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Rainbow Lorikeet

Brooke Billingsley

If you’re looking for a colorful pet that will keep you on your toes, then the Rainbow Lorikeet may be the pet of your dreams. These lively birds have big personalities and produce no shortage of entertainment. They aren’t the best pet for everyone, though, because they can be a handful. If you’re interested in adding a Rainbow Lorikeet to your family, then keep reading for the info you need on these birds.

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Species Overview

rainbow lorikeet closeup
Image Credit: Marjon Besteman, Pixabay
Common Names: Rainbow Lorikeet, Rainbow Bird, Lory
Scientific Name: Trichoglossus moluccanus
Adult Size: 10 – 15 inches
Life Expectancy: 20 – 30 years

Origin and History

Rainbow Lorikeets are native to the Eastern seaboard of Australia and live in rainforests, woodlands, and coastal bush areas. They are now an invasive species in parts of Western Australia, Tasmania, New Zealand, and even Hong Kong. They are considered pest species in these areas and are a threat to native wildlife when they outcompete them for food. Even in areas where they are native, they are often considered pests because they damage crops and create significant noise pollution with their boisterous personalities.

These birds were formally recognized as a species in the late 1700s and have experienced multiple shifts in classification since then. They were switched to the Trichoglossus genus from the Psittacus genus in 1826, putting them in the genus they still stand in today. Multiple birds have historically fallen under the same classification as the Rainbow Lorikeet, but those have slowly changed over the years. In 1997, multiple birds were split from the group, and in 2019, the Rainbow Lorikeet was split into three separate birds. The Rainbow Lorikeet remains, and the Coconut Lorikeet and Red-Collared Lorikeet were split into their own species.

a full body close up of a rainbow lorikeet
Image Credit: Wow Phochiangrak, Pixabay

Temperament

Rainbow Lorikeets are playful, friendly birds, especially when hand raised. They may be nippy, like many birds. This behavior is often reduced by early handling and hand feeding when they are young. They are known to approach people and demand attention, especially when they encounter a person they are bonded to. They are highly social and require daily interaction to keep them happy and healthy.

These birds are highly intelligent, which makes them excellent problem solvers. They take an interest in games and puzzles, as well as learning tricks and words. They are known as escape artists and require a secure enclosure to keep them safe and secure. They are jealous birds that value their handler’s attention, so they are known to become aggressive toward other birds and potentially other types of pets if they feel the other animal is stealing attention. They are noisy and make poor pets in homes with nearby neighbors, like apartments and condos.

Pros
  • Playful and friendly
  • Easy to socialize
  • Will approach people for attention
  • Intelligent problem solvers
  • Enjoy games and puzzles
  • Can learn speech
Cons
  • May be nippy
  • Require daily attention
  • May be aggressive toward other pets
  • Noisy

Speech & Vocalizations

The natural sounds that Rainbow Lorikeets make include high-pitched squawks and shrill vocalizations. They can learn words and sometimes will pick up phrases as well. They are known to mimic just about anything they routinely hear in their environment, which includes sounds like doorbells, creaking doors, other pets, and ringing phones.

Rainbow Lorikeet Colors and Markings

Generally speaking, Rainbow Lorikeets all look extremely similar. They are not sexually dimorphic, so males and females do not have noticeable differences in their physical appearance. They usually have bright red chests, red or orange beaks, blue faces with greenish yellow collars around the neck, blue abdomens with green on the legs and cloacal area, orange and yellow branching out from the red of the chest, yellow wing bars, and green across the rest of the body. The underside of the wings is bright red. The skin on the feet and legs is dark grey to black.

Related Read: Ornate Lorikeet

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Caring for the Rainbow Lorikeet

a rainbow lorikeet on top of a cage
Image Credit: Wow Phochiangrak, Pixabay

Cage Setup

These escape artists require a cage that closes securely and cannot be opened by the bird from the inside. They are known to be able to untwist and unclip objects. Minimum cage size should be 4 feet by 2 feet by 3 feet, but a larger enclosure is better. If keeping your bird in the minimum cage size, it also needs to have a safe area outside of the cage. Cages must be made of sturdy metal as these birds can chew through wood and plastic.

Cage Care

Rainbow Lorikeets have liquidy stools and are extremely messy. They should be provided with newspaper or something similar to line the bottom of the cage to catch waste. Some people line nearby surfaces with plastic sheeting or drop cloths to protect walls, floors, and furniture. The cage may require daily cleaning and food bowls should be cleaned within 2–4 hours of feeding to prevent bacterial growth. Be sure any cleaning products you use are bird safe and do not use them in the presence of your bird.

