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Choosing a Red Lory

By: Virginia Wells

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The red lory is the most commonly kept lory in captivity, and it's easy to understand why. This highly intelligent bird has a playful personality and a beautiful appearance that appeal to both the fancier and the advanced novice. Red lories are primarily a deep pomegranate-red with blue markings on the wings and face. They range in size from ten to twelve inches and have an orange beak.

When you first see a lory, you are likely to think of a small parrot. These powerfully built birds are from the parrot family. 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 brush tongue is specialized for collecting pollen from flowers. Lories also have a unique beak structure: The upper mandible is much narrower and has a more pointed tip than other members of the parrot family.

While lories can get quite loud, usually in the morning shortly after sunrise and in the evening before the lights are turned off, they rarely scream. During noisy periods they can rival amazons in consistency and quality of their noise output. However, generally they amuse themselves with soft mutterings, trills and whistles. Red lories have been known to be good talkers and some have whole sentences in their vocabulary. All lories are master mimics and like sounds such as ringing telephones, sirens, microwave beeps, dripping faucets and such. They will reproduce these sounds with amazing precision.

These intelligent birds are quite active and can get into trouble the minute you turn your back. They love toys and must be provided with an endless supply – you can rotate your supply, since they are not destructive as most hookbills are. They can be nippy at times – they are temperamental birds – but as they hop about and hang upside down, they are most entertaining to watch.

The life span of the red lory 15 to 30 years if cared for properly.

Housing

The feces of lories are more liquid than most parrots and are excreted in a projectile manner making them messy and inappropriate for housing indoors. They thrive in outdoor aviaries.

When choosing a cage for your lory, keep in mind that width is more beneficial than height. Birds must be able to spread their wings and still have room for their toys. Your lory's cage should be at least 18 inches by 18 inches by 22 inches high. The cage should also be easy to clean; in fact, it's best if it can be hosed down.

Because they are highly intelligent birds, they require a stimulating environment with several toys. Red lories enjoy their toys, but toys do not have to be anything fancy. A paper bag or an empty toilet paper roll are as much fun for them as a purchased toy. They also enjoy a variety of toys like bells, wooden blocks, swings and mirrors. When choosing a toy, choose one intended for small parrots or conures and not for cockatiels or parakeets, since flimsy toys will be destroyed by an enthusiastic lory.

Wild lories sleep in their nests year round. Your pet lory can be provided with a commercial next box. You can make a suitable nest from a clean, quart-sized plastic bottle. Cut the opening to enlarge the entrance. For a larger lory, purchase a plastic "mini-crate" from a variety store. Either of these can be wired into the upper portion of the cage. Although a pet lory may not sleep in a new "nest" right away, the bird won't hesitate to look into it once it's installed.

Perches are an essential part of the cage and should be chosen to suit the feet of the bird. A variety of shapes and sizes help to exercise the feet and perches should be placed strategically to prevent droppings from contaminating food and water.

Always have a cuttlebone or mineral block available to supply calcium and prevent beak overgrowth.

Feeding

In the wild, lories eat a varied diet of pollen, nectar, fruits, berries, seeds, leaf buds and insects. At home, the ideal diet for lories is a pelleted diet, but it should also be supplemented with fresh fruits and vegetables to add variety and a commercial lory nectar. Try offering chopped dark green and yellow vegetables and a variety of fresh fruits as well as protein foods like mature legumes, hard cooked chopped egg and grated cheese. Many lories enjoy a treat from the dinner table such as pasta, potatoes and rice.

Avoid iceberg lettuce, cabbage and tomato, as these can cause diarrhea; caffeine contained in chocolate and soda; avocado, which can be poisonous; and food high in iron from an animal source, such as meat scraps.

General Care

Routine bathing or showering is vital to maintaining good plumage and skin condition. Birds can be misted and allowed to dry in a warm room or in the sun. They enjoy bathing in a bowl or a bird bath.

Lories are good fliers so keep their flight feathers clipped enough so that they will not fly but will glide to the floor.

Breeding

Although lories usually get along well with other bird species, they are very territorial and can also become quite jealous. Mated pairs will defend their territories and have been known to kill other birds present in their aviaries. Breeding pairs should never be kept in mixed-species flights.

Nest boxes can be a natural log or a man-made box type, hung vertically or horizontally. Lories appreciate security so the hole in the box should not exceed two inches. An inspection door should be included.

The clutch consists of about five oval white eggs. These are incubated by the female and hatch after about 21 days. Although the male does not incubate the eggs, he spends much time at the nest with his mate and shares in the feeding of the chicks. The male tends to be more vocal and very possessive of his mate, his aviary and his nest.

Newly hatched chicks are covered with white down on the upper parts of their bodies but are sparsely covered in other areas. The bill is dark brown with an egg tooth. Chicks fledge in about five weeks but stay with their parents several months longer.

Common Diseases and Disorders

Lories are relatively healthy birds but are susceptible to the following:

  • Gout
  • Hemochromatosis
  • Liver disease
  • Psittacine beak and feather disease

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