The wonderfully vibrant Rainbow lorikeet, Trichoglossus moluccanus, is a species of true parrot from the Psittaculidae family which consists of 196 species divided into 54 genera. Trichoglossus are a genera of lorikeets distributed through the Australasian region. Some Rainbow lorikeets previously considered subspecies are now generally seen as separate species, so the Rainbow lorikeet now includes just two subspecies instead of six or seven.
An exceptionally colourful bird, the Rainbow lorikeet is aptly named courtesy of its rich multi-coloured plumage. The bird has a blue or mauve head, a blue belly with an orange red neck and breast and green wings, tail and back. The feathers are bright and vivid, typical of other similarly colourful true parrots. The tail feather is longer than average for lorikeets.
Both males and females look very much alike. They measure around 25 to 30 cm (9.8 to 11.8 in) long and have a compact and slender build similar to other lorikeets as well as the Indian ringneck parakeet and Alexandrine parakeet.
Rainbow Lorikeet in flight
Rainbow lorikeets rarely grow beyond 25 to 30 cm (9.8 to 11.8 in) in length, but their 46cm (18in) wingspan is considerable for a bird of that length.
Rainbow lorikeets are compact and slender and weigh just 75 to 150 grams (2.6 to 4.2 oz).
The scientific name of the Rainbow lorikeet is Trichoglossus moluccanus and there are two subspecies; Trichoglossus moluccanus septentrionalis and Trichoglossus moluccanus moluccanus.
Other lorikeets that were once considered subspecies of the Rainbow lorikeet are now considered their own species including the Red-collared lorikeet, scarlet-breasted lorikeet, marigold lorikeet and Flores lorikeet.
A pair of Rainbow Lorikeets perched on a branch
Rainbow lorikeets, like many other lorikeets and parakeets, are prone to becoming territorial and aggressive, both towards the same species and others.
The territorial behaviour of Rainbow lorikeets is typically driven by food and nesting competition - they’ve even been observed to forcibly remove the nestlings of other parrots from their nests.
Rainbow lorikeets display many sociable and gregarious behaviours too, though, and will often flock together in pairs with Rainbow lorikeets and other arboreal species. They generally remain peaceful and sociable until they have to compete over food or nesting areas. Acts of aggression are usually minor.
Rainbow lorikeets live for around 20 to 30 years, or perhaps even longer when kept in captivity. This is about average for smaller parrots, whilst larger parrots like Macaws can live for over 100 years.
Rainbow Lorikeet perched on a tree branch
Rainbow lorikeets are currently defined as a species of least concern, which means their populations are plentiful and not under immediate danger. Throughout the eastern Australian seaboard, the Rainbow lorikeet is a common site with a population estimated at around 5 million.
Rainbow lorikeet populations as well as other lorikeet species are decreasing, but they remain in the bracket of least concern.
Rainbow lorikeets generally consume soft, sweet foods such as fruits, berries, buds, nectar and flower buds. They are well-equipped for consuming nectar and pollen, particularly from Eucalyptus, Banksia, Hibiscus and coconut plants.
In terms of fruit, Rainbow lorikeets consume pears, bananas, citrus, papaya and mango. One survey found that their diet consists primarily of flowers (87%) across 43 different species of plants.
For a full guide on what rainbow lorikeets eat, check out this article.
A Rainbow Lorikeet eating grapes
Like most parrots, Rainbow lorikeets are monogamous and will usually mate for life unless one member of the pair is killed or dies prematurely.
Rainbow lorikeets typically nest in tree hollows and will choose areas of food abundance, e.g. trees near creeks and rivers. They prefer to be somewhat elevated from the forest floor, preferably at a height of around 3m.
Their nests are simple and are typically lined with wood chips and dry grasses. Rainbow lorikeets will also nest in buildings and manmade structures.
For a full guide on the nesting habits of rainbow lorikeets, check out this article.
Rainbow Lorikeet resting at the nesting hollow
Rainbow lorikeet females typically lay clutches of 1 to 3 eggs and can lay up to 3 clutches a year.
Rainbow lorikeet eggs are small and white with no particularly distinctive features.
The typical calls of the Rainbow lorikeet involve high-pitched squawks, chatters and screeches.
Famed for being energetic and at times noisy birds, especially when visiting gardens in flocks, Rainbow lorikeets are intelligent communicators that are capable of advanced vocalisations.
A close up portrait of a Rainbow Lorikeet
Rainbow lorikeets tend to live in forested and woodland areas that are dense in foliage, food and potential tree-trunk nesting sites. Rainforests, mangroves, woodlands and coastal areas are all valid habitats for Rainbow lorikeets.
They’re also perfectly comfortable with living in urban areas and will happily nest in buildings and manmade structures.
Rainbow lorikeets are primarily distributed on the eastern Australian seaboard, from Queensland to South Australia. They can sometimes be found on the western coast of New Zealand. Urban colonies have been established as far west as Perth.
Rainbow Lorikeet flying high in the sky
Like most lorikeets, Rainbow lorikeets are generally non-migratory but are fairly nomadic and will move depending on the weather and climate.
Rainbow lorikeets are strong communicators and have an array of calls that they use regularly. Flocks are regularly seen chattering and squawking at each other.
Whilst they aren’t renowned for their mimicry, Rainbow lorikeets can learn to copy certain words and phrases spoken to them if trained to do so. Overall, they aren’t well-known for their mimicry compared to other parrots.
A group of Rainbow Lorikeets
The most common collective nouns to describe a group of Rainbow Lorikeets is a chattering or a flock.
25cm to 30cm
70g to 169g
Known for their vibrant green plumage and the distinctive rose-coloured ring around the males' necks, Rose-ringed Parakeets are a common sight in both their native habitats of Africa and South Asia, and in many introduced regions worldwide. These social and lively birds, often found in flocks, add a splash of colour and a symphony of squawking to both urban and woodland areas.
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