Cage Mates

Some Rainbow Lorikeets enjoy the company of other birds, but their territorial nature dictates they should not be kept in the same cage with other birds. They are capable of doing significant damage to other birds with their powerful beaks and claws and should not be trusted with other pets unattended.

Grooming

Generally, these birds will keep themselves clean. On rare occasions you may need to provide your bird with a light misting or wipe down to clean them. Wing, beak, and nail trims should only be performed by trained individuals and will likely require two people to safely hold the bird while these things are done.

Activity

These active birds require daily activity. Puzzles and other mind-stimulating games are a great way to keep your bird busy and free from boredom and stress related problems. Toys like balls, bells, mirrors, and ladders are all great ways to keep your bird busy throughout the day.

two rainbow lorikeets on a tree branch in aviary
Image Credit: Wow Phochiangrak, Pixabay

Common Health Problems

Rainbow Lorikeets are prone to a mysterious illness called Lorikeet Paralysis Syndrome. It seems to affect wild Lorikeets more frequently than captive birds, but it also shows up in captive birds. The cause is unknown and has been suggested to be related to a plant or flower toxicity, vitamin or mineral deficiency, or a viral infection. This disease causes an inability to move the body, wings, feet, and head, as well as the loss of the abilities to blink and swallow. These symptoms require an immediate visit to an avian veterinarian and may not be treatable.

They are also prone to normal bird illnesses like chlamydiosis, psittacine beak and feather disease, upper respiratory infections, and sour crop, or an infection of the food storage pouch in the throat. These diseases can usually be prevented by good cage hygiene and a healthy diet. They may also develop feather plucking, which is usually caused by boredom or stress.

Diet and Nutrition

Rainbow Lorikeets have tongues that are specially designed to pull nectar and pollen from flowers. In the wild, this is what they fully live on. Captive birds require a nectar mix, which can be purchased commercially or made at home. They need this food offered 2 – 3 times daily and it should not be left in the cage for more than a couple of hours since the high sugar content makes the food prone to bacterial growth.

They cannot eat seed mixes or regular bird food. They should only be offered nectar consistency or soft foods. Rainbow Lorikeets will eat soft fruits and veggies, softened oats, and edible flowers as treats. These treats can be offered in small quantities once or twice daily. Avoid citrus, alcohol, chocolate, coffee, avocado, and rhubarb.

a rainbow lorikeet on a tree branch
Image Credit: sandid, Pixabay

Exercise

To keep your bird from getting bored and stressed, ensure it gets time out of the cage every day in a safe and secure environment. Being allowed to explore a safe area of your home can be exciting and enriching for your bird while allowing it to burn energy. Perches, ladders, and activity centers can provide exercise to your bird while keeping them entertained if you’re away. Make sure you are spending time with your bird every day and developing games and puzzles you can do together will aid in the bonding process.

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Where to Adopt or Buy a Rainbow Lorikeet

Rainbow Lorikeets are popular birds and are often stocked at big box pet stores. You can also purchase these birds from breeders and online retailers. It’s a good idea to buy your bird from a local source where you can see the birds and ensure they are healthy and cared for. It’s possible to find a Rainbow Lorikeet through a rescue because it’s not uncommon for people to get a Rainbow Lorikeet because of the attractive appearance of the bird without realizing the level of commitment these birds require. The noise level and need for daily social interaction can be overwhelming to some people.

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Conclusion

If you have the time and energy commitment that a Rainbow Lorikeet requires, then you won’t be disappointed by these colorful birds. They are energetic and fun, but they are a commitment of time on a daily basis, not to mention they can live to be 20 – 30 years old. Bringing home a Rainbow Lorikeet isn’t a decision you should take lightly, but a relationship with one of these birds can be enriching for you and an overall enjoyable experience.


Featured Image Credit: Manfred Richter, Pixabay

Brooke Billingsley

Brooke Billingsley spent nine years as a veterinary assistant before becoming a human nurse in 2013. She resides in Arkansas with her boyfriend of five years. She loves all animals and currently shares a home with three dogs, two cats, five fish, and two snails. She has a soft spot for special needs animals and has a three-legged senior dog and an internet famous cat with acromegaly and cerebellar hypoplasia. Fish keeping has become a hobby of Brooke’s and she is continually learning how to give her aquarium pets the best life possible. Brooke enjoys plants and gardening and keeps a vegetable garden during the summer months. She stays active with yoga and obtained her 200-hour yoga teacher certification in 2020. She hosts a podcast focusing on folklore and myth and loves spending her free time researching and writing. Brooke believes that every day is an opportunity for learning and growth and she spends time daily working toward new skills and knowledge.