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Choosing a Rainbow Lory

The rainbow lory (Trichoglossus haematodus) is the most popular lory kept in the United States. This affectionate bird is highly intelligent, friendly and playful, and like other lories, his magnificent colors reflect an artist’s palette. Originating in Australia, the rainbow lory has a fairly large range in the wild and can be seen in Bali, Indonesia, western New Guinea, eastern Australia and Tasmania.

Rainbow lories are beautiful birds – they are indeed like rainbows. Their primary color is green, but their plumage is awash with vibrant red, blue, green and yellow. They have red chests with blue-black trim, and the lower part of the thighs and under the tail is yellow with dark green edging. They have a striking yellow band on the underside of the flight feathers, and their bills are distinctly orange red. They measure about 10 to 11 inches in length, with wingspans of 5 1/2 to 6 inches.

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 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, they usually amuse themselves with soft mutterings, trills and whistles.

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. Rainbows can be fair talkers as well.

Lories need more attention and care than most companion birds and owners must be willing to take the time to deal with their special needs. Many rainbow lories become nippy at around 2 years of age and continue that way, while others have occasional periods of being grumpy and grabbing at fingers, lips or noses. This appears to be an individual trait and there is no way of knowing how your lory will behave.


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, lories require a stimulating environment with several toys. Rainbow 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 and wooden blocks and a swing. 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.

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.


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. 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. Always supply plenty of fresh water.

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

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 birdbath.

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


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 manmade box type, hung vertically or horizontally. Lories appreciate security so the hole in the box should not exceed 2 inches. An inspection door should be included.

The clutch consists of two white eggs. These are incubated by the female and hatch after about 25 days. Some females do not incubate on the day the first egg is laid. 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 7 to 8 weeks.

Common Diseases and Disorders

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