Trichoglossus haematodus, Photo: Michael Lahanas
Trichoglossus haematodus (Linnaeus, 1771)
* Mantissa Plant. p.524
The Rainbow Lorikeet, Trichoglossus haematodus is a species of Australasian parrot found in Australia, eastern Indonesia (Maluku and Western New Guinea), 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. Several taxa traditionally listed as subspecies of the Rainbow Lorikeet are increasingly treated as separate species (see Taxonomy).
Rainbow Lorikeets have been introduced to Perth, Western Australia, Auckland, New Zealand and Hong Kong.
Rainbow Lorikeets are true parrots, within the Psittacidae family, which are contained in the order Psittaciformes.
The Rainbow Lorikeet has often included the Red-collared Lorikeet (T. rubritorquis) as a subspecies, but today most major authorities consider it separate. Additionally, a review in 1997 led to the recommendation of splitting off some of the most distinctive taxa from the Lesser Sundas as separate species, these being the Scarlet-breasted Lorikeet (T. forsteni), the Marigold Lorikeet (T. capistratus) and the Flores Lorikeet (T. weberi). This is increasingly followed by major authorities. With these as separate species, the Rainbow Lorikeet includes the following subspecies (in taxonomic order); most of the common names listed below are only used in aviculture.
* Rosenberg's Lorikeet, T. h. rosenbergii - Biak Island, Indonesia.
The Rainbow Lorikeet is a medium sized parrot, with the length ranging from 25–30 cm (9.8-11.8 in) in size, and have a wingspan of about 17 cm (6.7 in). The weight varies from 75–157 g (2.6–5.5 oz). The plumage of the nominate race, as with all subspecies, is very bright. The head is deep blue with a yellow collar, and the rest of the upperparts (wings, back and tail) are deep green. The chest is red with blue-black barring. The belly is deep green, and the thighs and rump are yellow with deep green barring. The beak is orange. There are no differences between the sexes, and juvenile birds are like the adults but with duller overall plumage. The markings of the best known subspecies T. h. moluccanus are particularly are as the nominate race but with a more orange breast with little to no barring. The northern Australian race rubritorquis also lacks any markings on the orange breast, and the collar in this subspecies is orange, not yellow.
Rainbow Lorikeets often travel together in pairs and occasionally respond to calls to fly as a flock, then disperse again into pairs. Rainbow Lorikeet pairs defend their feeding and nesting areas aggressively against other Rainbow Lorikeets and other bird species. They chase off not only smaller birds such as the Noisy Miner, but also larger and more powerful birds such as the Australian Magpie.
Rainbow Lorikeets feed mainly on fruit, 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. Nectar from eucalyptus are important in Australia]], other important nectar sources are Pittosporum, Grevillea, Spathodea campanulata (African Tulip-tree), and sago palm. In Melanesia coconuts are very important food sources, and Rainbow Lorikeets are important pollinators of these. They also consume the fruits of Ficus, Trema, Mutingia, as well as papaya and mangoes already oepned by fruit bats. They also eat crops such as apples, and will raid maize and sorghum. They are also frequent visitors at bird feeders placed in gardens, which supply 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), but can vary from region to region with changes in food availability and climate. Nesting sites are variable and can include hollows of tall trees such as eucalypts, palm trunks, or overhanging rock. One population in the Admiralty Islands nests in holes in the ground on predator-free islets. Pairs sometimes nest in the same tree with other Rainbow Lorikeet pairs, or other bird species The clutch size is between one to three eggs, which are incubated for around 25 days. Incubation duties are carried out by the female alone.
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. rosenbergii being threatened by habitat loss and capture for the parrot trade.
As a pest
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. In urban areas, the birds create nuisance noise and fouling of outdoor areas and vehicles with droppings.
In Western Australia, a major impact of the Rainbow Lorikeet is competition with indigenous bird species. This includes domination of feeding resources, and competition for increasingly scarce nesting hollows. Birds such as the Purple-crowned Lorikeet Glossopsitta porphyrocephala and Carnaby's Black-Cockatoo Calyptorhynchus latirostris are adversely affected or displaced.
1. ^ BirdLife International (2008). Trichoglossus haematodus. In: IUCN 2008. IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. Downloaded on 16 April 2009.
Source: Wikispecies, Wikipedia: All text is available under the terms of the GNU Free Documentation License