On the Wild Side The Rainbow Lorikeet


Multi-Colored Memories

I enjoyed reading Margrethe

Warden's interesting article

"Rainbow Lories in American Aviculture" in the Watchbird, Number 2, 2002. It brought back pleasant memories of visiting the San Diego Wild Animal Park in August 1994 with my Australian a vi cultural colleague, Warwick Remington of Ballarat, Victoria. We were two of the three invited speakers from Australia at the American Federation of Aviculture's Twentieth Anniversary Convention in Knoxville, Tennessee. Following the convention we spent a further two weeks in America and before we left for home visited the San Diego Zoo and the San Diego Zoo's Wild Animal Park. A highlight for both of us was the large walk-through aviary that featured Rainbow Lorikeets of the Australasian Region. Along with hundreds (thousands?) of other visitors that summer's day we fed the Green-naped (Rainbow) Lorikeets nectar from a small disposable cup.

As mentioned by Warden "The term 'Rainbow Lory' is a generic one applied to over 20 separate brightly colored birds. The Rainbow group, Trichoglossus haematodus, is comprised of one nominate species, commonly called the Green-naped Lory, and approximately twenty-two subspecies." It was a pleasure for Warwick and I to handfeed noisy Green-naped Lorikeets because due to the 43-year ban on importation of birds into Australia this race of the Rainbow Lorikeet is almost unknown in Australian aviculture. This amazes overseas aviculturists when they realize New Guinea is only a few sea miles across the Torres

Strait from Australia. As noted by Pizzey "Cape York Peninsula and New Guinea share many similarities in climate, vegetation and wildlife. In effect they form a faunal unit divided about 8000 years ago after the last Pleistocene ice-sheets melted and raised ocean levels round the world" (1985).

The Land of Parrots

As I sit in my small study, switching my gaze from computer to our front garden, I often reflect on how fortunate I am to live in Australia - The Land of Parrots. Neville W. Cayley, the outstanding Australian naturalist-ornithologist-author-painter, in his important work Australian Parrots-Their Habits in the Field and Aviary (1938) wrote:

"The earliest Dutch navigators are credited with having named that part of the west coast [of Australia] visited by them in the seventeenth century 'The Land of Parrots'. . . . A world map of Mercator (issued in 1569) has upon it a place called 'Terra Psittacorum, The Land of Parrots'. This is marked in 45 degrees south, away to the southward of the Cape of Good Hope."

Phipps, in Australia s Animals Discovered (1980), states the first capture of a live Rainbow Lorikeet by early explorers occurred in May 1770. The bird was taken aboard the Endeavour as a pet where it survived, outliving its owner who died on 26 December 1770. As a result, the Rainbow Lorikeet has a distinct place in the history of Australian ornithology as it was the first bird from eastern Australia to reach England alive where it was painted from life by Peter 

Brown, artist and zoologist attached to Marmaduke Tunstall 's museum which later became the Newcastle Museum. (Endeavour was the ship commanded by James Cook when he discovered the eastern Australian coast in 1770.)

Lorikeets in Abundance

As far as bird life is concerned, Australia is not only the Land of Parrots but, also the "avian pot of gold" at the end of the rainbow! Conversely, the strikingly colored, noisy and acrobatic Rainbow Lorikeet, symbolizes all that is wonderful, colorful, and fascinating about the birds of the continent "Down Under." Of the thirty or so native Australian species that frequent our front garden or backyard, the Rainbow Lorikeet, also widely known outside of Australia as Swainson's Lorikeet, is an annual seasonal visitor. Along with the Musk Lorikeet the Rainbow Lorikeet visits the flowering eucalyptus in the front garden when it is in blossom around December to February each year.

Forshaw (2002) confirms that lorikeets are confined to the PapuoAustralasian region, being distributed from Henderson and Marquesas Islands west to Mindanao, southern Philippine Islands, and the Sunda Islands, Indonesia. He acknowledges that they are strongly represented in New Guinea whereas in Australia there are only six species in three, or possibly two genera.

Even though Musk and Rainbow Lorikeets only visit our garden when they are traveling along what I term "the eucalyptus blossom trail," and are both commonly observed species throughout their distribution range, it is always a thrill when one, or both, species arrive to feed themselves on the nectar of the flowering trees in our garden, or the neighbor's garden opposite, where there is an abundance of native trees. You don't have to see them to know they are present - the raucous noise they make while clambering through the foliage in search of food is easy to discern - even from 50 yards away!





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Warden, M. Rainbow Lorikccts in American Aviculture. The A. F. A. Watchbird, Volume XXIX. No. 2: 2002. •!•