Rainbow Lorikeets are members of a group of Australian multi-coloured birds known as brush-tongued parrots. Their tongues are provided with a brush of tiny papillae for dealing with the very fine pollen of gum blossom which forms a very important part of their diet.

When Captain Cook's ship, Endeavour, was anchored in Botany Bay in 1770, one of the ship's crew took a Rainbow Lorikeet aboard as a pet. The captive survived its trip back to England where it was made famous when a coloured picture of it appeared in New Illustrations of Zoology, which appeared in 1774. It was the first picture ever in colour of an Australian parrot.

More than two centuries later, towns and cities have replaced much of the Lorikeet's bush habitat, but the Lorikeets are sociable birds and they have adapted easilty to the change. They have become welcome visitors to gardens where food is put out for them. On a hot day the birds are happy to linger in the gardens, as there is always the hope that the owner will turn on his sprinkler and give them a shower bath.

The rainbow lorikeet, Trichoglossus haematodus, is a noisy, conspicuous small parrot found in abundance all along the east coast of Australia. They're a common sight around all the major population centres, right through the suburbs and into built-up areas. Their call in flight is a loud, metallic, rolling screech, interspersed with a chattering trill which is also common when they're feeding. It's an attractive and distictive call, often heard as a group whizzes past at low level and very high speed. While grooming and resting in the heat of the day, the communicate with soft twitters.

They're extremely highly coloured. The beak and eyes are bright red, the head, face, and belly an electric blue. The chest is orange speckled with yellow, and the neck, back, wings and tail are bright green. There's a band of bright yellow feathers around the back of the neck, and the feet are grey. Males and females have the same plumage. They're about 25 cm long. They often highlight their already spectacular colours by feeding in blossom-filled trees in the spring.

They're very agile and acrobatic, climbing around in the branches, often upside down. They fly extremely fast, with rapid fluttering of wings. They often fly low between trees and buildings, rolling around obstacles and weaving in between other members of their flock, but when they want to get somewhere they gain altitude and fly in a very direct course with enormous speed.

As Schmik has noted, they are extremely intelligent, social birds who have adapted well to human development of their territories. Their numbers are high in inner Sydney, in fact there's a flock of a dozen or so twittering away in my garden, ten minutes drive from the centre of town, as a write this. They're usually very tame and used to humans, allowing observers to get very close. I've had a young bird land on my head while I was gardening once.

Unfortunately there are in Sydney a disturbing number of people who find the lorikeets too noisy and obtrusive and put out poisoned baits for them. It's not because the trash people's gardens, because they don't. They're small birds that feed primarily on pollen, nectar, berries and small fruits, and sometimes insects.

The fruit and nectar they eat is occasionally fermented, particularly further north in Queensland, and the birds can get quite drunk on it. Ethanol affects them just like it affects anything else.Crucifixiate has seen inebriated lorikeets falling of branches and clothes lines after feeding.

Log in or register to write something here or to contact authors.