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Choosing a Red-collared Lorikeet

By: Virginia Wells

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The red-collared lorikeet (Trichoglossus rubritorquis ) is an affectionate bird that is highly intelligent, friendly and playful. Originating in Australia, the red-collared lorikeet can be seen in northern and eastern Australia. Like lories, lorikeets form a unique group of colorful parrots that have several distinctive characteristics. The main difference between a lory and a lorikeet is the size and shape of the tail. Lorikeets have long thin tails, much like a parakeet, while lories have wide, short tails like parrots. However, the names lory and lorikeet are often used to mean both types of bird.

The most distinguishing physical characteristic is the structure of their tongues, which have long papillae, or fuzzy appendages, that resemble a pom-pom. These form a U-shape at the tip of the tongue and are erected when the tongue is fully distended. This tongue is specialized for collecting pollen from flowers.

Red-collared lorikeets are often confused with the rainbow lorikeet. They are the largest of the lorikeets, measuring about 11.5 inches (29 cm) in length, 6 to 8 inches (15 to 20 cm) tall, and weigh about 4.5 ounces (125 to 130 grams). These colorful birds have a light to medium blue head, a dark blue to black abdomen, a yellow to light green throat section, an orange to bright yellow breast section, and a yellow and light green undercarriage. Females have a lighter abdomen section.

Lorikeets are noisy birds and tend to screech constantly. However, they are quite entertaining and don't mind being watched. They like to hang upside down from the tops of their cages, sometimes for hours. When irritated, they throw their toys into their water dishes. They can be taught to perform tricks like fetch or basketball. Red-collared lorikeets require a lot of attention to maintain their emotional health. Lorikeets typically bond to one human, and they like to feel as though they are part of the family.

Housing

Red-collared lorikeets may be housed either in suspended cages (around 20 inches by 20 inches by 24 inches) or in a large aviary. In large aviaries, they can be safely housed with finches, doves and larger parrots. The larger the cage the better because lorikeets require a lot of room to move around. There are sometimes problems with birds housed in small cages becoming overweight. Caged lorikeets should be taken out of the cage for an hour or more every day for both play and flying time.

Since lorikeets are intelligent birds, they need constant stimulation to prevent boredom. The best companion for a lorikeet is another lorikeet. They will play together and keep each other from becoming bored. If you choose to have only one, you will need to give your pet lots of attention and play time. You should also provide plenty of perches and toys such as hanging chains, swings, ladders, balls, beads and noise making devices like bells. Lorikeets will spend hours unraveling a knotted rope right down to the individual strands; reknotting starts the whole process again. Rotate the toys daily to keep your lorikeet interested. Introducing a new toy becomes a major investigation activity.

Because of their special diet, lorikeets have liquid droppings, which they can squirt outside their cages. This makes for a messy area around the cage if precautions aren't taken. You can place screening or acrylic sheeting around the lower half of the cage to contain the mess. You might also want to place a plastic drop cloth on the floor around the cage.

Diet

In the wild the red-collared lorikeets feed naturally on pollen nectar, fruits, flowers, seeds, berries and occasionally insects. Specialized diets have been developed for lorikeets in captivity. These are pollen and nectar substitutes and a number of reputable brands are now available. Essentially, these come in two forms; a wet mix (nectar substitute) and a dry mix (pollen substitute) both of which are essential. Although these diets are designed to provide the essential requirements for lorikeets, they must be enhanced with other foods, such as fresh fruits like apples and pears, stone-fruits, most citruses, banana and melon, and some seed. You will find that certain fruits are preferable to others at particular times of year. Red-collared lorikeets have been known to shriek loudly if you are late feeding them.

Breeding

Red-collared lorikeets breed easily, and success depends on their environment and breeding facilities. Lorikeets display aggressive courtship rituals. Males trying to attract a female appear to be in pain; they whirr their wings, bob their heads and shriek loudly. In pairs they tend to be territorial around their nest.

In captivity red-collared lorikeets can nest in A-frame boxes used both vertically or horizontally. They like to chew the inside of the box and line the nesting chamber with feathers.

Breeding season is generally from August to December. Both sexes spend the night in the nest, but it is suspected that only the female incubates the eggs. A clutch consists of three to four white rounded eggs and incubation period is about 22 days. Once the eggs hatch, you won't see the hen until the chicks are around 2 weeks of age. The young usually fledge at around 21 days.

Common Diseases and Disorders

The red-collared lorikeet is a relatively healthy bird. The following diseases have been reported in this species:

  • Bacterial and fungal infections
  • Feather plucking of nestlings by their parents
  • Psittacine beak and feather disease

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