Rainbow Lorikeets: Fun facts about a fun bird

I am confident that you could show almost anyone a photo of a Rainbow Lorikeet and they will be able to identify it. They are probably the most common backyard bird in Australia - coming out as the most frequently seen bird in both our regular Birds in Backyards surveys as well as the annual Aussie Backyard Bird Count year after year. Despite how common they are, how much do you actually know about them? Here are some fun facts about one of Australia's most common birds.

  • If you are in Perth or Tasmania, you probably don't love them! Rainbow Lorikeets are not found in most of WA (in northern WA there is a sub-species called the Red-collared Lorikeet) but have been introduced to Perth where they are considered a pest by the Department of Food and Agriculture. It is thought that they were introduced in 1968 on the University of WA campus and have spread from there. In Tasmania they are also starting to become much more common.
  • As pets they can live up to 25 years, in the wild it is likely that their life span is much shorter (around 10 years).
  • Males and females are all but identical. If you know birds are the same age, the male will be larger, but usually the only way to tell them apart is a DNA test.
  • One of the reasons they are so successful in urban areas is that they have a flexible diet - they eat fruit, seeds, insects - and there are even documented cases of them eating meat! BUT - just because they can eat anything, doesn't mean they should. In fact Rainbow Lorikeets actually have tongue that looks like a paint brush. It is designed for feeding on nectar so can be damaged by other tougher foods.
  • They are hollow-nesters but are not overly fussy. Rainbow Lorikeets have been seen nesting in palms, in rock crevices and even digging a hole at the base of a tree! 
  • Rainbow Lorikeets are 'communal roosters'. This means that on dusk, huge numbers of them congregate together in a few trees. This can be extremely noisy! Research has shown that they are more likely to roost in trees where there is a large amount of artificial light at night (around places like shopping centres and sports ovals), most likely because they can see nocturnal predators coming more easily.

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