Temperament: gregarious and trainable
Lifespan: 7-9 years
Recommended for: beginners to experienced birdkeepers
Lorikeets are native birds found in coastal areas around Australia. Although there are six different native species and all are kept in captivity, the two most commonly kept species are the Rainbow Lorikeet and the Scaly-breasted Lorikeet. There are also some exotic (that is foreign) lorikeet species kept in Australia. In the past these nectar-eating parrots have been shunned as pets or aviary subjects because of their specialised diet and husbandry needs. Recent work by committed aviculturists and keepers has meant that lorikeets are now reasonably easy to care for, even for beginners. It is illegal to collect native birds from the wild and captive populations of lorikeets now support avicultural demands.
Most lorikeets are outgoing in nature. Some species are more aggressive than others and some may have a tendency to become territorial. As pets, hand-reared birds are the best choice as they are more familiar with people and easier to handle. Lorikeets are highly gregarious and if not in the company of other birds will fulfil their need for company with people or other pets. Some owners are surprised by the level of involvement needed to own a pet lorikeet, especially a single bird. They find the birds very demanding and must provide their pet lorikeet with constant companionship and stimulation. Birds kept as pairs or in colonies do not usually demand the same level of attention, but they also do not form as close a bond with their owners.
Lorikeets are intelligent and can be trained, some even talk. In large numbers they can be quite noisy emitting sharp shrieks and chatterings.
Lorikeets are one of the few parrots that eat mainly nectar and pollen and therefore need a specialised diet. There are now commercial brands of both wet (nectar) and dry (pollen) lorikeet feeds that have made feeding and nutritional maintenance of the birds easier. These feeds can be bought from any pet store. A daily supply of fruit and vegetables is also important in a balanced, healthy diet and native eucalypt flowers are always well received. Left over food should be removed immediately and feeding equipment should be thoroughly cleaned.
Single birds kept as pets can live in small cages inside the house, but it is recommended that the bird be allowed to move about the house (check for and remove any obvious hazards if the bird has free access indoors). Lorikeets kept in aviaries can live happily in pairs or in colonies, but this is dependant on the species. Small species such as the Purplecrowned and the Varied Lorikeet can be kept in planted aviaries and will coexist with other species. Larger birds such as the Rainbow and Redcollared Lorikeets can be kept and bred in the colony system in a large aviary. Others, including the exotic lorikeets such as the Red, the Blackcapped and the Yellow-bibbed, should never be kept with other lorikeets.
The volume of liquid droppings of larger lorikeets calls for purposebuilt aviaries. The ideal is aluminium because it is easy to hose down and virtually indestructible and will outlive a wooden structure. The aviary floor should be concrete and slope to a drain to make pressure washing or hosing much easier. Alternatively suspended aviaries are recommended with a wire base that allows for all food and droppings to pass through to the ground beneath. Larger lorikeets can be kept in planted aviaries, but they will prune the plants and shrubs which means that plants may have to be replaced from time to time.
Health and lifespan
Lorikeets are quite healthy and robust birds that usually live for 7-9 years. To ensure a long lifespan and good health, good hygiene is paramount. This means keeping cages and surroundings clean and cleaning out food trays and removing uneaten food daily. Also vital for good health is protection from the elements.
$50-$6500 (price depends on the rarity of the bird).
Lorikeets make great companions for those with the time and dedication to satisfy a single bird. For those who wish only to enjoy the beauty of these birds, a pair or colony of lorikeets in an aviary is a better choice. Lorikeets are a good beginners bird, but it is important to remember the large amount of liquid excreta that a lorikeet will produce.
Anyone interested in breeding birds should seek the help of a club or more experienced breeder (see details below).
We filmed our story with lorikeet breeder Ken Shephard; phone: (02) 6643 1174.
Parrot Society of Australia
PO Box 75
Salisbury, QLD, 4107
The Grass Parrot & Lorikeet Society of Australia Inc
PO Box 425
Guildford, NSW, 2161
Phone: (02) 4572 3349