Looking for advice on Rainbow Lorikeets that are coming for food

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GreenEarth's picture
Looking for advice on Rainbow Lorikeets that are coming for food

Hi All,

A week ago I had a Rainbow Lorikeet and it's fledging come to my balcony and they seemed to be calling out to me, i opened my door and to my surprize they did not move and continued making noises, it has been very cold and it had been raining and they looked wet and cold and seemed to want help, i offered them some organic apple and they ate it from my hand. I was amazed as this has never happened before and i have lived in my apartment block for a year and a half. (I live in a rental studio apartment that has a very small balcony)

The next day they returned but this time the lorikeet bought its mate and another fledgling and they all seemed to want food. I gave them some more apple and they ate it all so quickly and wanted more - it seemed like they were very hungry, like they weren't finding enough food out there in the wild. It has been an unusually cold and looking around it seems like there aren't many flowering eucalptus in my area, it seems like all the birds are doing it tough at the moment!

In the days since they have all returned everyday, early in the morning, waking me up and making a lot of noise. I had been feeding them everyday for about 5 days and i got worried about the situation, i did some research and I read its best not to feed wild birds for many reasons which i understand and agree with.

I didn't feed them the next day and they hung around my place alot and called out trying to get me to feed them. I was worried because they hung around in the tree outside for hours instead of looking for alternative food and later they kept coming back to my place and like they couldn't find alternative food in the wild and i got worried i had done the wrong thing.

The next day they seemed more desperate and insistant and i caved in and gave them some more fruit- they seemed so ravenous like they were starving! I felt really bad that maybe these birds were starving as there was not enough natural foods with the unusually cold winter we have been having and I could be helping them survive this tough time, maybe just the next couple of weeks till it gets warmer and more winter Eucalypts/native plants start flowering.

Yesterday I went to a specialist birdshop to ask advice and maybe get proper Lorikeet mix for them and they told me that maybe they had been fed by other people in the area and they were coming to me to try their luck. They said that they could have been someone's pets, (which I don't think they are) They said unless I wanted to be feeding them all the time I should not keep feeding them and also another reason not to feed is that the fledglings would learn to come to me for food and not learn their natural behaviour to forage in the wild for their natural foods. I asked about the unusual weather and they said it was possible food might be scarce and they may not survive but thats nature and it is survival of the fittest.

I didn't buy any food and decided I will not feed them for their best interests. Its really hard as they keep coming back and sitting on my balcony (or in the tree next to it) and calling out and hearing the babies crying for food is really awful. :(

I don't know if I'm doing the right thing, I don't want them to starve but I also don't want to hurt them by setting up an artificial feeding source that will be detrimental to them in the long run.

Thanks for reading!

Any advice is much appreciated!

Elsie's picture

Your response is very natural, and good on you for doing the research! I wouldn't worry too much, the babies sound hungry all the time and they are meant to sound pitiful :) They are probably a bit short of food at the moment, and could have gotten food from people at another time, so instead of looking themselves for food they are coming to you. If they realise that you are not a food source any more, they will end up looking for themselves. If they get really hungry they will go looking elsewhere, they won't just let themselves starve :) Thank you for your kindness to them and for taking the time to research. You are doing the right thing!

Woko's picture

I agree with Elsie. You've approached this in a very helpful way, GreenEarth. As well, the advice from the specialist bird shop is sound. 

These fledglings are very much like youngsters of the Homo sapiens species. They quickly learn that certain sounds will bring rewards so why wouldn't they make these sounds? If the rewards stop the behaviour stops. Just google <Pavlov's dogs> to read about the science behind this. 

Rainbow Lorikeets are very adept at traveling around seeking out food sources. To interfere with that process could have all sorts of negative effects on the overall ecology. E.g., artificially feeding them might prevent them from pollinating flowers & thereby reduce the number of trees subsequently germinating from fertile seed.

In a broad sense, something you could do is approach your local council & ask them to ensure the preservation of local bushland & the planting of indigenous native vegetation in order to provide habitat for native birds. Alternatively, seek out a local environment group & engage with their efforts to protect & restore natural habitat. 

doublebar's picture

I agree with the advice shared, but there are exceptions and I think this is one, you said that they are fledgings and that you're not sure if someone has been feeding them recently and has stopped and that there might not be enough natural food sources in the immediate area. The weather has also impacted on them seeking natural food sources meaning that maybe a tree they were feeding on could have been brought down by strong winds and soaked ground, or maybe it was cut down by council or whomever, taking these things into consideration is important when deciding to feed or not to feed especially if it's fledgings. If I were you I would target feed the fledgings until they get stronger and avoid feeding the adults since they are stronger and can roam further afield. You must also consider climate change and habitat destruction in your area if it has occurred. 

For Australian birds, natives=life, exotics=death, so do them a favour and go plant some natives and save their lives.

GreenEarth's picture

Hi Elsie, Woko and Doublebar,

Thankyou all for your replies and very helpful advice, I really appreciate it.

Just to give an update -

I fed them for the last time 3 days ago and one of the fledglings saw me when i was standing inside my apartment and flew into the glass door! poor little thing got stunned and flew off away from parents. I was devastated and ran off to look for the little one around my neighbourhood. I couldn't find them and returned home. The parents and one baby were still on my balcony eating fruit. I was so upset and i felt awful that i had inadvertantly caused the accident and wondered if the fledgling would survive. To my amazement the little one returned right at that moment and the little family was together again! I was so relieved!

I noticed over time that currawongs had been gathering and watching the lorikeets when they came to feed and they did look quite menacing towards the fledglings. I had to shoo away currawongs a number of times when they flew over (i thought to take food but now realise they may have been looking for opportunities to take one of the fledglings.

I thought long and hard about the situation and the helpful advice you all gave me and I went on a mission to look around my local area to see exactly what food sources were available for the lorikeets.

I found that there was a flowering euclyptus across the roud from my block of flats and that there were also a number of flowering Grevillias and some other flowering Eucalyptus gums further up my street. I found also that someone was feeding the lorikeets fruit also at the back of my building!

I decided that it was best for these fledglings and their parents to seek out the natural foods in their environment rather than adapt to relying on artificial feeds from me. I also thought there was a real danger that the currawongs could attack and take the fledglings from my balcony. (the tree opposite my balcony is a large privet tree that the currawongs seem to love and consider their territory)

I was very heartened yesterday to see when i was walking back to my apartment that one of the fledgling's parents was eating the Eucalyptus blossoms in the tree opposite my apartment and calling out to their two fledglings who were crying out sitting on my balcony railing!

Nature does know best!

They are all still visiting my place throughout the day but hopefully this will lessen as they learn to forage elsewhere for food.

They are very cute and charming birds and I am so glad the fledglings seem to be doing well!

Thankyou again for all your help and wise advice.

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