Australian Bush Birds
Rainbow Lorikeet  -  Trichoglossus haematodus
Rainbow Lorikeet
Brightly coloured Rainbow Lorikeets live in large or small groups
Rainbow Lorikeet
Rainbow Lorikeet. This bird (at Casino in north-east NSW) has more yellow colour in the breast than the birds in the top photograph at Tamborine in south-east Queensland. Other colour difference can be seen between these birds.
map map The Rainbow Lorikeet - Trichoglossus haematodus - is a brightly coloured bird. Head is bright blue, large bill and eye are red, collar is greenish yellow, back is green with red flecks across the shoulder, breast is yellow with red central patch, rump is yellow mottled green. Breast and sides of belly with or without faint dark blue barring; large patch of deep violet-blue or green-black in centre of belly. Wing underside is red ahead of full width yellow and brown. Reaches 30 centimetres in length. Male and female adults are similar in colouring.

Immatures are duller than adults with shorter tails, brown eyes and brown bills with yellow markings towards the tip.

Rainbow Lorikeet - page 2
Moves and feeds in small groups of two or three birds or in larger, noisy, groups. Feeds on nectar, fruit, blossoms and seeds of native trees from any nectar-bearing plant including eucalyptus, paperbarks, banksias, rainforest trees, palms and grass trees. Eats insects and fruit when available.

Like other lorikeets the Rainbow Lorikeet has a tongue covered with brush-like papillae for mopping food from flowers and a thin-walled stomach for easy digestion. Only needs to eat for two or three hours a day.

Lives in a variety of habitats including rainforest, eucalyptus forest, woodlands, tree-lined watercourses, farmlands with remnant tree. Prefers lowlands where there are flowering trees especially forests and woods of eastern Australia from Cape York Peninsula along the east coast, through Victoria and south-east South Australia to the Eyre Peninsula and north-east Tasmania. Common in Queensland and northern New South Wales, uncommon in South Australia, Victoria and southern New South Wales; vagrant in Tasmania. Present around Perth in Western Australia after a handful escaped from an aviary in the 1960s. Occurs also in the Lesser Sundas, southern Molucca, New Guinea and adjacent islands through the Bismarck Archipelago and Solomon Islands to Vanuatu and New Caledonia.

Begins the day flying from roosting areas to feed, sometimes flying 50 kilometres to do so. At food trees they clamber about the outer foliage, if necessary hanging upside down to reach suitable blossoms. Feeding pauses in the middle of the day when they sit about preening one another or idly stripping leaves. There is another bout of intense feeding late in the afternoon, before they return, often in hundreds, to set roosts. They fly low through the trees noisily chattering and screeching then clump together on branches to preen one another several times before settling down for the night.

Rainbow Lorikeet Rainbow Lorikeet
Rainbow Lorikeets pausing while eating. (Casino, NSW)
Rainbow Lorikeets probably pair for life. Breeding is from August to January but is different in the north where breeding has been recorded in most months. The nest is in a hollow limb in a tree near water. Two, rarely three, eggs are laid; white, oval, 27 to 28 millimetres by 22 to 23 millimetres. Laid on wood dust at the bottom of the hollow. The female incubates the eggs for 25 to 26 days; the male spends much time with her in the nest hollow, feeds her by regurgitation and roosts with her at night. The young are fed by both parents and fledge in about eight weeks; after fledging they return to sleep in the nest at night.

Rainbow Lorikeet - page 3
Rainbow Lorikeet Rainbow Lorikeet
Adult on the left, immature bird on the right with subdued plumage colouring, black eye and mostly brown bill.
There are several recognised sub-species.
  One on Cape York Peninsula is small with very bright blue head, green collar, bright blue belly and stumpy tail.
  A sub-species found in the east from Cairns to eastern Victoria is larger with green collar, blue belly, narrower wing bar and medium length tail.
  The sub-species found from western Victoria into South Australia is similar to the eastern race but has a much shorter tail and small bill.

A related species (Trichoglossus rubritorquis, the Red-collared Lorikeet), sometimes considered a variant of this species, is found in the Kimberley and Top End.

Under suitable circumstances numbers can increase considerably. In the 1960s six or eight Rainbow Lorikeets escaped from an aviary on Rottnest Island and have bred substantially to the extent that forty years later the population was estimated to be approaching 20,000. Relevant authorities considered the damage caused by this bird to agriculture (especially fruit-growing) in the Northern Territory, Queensland and reports of damage to commercial fruit-growing in the Swan Valley. Additional reports of large flocks fouling motor vehicles, making disturbing noise and being a general nuisance, especially in residential gardens, were received. The bird is also considered to be a threat to other parrots because it carries Psittacine beak and feather disease.

Rainbow Lorikeets were formally declared pests in southern Western Australia and may be shot or trapped and are now (2014) considered pests throughout Western Australia south of the Kimberley. The pest declaration has been made in the hope that, although the birds may not be eliminated, the spread can be checked. Rainbow Lorikeets kept in captivity must be kept in secure double-doored aviaries and any no longer wanted must not be released into the wild.

Similar Species/Identification. The blue head, red bill and brightly coloured body are good identification characteristics. The northern version with a red collar at the nape instead of the southern version's yellow/green collar is variously described as race rubritorquis or as a separate species T. rubritorquis.