Rainbow Lorikeets (Trichoglossus moluccanus) have arguably one of the striking plumages in the world. They are part of the Old World Parrot family (Psittaculidae) and sit in the lorikeet genus (Trichoglossus).
Found predominantly on the eastern side of Australia - along the eastern seaboard, these gregarious lorikeets are relatively noisy and often travel together in pairs.
Although they’re mainly found on the eastern side, a local population has been established in Perth, which was initiated from aviary releases.
Rainbow Lorikeets are one of the most spotted birds in Australia, and they often travel up to 30km a day in between their roosting and feeding sites. When it comes to nesting and their behaviour, they have some pretty interesting habits.
Rainbow Lorikeets nest in deep cavities in the trunks of large trees. Generally speaking, they tend to nest in eucalypts and other trees in the Myrtaceae family (commonly known as paperbarks, honey-myrtles or tea-trees). They also prefer open country and don’t tend to nest in rainforests.
These deep holes are usually anywhere from three to thirty metres off the ground to provide a safe place for raising their chicks, out the way of predators.
A rainbow lorikeet emerging from a nest hollow inside a Eucalyptus tree
The types of trees do vary depending on the habitat of the lorikeets. For example, in most parts of Australia, they nest in paperbarks and in suburban areas of Perth, both cotton and date palm are popular choices.
Other than trees, occasionally lorikeets will nest in overhanging rocks too and one population nests in holes in the ground. This is rare and only happens because the Rainbow Lorikeet population on the Admiralty Islands essentially live a predator-free life.
Rainbow Lorikeets will nest in your backyard if it’s a suitable habitat (including plenty of native plants), and there are suitable trees with hollows, as well as being good food sources nearby.
Roosts of Rainbow Lorikeets vary seasonally, but they can contain up to 50,000 birds in some circumstances.
Because Rainbow Lorikeet nests are inside trees, you rarely will see one. Usually, inside the cavity, the floor is lined with wood chips that are a suitable base for the eggs. Occasionally dried grasses may also be used.
Other than the above, nests are pretty simple and essentially just a hole in a tree.
A breeding pair of rainbow lorikeets outside of their hollow
The nesting time for Rainbow Lorikeets varies depending on their location. In South-Eastern parts of Australia, the nesting season is usually between August and January. In other parts of Australia, breeding occurs for most of the year - other than March.
The main reasons for the varying time for the nesting and breeding season tend to be the climate and the abundance of food, as they are both crucial factors to help raise a successful brood of chicks.
Rainbow Lorikeets are monogamous birds and can have up to three broods of between 1-3 eggs each breeding season.
On average, Rainbow Lorikeets nest for around to 57 days. This is the total time required to lay the eggs, care for the chicks and for then the chicks to be ready to fledge the nest. Once fledged, young lorikeets will be cared for by their parents for another two to three weeks.
In terms of total time spent nesting throughout the year, this can mean that populations raising three broods a year, can spend up to 180 days of the year nesting, whereas south-east lorikeets only raising the one will spend around only 57 days.
Rainbow Lorikeet perched
Rainbow Lorikeets don’t build their nests as such, and instead, find a suitable hole in a tree. Once the nesting site has been found, both the male and female will line the floor with wood chips (often chewed, decayed wood) and sometimes dry grasses.
Rainbow Lorikeets will investigate many different hollows before choosing a suitable one for nesting in. Often, the hollows can be knot-holes or from a broken off branch.
Sometimes, rainbow lorikeet pairs will nest in the same trees with other lorikeets or species of birds.
Rainbow Lorikeets will sometimes show minor aggression, in the form of biting and protesting towards birds not in a pair, during the breeding season.
A rainbow lorikeet investigating a nesting cavity
It usually takes between 54 and 57 days for rainbow lorikeet chicks to fledge the nest.
Rainbow Lorikeet chicks are born altrical, which means they hatch with no covering of feathers and are have their eyes closed. They are essentially helpless without care from their parents and need protection and feeding.
The fledglings may stay with the parents throughout the summer. After this time, they will then usually leave and join the communal roost.
A recently fledged Rainbow Lorikeet chick on the ground
Rainbow Lorikeets usually have anywhere from one to three broods per breeding season. Lorikeet populations outside of South-East Australia tend to have more than those in that region, as the breeding season runs pretty much all year round.
Most of these broods in the wild contain two eggs, but sometimes it can just be one egg and up to three in some rare cases.
It’s the sole responsibility of the female to incubate the eggs on her own, and when the chicks hatch, both the male and female will share the duties of feeding the chicks together.
The eggs of a Rainbow Lorikeet are white and are oval-shaped. On average, they are usually between 25 - 30 mm × 21 - 24 mm.
A flock of rainbow lorikeets feeding together
In south-east populations, eggs are usually laid in August and September, and other populations can be pretty much any time of the year.
Rainbow Lorikeets start breeding when they reach between 12 and 15 months of age. They usually find a suitable mate and will continue to breed together for long periods, and often sometimes for their entire life.
The average number of eggs that a Rainbow Lorikeet lays is two. Occasionally, one egg is laid and in rare circumstances, three eggs.
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