This week I will do a character study on one of Australia’s most colorful and popular birds, which people who visit Australia love to lay eyes on, the Rainbow Lorikeet. As my camera lens was wounded due to a fall, it is to receive medical attention, so I apologize for the lack of clarity with some of these photos. This bird is one of our most excited and numerous of the Parrot family often found alongside the larger and raucous Sulphur-crested Cockatoo.
Both birds are found down the east coast of Australia’s mainland and are often heard before seen. Both birds share the same kind of nesting tree, the Angophora costata (Sydney Redgum) found in large numbers along the coast.
These birds bite out pieces of the dead wood where the tree branch has broken away, leaving a hole, to make a nest. The Angothora tree is a beautiful unique work of art, often called an artists delight due to its unusual branch structure and beautiful orange/pink coloration. It was also is known as the widow maker in days past, as it drops branches silently and without warning causing many casualties. This time of year they shed their bark and remain lighter colored till they regrow a new exterior.
The Rainbow, as we call it, we hear every morning chattering and calling with its high pitched noisy communication as they feed from our Bottlebrush flowers. They’re favorite foods pollen are nectar from native flowers, as well as insects, fruits as well as their bird candy lerps and psyllids, which most of our small passerines also enjoy.
Have a careful look at this footage and notice how the Lorikeet uses its tongue to extract food from the nectar rich Endeavour Bottlebrush
As many of you will already know from reading my book ‘What Birds Teach Us’, Rainbows mate for life, and if you see them they will almost always be in pairs, excitedly flying at great speed together, calling to each other, and maneuvering with themselves in amazing accuracy. If a partner dies there is a grieving process similar to our own, and most sad to watch. They will go and fly with a flock.
Similar to the Cockatoo, these birds despite their size, are respected by all other birds, even the ultra aggressive Noisy Miner, as the Rainbows can inflict a serious injury if they are messed with due to their very strong sharp beak. Their vulnerability to raptors and their nestlings to Kookaburras and Currawong are their major points of concern. Nesting close to Cockatoos can be an advantage due to the group evasive action of the Cockies when danger approaches. The Cockatoo crest is a physical indication of the bird’s emotional state at the time. When the bird becomes excited or alarmed it will raise it and when it is resting or sick will flatten it.
Listen to the noisy chatter of a small flock feeding. They have dominance wherever they go when in flock.
There are two distinct subspecies or races [some call the Red-collared Lorikeet (race rubritorquis) a separate species rather than subspecies]. The Red-collared subspecies is only found far north in the states of WA and NT, having a distinct red collar, unlike the green of the east coast Rainbow (race moluccanus). We always love looking for the Red-collared when in Broome, WA.
The juvenile Lorikeet looks much the same as the adult except that it has a dark beak, dark eye and less red on its chest, as seen below with its adult parent.
The immature still has slight traces of its juvenile features as it approaches breeding maturity and the bright red beak.
One of the things i love about this bird, as with other Parrot species, in particular the Little Corella, is the affection and companionship exhibited between the devoted pair.
This is one bird, like the Cockatoo, that has survived the fires, due to their widespread location and their abundance, however many may have been lost due to the many who would have been caught nesting, as Spring and Summer are the nesting times. The sad thing is that many birds born this season may have been lost due to fires marking a considerable short fall in new bird numbers this year. Watch and hear some live footage of these birds happily feeding.
Here are a few flight shots I managed to capture at high speed.
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Lastly, consider these shots of the parent guarding its nest which is deep inside the dead portion of an Angophora tree, trying to ascertain my purpose in observing it. We were just about ten feet away enjoying our Australia Day breakfast with church friends, no one else appeared to notice this colourful head emerging and then disappearing into the hole in the nearby tree.
Notice the head tilt which is common with birds of monocular vision allowing them to observe food or in this case possible raptor overhead with one eye positioned. Birds also have a very acute hearing which allows some species to hear grubs and bugs moving below the surface of the soil, which is useful when they are on the ground dining. We saw this recently with our Magpie.
The Rainbow Lorikeet keeps watch over its young, sharing the role with its lifetime partner (not pictured here). This is why these birds survive and breed so well, they are a team and they work together to achieve their goal. The male will be responsible to train and protect the fledgling when it emerges. As a family they will fly together in constant communication as they excitedly feed and chatter to one another. In a good functional family environment, good communication is most important, It is through the words and actions of the parents that children learn how to live, feel safe, loved and cared for. It is how we learn the skills of life and understand who we are. It is important to add that it is not the words alone but the attitude with which they are transmitted that has the greatest affect on the positive growth and maturity of the hearer.
‘Let love and faithfulness never leave you; bind them around your neck, write them on the tablet of your heart.’ – Proverbs 3:3
Have an enjoyable week and stay safe!
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