What’s Lurking In Your Backyard? – #15 Rainbow Lorikeet

This series looks at the variety of fauna that may be found in the suburban backyard or local reserve and the diversity may be surprising to some people. The obvious fauna are the vast array of birds that are readily seen by day and some by night, but there are numerous species that are nocturnal. Some of these nocturnal species people are familiar with as they tramp across the roof at night with what sounds like hobnail boots on, or they hear fighting in the backyard over food and territory. Others are cryptic and may only be seen infrequently when they enter the house for warmth and shelter. Each week I will highlight a different species that may be found in and around Melbourne’s backyards, parks and reserves, some may be familiar others less so.

#15 Rainbow Lorikeet
(Trichoglossus haematodus)

These very colourful and raucous birds are frequent visitors to our place where they will often fly in sometimes in flocks of 10’s of birds to feast on the nectar from the flowering gums around the property. In the photo below this bird is getting the nectar from one of the eucalypt trees that flower outside my office window. It also shows that the use of selected native plants and shrubs are a good way to attract birds to the garden. Not only does this tree have Rainbow Lorikeets visiting it but also several species of honeyeater, including the New Holland Honeyeater mentioned last week, and a range of parrots and smaller birds that utilise the seeds and insects that inhabit the tree.

The Rainbow Lorikeet however must be one of the most colourful of our parrot species. As their names suggest it is a rainbow of colour with its blue head and belly, its green back, wings and tail, its yellow and orange breast all topped off with a red beak. Its colour is almost as loud as its raucous call which can be almost deafening in the often large flocks that can invade trees well laden with their favorite foods of nectar and fruits, although it will also eat seeds and insects. The tongue of the Rainbow Lorikeet is also modified to enable it to extract nectar from the flowers of plants it visits.

Like many other parrot species it nests in the hollows of trees were it will chew the soft decaying wood to use as a nesting material. Both male and female will aid in the making of the nest and the eventual feeding of the young however the female is left to incubate the eggs.

The slow decline in suitable tree hollows from tree removal for what ever reason and the completion for hollows by exotic bird species such as the Indian Mynah, will impact on parrots species ability to survive longer term. Protection of hollow bearing trees is essential in the landscape if these and other Australian wildlife is to survive.

Rainbow Lorikeets can be found along the coast of Australia from the far north to Adelaide. There is a population in Perth, which is believed to have resulted from aviary releases. They utilise a range of forest types depending on food availability and have benefited from the increased availability of food in the urban environment with the planting flowering and fruiting trees and shrubs.

© Habitat Ecology 2012

Rainbow Lorikeet

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