, sunflower seeds, and fruits such as apples, grapes and pears.

In many places, including campsites and suburban gardens, wild lorikeets are so used to humans that they can be hand-fed. The Currumbin Wildlife Sanctuary in Queensland, Australia, is noted for its numerous lorikeets, which number in the thousands. Around 8am and 4pm each day the birds gather in a huge, noisy flock in the park's main area. Visitors are encouraged to feed them a specially-prepared nectar, and the birds will happily settle on arms and heads to consume it. Wild Rainbow Lorikeets can also be hand-fed by visitors at Lone Pine Koala Sanctuary in Brisbane, Queensland, Australia. Semi-tame lorikeets are common daily visitors in Sydney backyards, often by the dozens.

Rainbow Lorikeets can also be fed in many zoos and animal parks outside Australia.


In Australia, breeding usually occurs during spring (September to December), and mated pairs typically nest in eucalypt trees.


Overall, the Rainbow Lorikeet remains widespread and often common. It is therefore considered to be of Least Concern by BirdLife International. The status for some localized subspecies is more precarious, with especially T. h. mitchellii, T. h. forsteni, T. h. djampeanus and T. h. rosenbergiii being highly threatened by habitat loss and the wild bird trade.

As a pest Introduced to Western Australia

The Rainbow Lorikeet was accidentally released into the southwest of the state of Western Australia from the University of Western Australia in the 1960s and they have since been classified as a pest. Rainbow Lorikeets can also be found in New Zealand, particularly around the Auckland area. New Zealand's Department of Conservation has declared them a pest and is using similar methods to control and eradicate them.

Many fruit orchard owners consider them a pest, as they often fly in groups and strip trees containing fresh fruit.


As with any parrot, ownership of lorikeets must not be taken lightly. Captive lorikeets have a long lifespan, often in excess of 20 years. Their diet makes them particularly messy; they are well-known in aviculture for their liquid droppings and energetic and playful nature. Captive-bred Rainbow Lorikeets are legal to own in Australia.

Lorikeets are very amusing and affectionate as pets, but much more demanding than other parrots. They do not easily eat seeds, so all the usual bird-feeding regimens are useless. Lorikeets in captivity are best fed a custom mixture composed typically of baby cereal, rice flour, breadcrumbs, glucose powder, skim milk powder, semolina (wheat hearts), pollen mixture and, optionally, other ingredients such as powdered whole egg and crushed whole-wheat biscuits. This is given in dry form, alongside a dish of water, and also mixed with water and lightly cooked into a thin porridge.

A mixture of honey and water will also be welcome. Be aware that after this mixture the birds will want to rinse their mouth with clean water and, if more than one at a time can feed on the mixture, water to bathe in because they spray their feed about a lot. The area around their bath needs to be waterproof for a diameter of at least a metre (three feet).

Fresh fruit of course should be available, and you will probably be compelled to share some of whatever you yourself are eating. This represents a lot of time and trouble, which means that caring for a lorikeet is a very big and long-term commitment. The reward for this is a playful and devoted companion.

Other things to be concerned with if considering a lorikeet as a pet are: they are very prolific with their droppings, which aren't too bad if wiped up immediately, but this is nearly impossible due to the frequency; they are very rambunctious birds and not easy to put up with inside a home; an angry or happy lorikeet has an extremely powerful bite.

See also
  • Lories and lorikeets
  • Australian Ringneck

bird photography
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