Rainbow lorikeets (Trichoglossus moluccanus)

With their bright colours and garrulous personality Rainbow lorikeets are easily one of our most well known and best loved birds. At around thirty centimetres long these bright orange, green and blue parrots are well distributed throughout the local area.

Rainbow lorikeets have benefitted greatly from the widespread planting of grevilleas and callistemons, which has provided an abundant food source for them. This, along with their aggressive nature, has allowed them to expand their range extensively. They are now found in almost all habitat types along eastern Australia, as well as gardens and parklands. They have also been introduced to Western Australia and Tasmania which is creating a major problem for local parrot species that have to compete with them for nesting hollows.

Rainbow lorikeets actually form one part of a “Super species” with 23 closely related species or subspecies found throughout Australia, Papua New Guinea, Eastern Indonesia and some Pacific Islands. Genetic studies show us that their ancestor evolved relatively recently in Papua New Guinea around 800,000 years ago, and that the line that led to our Rainbow lorikeets split off between 50,000 to 18,000 years ago.

Though widespread their future is by no means certain with lorikeet paralysis syndrome killing an unknown number of birds in southern Queensland and northern NSW every year. The cause of the disease is still being investigated.

For more information see my blog birdbites.com.au or the Bird Bites Facebook and Youtube channels.. Rainbow lorikeets have won the Great Aussie Bird Count for the last two years in a row, and in next weeks column I’ll tell you about how you can get involved in this fantastic citizen science project.

This article first appeared in the High Country Herald 10th October 2023